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What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America Paperback – April 14, 2005
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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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 ›
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 ›
Where the book doesn't quite deliver as well is in its central thesis. The main question: why do working-class Americans in the Midwest consistently vote conservative, against their economic interests? Frank certainly provides ample evidence that they ARE indeed voting against their economic interests. He also argues, convincingly, that they're really voting on "cultural" issues like abortion, gun control, school prayer, evolution in classes (as opposed to the richer moderate Republicans who vote on economic issues). But he doesn't explain the following question. If the ground-level politics of Kansas have inverted over the past hundred years, then something must have persuaded the everyday working-class voter that voting on "culture" is more important than voting on economics. What was it that persuaded them? Franks never really answers this question. And that's what I want to know!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Some of the folks that Frank describes I see as our own potential Taliban. Giving their lives for abortion rights. Read morePublished 2 months ago by William Magnus
It is a good read however sometimes the language is heavy and repetitive.Published 3 months ago by NC
My "used-like-new" hard bound copy of "What's the Matter With Kansas?" finally arrived this morning. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Joseph Brookes
Kansas has followed the Reagan/Bush/Bush model with additional burdens added on to it's citizens. Now they have ridiculous SNAP rules. Read morePublished 4 months ago by G. C. Picchetti
As an American who lives outside of my home country, I am regularly called upon to explain to my European friends how so many in America can be against health care, how so many... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Imperial Topaz
"What's the Matter..." simply points out that the conservative right has distracted Kansans with wedge issues while rewarding their corporate supporters with legislation... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Constant Saver