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What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America explained What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, review What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, trailer What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, box office What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, analysis What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America 09ff 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 WingersIn 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 Concerned With Their Leaders Values And Down Home Qualities Than With Their Stands On Hard Questions Of PolicyA Brilliant Analysis And Funny To Boot What S The Matter With Kansaspresents 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 PeopleOne 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 Los Angeles Times

  • Hardcover
  • 306 pages
  • What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
  • Thomas Frank
  • English
  • 10 February 2017
  • 9780805073393

About the Author: Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank is the author of Pity the Billionaire, The Wrecking Crew, and What s the Matter with Kansas A former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Harper s, Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and writes regularly for Salon He lives outside Washington, D.C.



10 thoughts on “What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America

  1. says:

    In the last year I ve started on a half a dozen books all claiming to explain the marriage of social conservatism and capitalism, this being the second I ve actually managed to finish the others written either by some criminally insane conservative whose lunatic ravings caused me to vomit in my mouth by page five or liberals whose smug sense of superiority was palpable This one at least was enjoyable, I suppose, yet somewhere about a third of the way in I realized the utter pointlessness of expecting one liberal to explain to another, not simply how the Republican party has managed to conflate capitalism and Jesus, but how so many have been taken in by it The author s personal biography, following the fortune of his hometown, is rather interesting yet in the end I don t feel that I walked away with much understanding Thomas Frank s strongest argument is simply that the Democrats, in an effort to appeal to business , have turned their backs on the unions and working class that have historically supported them, in effect removing economic issues from the debate entirely, leaving only superficial social issues for voters to consider Yet for me, Frank still doesn t satisfactorily explain the disconnect in today s Tea Party Republicans other than to point out American conservatism depends for its continued dominance and even for its very existence on people never making certain mental connections about the world, connections that where until recently treated as obvious or self evident everywhere on the planet For example, the connection between mass culture, most of which conservatives hate, and laissez faire capitalism, which they adore without reservation Or between the small towns they profess to love and the market forces that are slowly grinding those small towns back into red state dust which forces they praise in the most exalted terms After this book I realize the utter pointlessness of looking for a rational answer where one simple doesn t exist, and I doubt I will be reading books of this type Still, I feel obligated to give this four stars simply for being ahead of the curve since this was written long before anyone had ever heard of Obama or the Tea Party.

  2. says:

    Thomas Frank makes a good deal of sense if one can listen long enough to hear his thesis But he is his own worst enemy, providing story after statistic to describe Kansas voting for conservatives against their own best interests His arguments are extreme and unsettling You d think Kansas was the most unholy place on earth with pollution, unemployment, and immigrant slave labor, but actually conservatives have only slowly been crushing the lifeblood out of the state This last election voted 60% 40% for Trump 20% is a lot of votes, but there are still reasonable people in the state After all, Kathryn Sibelius, Obama s Secretary of Health and Human Services, was elected governor of Kansas in the year just before this book came out I am reading this now because I was lately introduced to a YouTube clip of Frank talking about his new book Listen, Liberal I had the same reaction to him in person as I did in print This book could have been an excellent essay without all the pyrotechnics.I note Frank said then Ask a liberal pundit what ails the red states, what has induced them to work so strenuously against their own economic interests, to vote Republicanand he will probably tell you it s all because of racism.There are undeniably a great number of places where this is true, but Kansas is not one of them Interesting Where did that come from, than halfway through his book length argument, the first mention of race Why raise it at all I wonder what he would say now, knowing what we all do about Kansas and their not race problem.

  3. says:

    Holy cow I hated this book.This was really an unpleasant experience, I m glad it s over I read the book because I am moving to Kansas and figured it would be a useful introduction to the state s political dynamic I was expecting an analysis that I would likely not be very sympathetic to, but I was still disappointed The book is not so much analysis as explanation explanation as to what is going on in flyover country, from the perspective of a committed, doctrinaire, old school liberal The book is not intended to win converts, it is a sermon meant only for the choir.The book s thesis is that blue collar workers have been duped into voting for conservatives against their economic interests Conservatives have accomplished this by resorting to cultural wedge issues, leading the gullible masses like the Pied Piper to their own financial destruction The author does not waste a moment s energy explaining why liberal economic policies are better for workers than conservative policies In typically liberal fashion, he just proceeds from that assumption, believing that to be so self evident that his entire premise can be built upon it beginning at page 1, as though it were a proven law of physics like gravity that would be absurd to even take the time to demonstrate The book is not meant to explain liberal economic theory It is intended to explain to devotees of liberal economic theory why blue collar workers in Kansas and other places are voting with the Republican Party that is selling them out to corporations another Copernican principle.In reality, the whole book is a portrait of one man s cognitive dissonance He caricatures conservative leaders as fire breathing rageaholics that gain power by ignoring economic issues and convincing rural rubes that America is going to hell in a handbasket Yet the author s entire premise is that America is going to hell in a handbasket, and his tone seethes with anger from cover to cover He sounds like fellow Chicagoan Michelle Obama the author long ago fled the land he loves so much when he says, In its implacable bitterness, Kansas.is where America finds that its soul.has gone all sour and wrong p 36 But with a straight face, he insists over and over and over again that conservatives are the ones peddling grievance and loathing for what America has become Conservatives are the ones selling anger, and they are the ones that demonize their opponents as Nazis Of course, anyone who has turned on a television in the last eight years and watched the hysterical left burn Bush Cheney in effigy Bush is Hitler, Digital Brownshirts, etc etc will wonder who is being delusional.One of his core arguments is that a favorite and effective trick of conservatives is to caricature liberals as east coast snobs that cannot comprehend the values of middle America Yet the entire book is essentially an indictment of rural and blue collar workers in middle America voting illogically and buying conservative snake oil to their own detriment in other words, we have a fancy, educated, big city book writing type mocking the idea that middle Americans are scorned by his kind, while in the same breath he is scorning them for their values and for the lunacy they subscribe to Hmmm.Then there are the laughable moments, like when, in a litany of egregious acts perpetrated by conservatives, he speaks of denying women the right to vote apparently a female legislator spoke sympathetically of this concept and selling the Kansas Turnpike in the same breathe Of course, when a person exalts the economic above all else and belittles the concerns of values voters, as the author does, a person might find these two ideas equally sinister His complete and utter incomprehension of why people might protest the abortion industry is almost flaunted he refers to trucks bearing pictures of broken fetuses in protest of abortion as being representative of the dark side of Wichita, without apparently even considering that the gruesome late term abortions being performed there against the will of the majority might be the dark side p 57 The author tries to separate himself from other liberal diatribes, but in the end he can t resist falling back on the tired old polemics that the left has employed to such great success for 40 years Here s a newsflash conservatives are racist After making a halfhearted attempt to deny that this is the case, that there is in fact something else going on here, he just can t help himself Reagan, Bush, Gingrich, etc are all spoken of in the same breath as George Wallace He makes a valiant attempt to chart a different course from the liberal boilerplate, but like a moth to the flame, he cannot help himself and in the end surrenders.Whether it s citing Elliot Spitzer approvingly or claiming that gay marriage is an illusory threat because it is already illegal , this book should not be read as a reliable guide of things to come It is really just a bunch of crazy anecdotes about crazy people doing and saying crazy things which proves so much , but it is all in service of a single idea and that idea is the borderline criminality of capitalism itself p 47 Does he explain why No Why would he Does he explain why the sun is yellow It just is, and everyone knows it is Corporate Republicans understand the insidious nature of the market better than anyone, that is why they tolerate crazy conservatives their insanity allows rich men to control the means of production and exploit the proletariat And conservative values are little than the opium of the people.In substance, What s the Matter with Kansas is little than a latter day Marx reader In style it is pure screed The author is apparently angry that the United States has experienced the greatest era of prosperity in history over the last 25 years He is angry that when he visits Kansas from Chicago, things don t look the same as they did when he is a kid.I m angry too I just spent valuable time reading Kansas for Dummies.

  4. says:

    Simply put, What s The Matter With Kansas in its latest paperback edition, is a book every politically active American should read What its author, Thomas Frank, lacks in terms of tone the book is likely to offend some he overcomes with an incredibly clear sighted appraisal of the ideological framework of modern conservatives and, to an extent, of America in general.Frank s opening thesis is that the new conservatives that sprang from the 1990s represent a seeming paradox the poor further impoverishing themselves by electing politicians who place corporate interests over the economic interests of individuals This support is, as he describes it, passionate and raging This situation may be paradoxical, but it is also universal For decades, Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting In Kansas we merely see an extreme version of this mysterious situation The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawoof toffs They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands We are here, they scream, to cut your taxes The ideological phenomenon Frank proceeds to unfold explains how a popular, grassroots movement could act so strikingly against its own interests what he calls backlash culture The basic notion is that, faced with apparent legislative and cultural meddling from a vast and nebulous world of liberal elites, working class Americans across the heartland have taken to believing that economic forces are wholly distinct from cultural forces, and that America s problems are the result of cultural and spiritual rather than, for example, economic malaise The economic disconnect is key At the center of it all is a way of thinking about class that both encourages class hostility of the kind we see in Kansas and simultaneously denies the economic basis of the grievance Class, conservatives insist, is not really about money or birth or even occupation It is primarily a matter of authenticity, that most valuable cultural commodity Class is about what one drives and where one shops and how one prays, and only secondarily about the work one does or the income one makes What makes one a member of the noble proletariat is not work per se, but unpretentiousness, humility, and the rest of the qualities that our punditry claim to spy in the red states that voted for George W Bush The problem, as Frank reiterates in countless forms, is the indignant scorn of the common folk for the sophisticated intellectuals they believe hold society s strings In every trigger issue from guns to abortion to evolution , the far right sees its way of life under siege by a pseudo conspiracy of elite manipulation, and in its efforts to rebuke that elite it has embraced politicians whose first priority is evidently supporting corporate America This shift to the right is not merely a shift away from the Democrats to the Republicans it is also a bitter conflict within the Republican party, as the moderate elite have come under fire by grassroots ultraconservative candidates.By the time the book reaches its final point namely, how Democrats let their base slip away , Frank has already connected the dots, such that we can anticipate the result The New Democrats both in the Clinton era and in the 2004 election have chosen to court the center and, especially, to court corporate America , and in so doing have turned their back on the blue collar folk who were once their strongest supporters This betrayal, Frank asserts, is as much a factor as the persuasive rhetoric of the conservatives themselves.Broadly, the book is brilliant While Frank makes a strong argument for why and how many conservatives will reject his ideas, he nevertheless seems to strive to write in terms that might resonate with them and bring in to question the rhetoric in the way that he a pro Reagan youth once did Frank s tone is sometimes perhaps even often pejorative, but that venom appears largely confined to the many, many hypocrites who play a part in the story He shows a great deal of snarl, for example, when describing the myriad talking heads of the modern conservative establishment many of whom could only be described as upper crust were it not for their adoption of backlash culture When describing the true conservatives with whom he speaks the grassroots campaign workers, the part time activists, and so forth , he shows warmth and sympathy.More importantly, this book should be required reading for any left leaning American who thinks they understand the right Frank presents a sufficiently comprehensive insight into the far right that it becomes much easier to empathize with the sizable segment of America it now represents Seeped in considerable history showing, for example, the surprisingly leftist origins of many modern conservative tactics, as well as describing the radical left wing of 19th century Kansas and apportioned with hefty endnotes, the book is a powerful argument for how we got where we are.

  5. says:

    Thomas Frank, a Kansas native and former conservative, actually does manage to thoughtfully and fairly answer the title question What s The Matter With Kansas He also does explain how conservatives won the heart of America More importantly, in my opinion, he got me to analyze why I feel the politics I feel and, ultimately, vote the way I vote His book has a marvelous way of balancing emotion and logic in political rhetoric Because of that, I consider this book one of beautiful, swift political prose I read it twice.The books is excellent, but truly hits its stride after page 100 or so, especially when he discusses Plen T plaint Frank defines Plen T plaint as a curious amassing of petty, unrelated beefs with the world Its purpose is not really to evaluate the hated liberal culture that surrounds us the plen T plaint is a horizontal rather than a vertical mode of criticism, aiming instead to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on Plen T plaint winds us up It offers no resolution, simply reminding us that we can never win The plen T plaint is the rhetorical device that makes Bill O Reilly s TV show a hit The author is able to discuss several of the hot button topics you know the ones abortion, homosexuality, war, religion, taxes, etc that drive the political races without, and here is the beauty, getting emotional, divisive and sanctimonious Instead, he points out the beauty of the topics and their relevance to the interests of top government officials Brilliant Frank writes with energy In many ways, his work reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell His analysis is exciting, well thought out and backed up with tons of research Similar to my process with reading Gladwell, I read and enjoyed the footnotes as well as the text.Finally, I would like to mention that I have always wondered, Am I really a liberal The answer is YES, but I have truly always wondered why because I have never related to or appreciated liberal characters on TV, in film, in theatre, or in the paper This book helped me understand why very quickly It s because the money Neo Conservatives own not only the news, but the entertainment industry as well It is the Money not the liberals who ultimately shape the way society thinks liberals look and behave It is the Money who ultimately chooses who the stars are No wonder I have never related to the liberal characters on tv, in film, in music, on the radio radio shows or even in theatre This is something I will think about for a long time This book explains how not so subtly the entertainment industry undermines and insults the working class at all levels, including the populist sect to the proletariat class The sections on Media Spin and entertainment industry standards and guidelines opened my eyes so much Of course I already knew the media was controlled by the corporations, but I never realized just how much influence that money really has It s not liberals who fund the newspapers or the entertainment industry Nope Anyway, this is a terrific book It is a fair analysis of many aspects of politics It is not as left as the title suggests I would love to read a book like this about Rockford and all of Illinois.

  6. says:

    Although my political views are left of center, I approached this book with great curiosity and an open mind I was hoping to understand what makes a group of people vote against their own political and economic interests However, I didn t come away from this book really learning the answer to that question Mr Frank, a native Kansan, wrote a very interesting book about his very colorful home state He talked about conservative voters voting their values I understand that I feel I vote using MY values as my guide also It seemed that what it all came down to is that conservative voters are often hoodwinked by crafty politicians into voting for one thing their values like outlawing abortion, for example but then actually getting something entirely different once the politician is in office Perhaps I have a cynical view than that of Mr Frank but this is what the bottom line seemed to be Although I liked this book and found it to be endlessly interesting, I don t feel like a coherent answer to my question was provided.

  7. says:

    Hating this book would be like hating cancer Raging won t make it go away or succor those who have been damaged by it.But it is well worth repeating the fact that this is a deeply stupid book, smug and vicious and unapologetic on both counts.To say that Frank is preaching to the choir is insulting to preachers, who by and large seem sincerely interested in persuading their charges, and choirs, who by and large seem to sing from a place of joy and compassion Rather, Frank begins with a hateful conclusion and raises begging the question to arrogant new heights.You see, Kansans and, by proxy, other Midwestern red staters are dumb, have been conned by eeeeeevil Republicans peddling anti gay, anti immigrant, anti tolerance snake oil and are voting against their own economic interests These interests, which naturally he gets to define, because heaven forbid people should get to define their own, are of course those of the Democratic party and or the modern Progressive movement Why Well, dearest, because he says so, that s why Proving, or even providing evidence for, such a thing would be beneath him.Let us forget, for the sake of discussion, that Kansas has actually done fairly well economically on most counts That isn t relevant to Frank s argument, because he s not interested in facts.What he has constructed instead is a vast argumentum ad anecdotum, which is not a real thing as far as I know, but it would assuredly be funnier if it had just been made up by a smart liberal like Frank Anything can be made to appear true if you are selective enough with your anecdotes This is how we know that the Chiefs have a great football team this year, because we saw that highlight of their quarterback making one great throw.There is little point debating the merits of Frank s argument, such as it is, because he isn t interested in debating it, either To him, it just is, he just knows it the way you know that big, hot, orangey thing is going to come up in the sky every morning and I know that cauliflower is made of pure evil And many people who loved this book loved it before they read a word, because they already thought we Kansans are rubes and fools and parochial little bigots.Happily, the world and this little corner of it are interesting and nuanced and considerably less tethered to hallucinatory idiocy than the imaginary one of Frank s venomous fever dream The real world is not divided into opposing camps of people who agree with him and people who are stupid.I don t think that I am stupid surely my mom would not lie to me about that , but then again I suspected the truth about this book and read it anyway I don t think that Frank is stupid I have no idea what his mom thinks , but then again he wrote this book without bothering to check to see if any of it was true.So instead of what might have been a thoughtful, fair piece on why the red states are red we get this rabid mutt, spraying foam and signaling from page one that it s going to bite any hand extended to it, even if extended in the hope of finding common ground.In conclusion, if I may paraphrase the title What s the Matter With Our Culture The answer this book We come to our debates as if they are fights to the death, prepared to give no quarter, even if most of the collateral damage is to all the sad little facts who lined up to watch, naively hoping they would be of use to someone on one side or another.

  8. says:

    A remarkably account of the development of backlash politics in the microcosm of Kansas Thomas Frank asks himself why working class people would vote against their economic interests to put the Republicans Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2 in power, when it would make much sense to vote for liberals who would improve their educational options and increase progressive taxation Put simply why do poor American vote to lower the taxes on the rich The answer is a little complicated than this, but it boils down to it s about abortion, stupid An entertaining read, with just enough personal content to make it fun, and great respect for the personal integrity of everyone Frank interviews While the author has a clear liberal argument to make, I appreciated that he did not sink into the diatribe writing style so common in many current books except perhaps in discussing Ann Coulter, who perhaps has it coming The discussion of Populism is particularly strong, and although the book come out in 2004 the content is surprisingly not dated I wonder how many of Obama s advisors probably a lot read this book in developing his election plan.

  9. says:

    Eh I don t know about this one I think it has some good points and insights as to how people living in middle America see the conservative movement as relating to their self interest even when decisions made by that movement are somewhat against their self interest At the same time I feel like this analysis others middle America and assumes something is the matter with Kansas as opposed to assuming that perhaps something is wrong with progressive messaging that is not connecting with many folks in America I would recommend Don t Think of An Elephant i.e the opposite title to this one as opposed to What s the Matter with Kansas.

  10. says:

    Frank looks at Kansas as a prime example of how the Republican Party has convinced working people to vote against their own economic self interest by using so called wedge issues It is compelling analysis.

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