August 30, 2004

Jayhawk Blues (and Reds)

Last week I finished Thomas Frank’s book “What’s the Matter With Kansas,” and while it was a fascinating examination of several too-neglected subjects- including what makes conservatives conservative and the “backlash” against the “liberal elite”- there were a few instances where it lost me, and I’m probably not the only one.

Frank, a native of a Kansas City suburb, discusses what made the Prairie State go red, and makes several astute observations about how conservatives have successfully wooed much of America by pointing to boogie men in the “liberal elite,” while the “conservative elite”- aka Wall Street and corporate America- gets a free pass despite doing much more damage to their interests. He also shares numerous funny anecdotes about Kansas politics over the years, most of which consist of crazy Christian conservatives running amok.

‘What’s The Matter’ is refreshing in that it’s not just another Bush-bashing book- Dubya is barely mentioned- but it’s nonetheless a bit too left-wing in places for my tastes. I’ll be nodding along with one of the chapters, that is until Frank tosses in a phrase such as “the borderline criminality of capitalism itself.” Not to mention Frank’s audacity in writing a book about how people in Kansas should vote when he hasn’t lived there in years, which seems to give truth to the conservative stereotype that blue-staters are always telling red-staters how to live. I would probably never write such a book about Minnesota’s political trends, but if I did it would be a lot nicer to my state than Frank’s is to his.

So “What’s the Matter With Kansas” is an interesting look at how political attitudes have shifted in recent decades- but if you’re a moderate, don’t expect to relate to all of it.

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 30, 2004 09:08 PM
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