Start reading What's the Matter with Kansas? on the free Kindle Reading App or on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Enter a promotion code
or gift card

Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player


What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Frank
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (447 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $8.89
You Save: $8.11 (48%)
Sold by: Macmillan

Free Kindle Reading App Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $8.89  
Hardcover --  
Paperback $10.02  
Audible Audio Edition, Abridged $9.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial
Unknown Binding --  
Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Book Description

One of “our most insightful social observers”* cracks the great political mystery of our time: how conservatism, once a marker of class privilege, became the creed of millions of ordinary Americans

With his acclaimed wit and acuity, Thomas Frank turns his eye on what he calls the “thirty-year backlash”—the populist revolt against a supposedly liberal establishment. The high point of that backlash is the Republican Party’s success in building the most unnatural of alliances: between blue-collar Midwesterners and Wall Street business interests, workers and bosses, populists and right-wingers.

In asking “what ’s the matter with Kansas?”—how a place famous for its radicalism became one of the most conservative states in the union—Frank, a native Kansan and onetime Republican, seeks to answer some broader American riddles: Why do so many of us vote against our economic interests? Where’s the outrage at corporate manipulators? And whatever happened to middle-American progressivism? The questions are urgent as well as provocative. Frank answers them by examining pop conservatism—the bestsellers, the radio talk shows, the vicious political combat—and showing how our long culture wars have left us with an electorate far more concerned with their leaders’ “values” and down-home qualities than with their stands on hard questions of policy.

A brilliant analysis—and funny to boot—What’s the Matter with Kansas? presents a critical assessment of who we are, while telling a remarkable story of how a group of frat boys, lawyers, and CEOs came to convince a nation that they spoke on behalf of the People.

*Los Angeles Times

Editorial Reviews Review

The largely blue collar citizens of Kansas can be counted upon to be a "red" state in any election, voting solidly Republican and possessing a deep animosity toward the left. This, according to author Thomas Frank, is a pretty self-defeating phenomenon, given that the policies of the Republican Party benefit the wealthy and powerful at the great expense of the average worker. According to Frank, the conservative establishment has tricked Kansans, playing up the emotional touchstones of conservatism and perpetuating a sense of a vast liberal empire out to crush traditional values while barely ever discussing the Republicans' actual economic policies and what they mean to the working class. Thus the pro-life Kansas factory worker who listens to Rush Limbaugh will repeatedly vote for the party that is less likely to protect his safety, less likely to protect his job, and less likely to benefit him economically. To much of America, Kansas is an abstract, "where Dorothy wants to return. Where Superman grew up." But Frank, a native Kansan, separates reality from myth in What's the Matter with Kansas and tells the state's socio-political history from its early days as a hotbed of leftist activism to a state so entrenched in conservatism that the only political division remaining is between the moderate and more-extreme right wings of the same party. Frank, the founding editor of The Baffler and a contributor to Harper's and The Nation, knows the state and its people. He even includes his own history as a young conservative idealist turned disenchanted college Republican, and his first-hand experience, combined with a sharp wit and thorough reasoning, makes his book more credible than the elites of either the left and right who claim to understand Kansas. --John Moe

From The New Yorker

Kansas, once home to farmers who marched against "money power," is now solidly Republican. In Frank's scathing and high-spirited polemic, this fact is not just "the mystery of Kansas" but "the mystery of America." Dismissing much of the received punditry about the red-blue divide, Frank argues that the problem is the "systematic erasure of the economic" from discussions of class and its replacement with a notion of "authenticity," whereby "there is no bad economic turn a conservative cannot do unto his buddy in the working class, as long as cultural solidarity has been cemented over a beer." The leaders of this backlash, by focussing on cultural issues in which victory is probably impossible (abortion, "filth" on TV), feed their base's sense of grievance, abetted, Frank believes, by a "criminally stupid" Democratic strategy of triangulation. Liberals do not need to know more about nascar; they need to talk more about money and class.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Product Details

  • File Size: 665 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003J4VEM2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,549 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
277 of 307 people found the following review helpful
In his book 1984, George Orwell described the state of perpetual war in his fictional future society by saying that the war wasn't meant to be won, it was only meant to be continuous. In WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?, Thomas Frank illustrates how, and how effectively, the neoconservative right has implemented Orwell's concepts via a neverending war over culture and values.
Using his home state of Kansas as the model and focal point, Frank asks rhetorically why it is that Kansans so willingly espouse right-wing social issues (creationism, defunding public schools, prayer in schools, pro-life) while simultaneously allowing their state to become economically devastated by Republican free market policies of unfettered, unregulated capitalism. In other words, why do Kansans (and many other Red Staters) vote consistently against their pocketbooks, against their own economic self-interest?
With great specificity, Frank illustrates these behaviors and their devastating economic consequences by describing individuals and communities in Kansas. These are some of the strongest parts of his book, since they demonstrate through real people and real towns how life has changed, and continues to change, under Republican conservative rule. If anything, Frank could use more of these examples, particularly more description of some of the small towns and communities in his state that are dying a slow and tortured economic death. Regardless, the examples given convey the sense that Kansans are voting Red even as they vote themselves economically dead.
Frank correctly ascribes this seemingly self-contradictory behavior to the idea that Conservatives have discovered a means to incite permanent "backlash" among the Red Staters through culture wars.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on the Culture Wars August 12, 2004
This is by far the best of the countless books written on the Culture Wars in recent years, explaining as it does the paradox that poor people vote overwhelmingly, in many parts of the USA, for the party of big business and against their own economic interests. Being from Britain, where there are many pro-life Labour MPs and many pro-choice Conservative/Thatcherite MPs, I am always puzzled by the way in which culture so dominates the voting patterns of Americans, in a way that is simply not the case in the United Kingdom. This book explains why, and while its author is clearly a Democrat, this is a work sufficiently lacking in vitriol (at last!) that Republicans might enjoy it as well. Read it and understand what is going on in the Culture Wars in the USA and why formerly Socialist Kansas might be voting Republican this fall. Christopher Catherwood (author of CHURCHILL'S FOLLY: HOW WINSTON CHURCHILL CREATED MODERN IRAQ: Carroll and Graf 2004)
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
142 of 162 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of the most insightful analyses of the contemporary political scene in the United States that I have read. I am writing this on the morning following a presidential election whose outcome is probably going to baffle a host of well informed, issue-oriented Americans for sometime. Thomas Frank, however, provides marvelous keys for understanding what has transpired, and also should provide some warnings to Democrats concerning how the political landscape has been transformed in recent decades.

Frank wants to explain a dilemma. On the one hand, the Republican Party has embraced a set of policies and enacted a wide range of legislation that hurts most Americans economically and provides a benefit to only a very small segment of the American population. Statistics provided by the Fed and the IRS have documented over the past twenty-five years a sharp and dramatic concentration of wealth in the upper one percent of the population. For instance, in 1979 20% of the national wealth as defined by the Federal Reserve was concentrated in the top 1%, while in 1997 39% was, and with the three rounds of Bush tax cuts focused on primarily benefiting the wealth and our largest corporations, it is not hard to imagine that that figure might have climbed to 45% or higher. And yet Americans continue to vote for members of a party that seems to be dedicated to intensifying that trend (a large number in the GOP are now talking about a national sales tax and eliminating the income tax-as opposed to Europe, which has a value added tax but also a tax on the wealthy, which is not what is being suggested here-which would dramatically increase this shift of wealth away from the middle class). How is this possible?
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book is very helpful November 28, 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My friends and I have been struggling in the last few weeks to understand Election 04. Yes, we are all East Coast sushi-eating, latte-drinking, post-graduate degree holding liberals, and many of us volunteered on the Kerry campaign, but we are also really trying to promote policies that help the greater good as we understand them. The election results, with that vast sea of red between the two coasts, were very difficult for me to accept as I couldn't understand why people were seemingly voting against their own economic self-interests.

"What's the Matter with Kansas?" has been really helpful in explaining to me the forces that have changed much of America's heartland from its populist/progressive heyday to being a conservative stronghold. It was fascinating for me to learn about the internal struggles in the Republican Party between conservatives and moderates, and it's instructional to read about the powerful grassroots mobilization that conservatives have used to their benefit.

I think the book is much stronger in its first half, discussing economic trends and reactive politics over the last few decades. When Frank veers more into the social/religious arena in later chapters, I think he comes off as more judgmental of the conservative viewpoint. Sure, I completely sympathize, but I think the real value of this book is for liberals and moderates who are trying to understand why so many people continue to support Bush and, at the same time, to spur conversation about what the Democratic Party needs to do in the next 2-4 years to reach out to these committed voters without compromising our own social and moral values.

And the themes of this book are in no means particular to Kansas. I think almost every state has regions that fit the same mold.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
instructive and enlightening ], 'you've made your point, let's move on. Too many examples and refernces
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars just ok
Good to read the other side but not impressed also did not like the sudden ending as it seemed the author lost steam
Published 1 month ago by john bobrytzke
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Good enough.
Published 1 month ago by Barbara McDaniel
4.0 out of 5 stars All good Democrats should memorize the lessons in this book
All good Democrats should memorize the lessons in this book. I suppose all good Republicans already have. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book
Published 1 month ago by Michele Martens
5.0 out of 5 stars Class Consciousness Subverted By View that Only Cultures With...
I found this book to be quite prophetic. Written in 2004, reading it today a full decade later I find that it more or less predicted the rise of the Tea Party, the GOP civil war,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by David Dickey
5.0 out of 5 stars Should Be Required Reading in Every High School
This book should be required reading in every high school US History or Civics class. It provides an excellent review of how the right gained political power by manipulating people... Read more
Published 2 months ago by ed abbey west
4.0 out of 5 stars Barking Idiocies: What's Wrong with Kansas?
For some historical insights into how the electorate votes against its own interests and some lively writing, check out Thomas Frank's heavily sourced What's the Matter with... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Joseph A. Domino
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Readable, Controversial
Author Thomas Frank takes an interesting look at the Sunflower State and it's Republican voting habits circa 2004. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Thkg
5.0 out of 5 stars It's nice having a native son write about how his state ...
It's nice having a native son write about how his state became out of control. Where is Ike when you need him? Read more
Published 2 months ago by Roy V. Tindula
Search Customer Reviews
Search these reviews only

More About the Author

Founding editor of The Baffler, Thomas Frank is the author of One Market Under God, The Conquest of Cool and What's the Matter With America? He is also a contributor to Harper's, The Nation, and the New York Times op-ed pages.


Have something you'd like to share about this product?
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Look for Similar Items by Category