Customer Reviews for

What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2008

    The Great Delusion: Republicans as the 'People's Party'

    There¿s a paradox abroad in land that has troubled many thoughtful people for many years. On the one hand, workers¿ wages, in real terms, have been stagnant for two decades, despite strong productivity growth throughout the economy we continue to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs (and now even white-collar jobs) to outsourcing--including the latest twist, offshoring, which consists of parking boats offshore filled with low-wage computer workers who replace Americans on the land income inequality has reached obscene levels and we still don¿t have even a semblance of a national health-care safety net for the millions of people without insurance. On the other hand, we continue to elect conservative Republican politicians who, once in office, cut taxes for the rich, cut regulations on big business, and trumpet a mantra of laissez-faire, free-market capitalism that makes the rich richer and washes the losers out the bottom end. In this widely acclaimed book, Thomas Frank examines his home state of Kansas to see if he can unravel the problem (the book, published in 2004, predates the Democrats¿ regaining control of both the House and Senate in 2006--more on that later). What he finds is that through the ¿erasure of economics¿ from public debate and the substitution of hot-button cultural issues, the Republicans (with little resistance from the Democrats) have achieved the astounding feat of convincing average Americans, even those hurt or displaced by pro-business government policies, that they are the party of the little guy, with liberals being tarred as pampered, over-educated, elitist snobs who have lost touch with ¿real¿ Americans but who continue to pull the strings from on high while also being responsible for the cultural decay the conservatives see all around them. To further the irony, Frank points out that the issues emphasized by the far right conservatives--abortion, ¿family values,¿ prayer in the schools and the teaching of alternatives to evolution, gay marriage, violence and sleaze in the mass media, etc.--are largely things about which little or nothing ever gets done or can be done. And that¿s the way the conservatives like it. Helping us average Joes in any material way might blunt the sharp edge of the culture war, which is what keeps them in power and which thus needs to be unending. As one of Frank¿s chapter headings states, we seem to be ¿happy captives¿ in a medieval system in which everyone is supposed to know his or her place and not complain about such touchy subjects as income inequality or the rapacity of large corporations. ¿Backlash conservatives,¿ Frank writes, ¿deal in outrage, not satisfaction,¿ based on a worldview that is highly anti-intellectual and almost entirely emotional in its appeal. As an example of the ¿real¿ real world, Frank studies Johnson County, Kansas, where he finds two types of conservatives, which he calls the Mods and the Cons (moderate and far-right or cultural conservatives, respectively). He traces how, over the past four decades the Cons have systematically elbowed out the Mods everywhere from county party chairs to the U.S. Senate. And, yet he finds two Johnson Counties in an economic sense as well: ¿One Johnson county lives in landscaped cul-de-sac communities with statuary in the traffic islands and a swimming pool behind each house,¿ while ¿the other Johnson County is a place of peeling paint and cheap plywood construction with knee-high crabgrass.¿ Strangely, it is the latter Johnson County that is inhabited by the Cons. Meanwhile, the Mods (the ¿haves¿) pay lip service to the culture war because it elects conservative politicians, who then get down to the business of doing good things for business. Frank lays the blame for the plight of the common people mainly on the fact that through the red-herring issues of the culture war they have been hoodwinked into accepting a less and less regulated free-market system that is often their worst enemy, even as it contin

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2005

    liked it from title to conclusion

    I liked the book and I am personally aware that Thomas Frank accurately described what has happened in Kansas. If the book opens a mind or two along the way, it will serve a valuable purpose.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2005

    Great perception on current change in ideology

    I was born in Kansas and now live in Southern Arizona. The microcosm of Kansas politics is an excellent example of how and where the right wing of our two party system is going. It is easily seen by examining this state the battle grounds that are being staked, out not only for the main parties, but the inter-republican party specifically. There is good insight in how the democrats are perceived as well. I am currently looking at a run for US congress and have found that this book will help overcome the perception the people have of democrats.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2005

    Excellent!

    Offers an interesting perspective on America's changing political landscape. Very well written, witty, insightful and concise.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2005

    Cogent, Funny Political Analysis

    This book is one of the best political analyses to come down the pike in quite a while. Despite what others have said, it is at heart non-partisan, asking why the people of Kansas, who used to vote progressive for the better part of a century and a half, are now conservatives. Well written, thoughtful, humorous analysis. A quick read, but, if encountered with an open mind, gives an excellent overview of the current political climate.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2004

    A wake up call to the DLC and liberals

    Thomas Frank does an excellent job of explaining why people don't think their 'voting against your[their] 'own self interest'', but voting against the supposed liberal scourge and why those efforts amount to nothing but their own economic undoing. Frank also explains why the DLC and Democratic Party will never succeed aslong as it keeps pursuing the 'rich boys'. Sorry, Mike and Justin, but I think you just didn't understand what Thomas Frank was trying to show the rest of the country.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2004

    Great Book-Sad but True.

    This should be a must read in EVERY school, not just in Kansas, If the people in Kansas REALLY wanted to turn things around.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2006

    What's Up?

    From Kansas's infamous age as the hotbed for Abolitioist fury, it seems strange that Kansas has become Conservative USA. However, as Thomas Frank shows, conservatives have been the best pugulists in the raging and unresolved culture wars. Gives excellent guide of the power and allure of populist conservatism of Limbaugh and Coulter and how that has transformed the once-radical state of Kansas.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2005

    Excellent Research- Superbly Written

    The scholarship of this work is profoundly impressive, as is Rich's writing style. Rich is arguably the smartest pundit on the left and even (intelligent) conservatives must admit Rich's skill as a researcher and writer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2005

    Interesting, but maybe an oversimplification

    Marks makes some thoughtful and interesting arguments about why many Americans - specifically conservatives in Kansas vote against their own economic self-interest. Reading about the political history of Kansas in relation to our present circumstances was at times fascinating. The wit and humor of the author added to the experience. However, I think the main point of 'voting against self-interest' is a bit deceptive. I believe that some people are simply accustomed to their own situation so they will never see a 'vote' guided by their conscience as some kind of self-betrayal. Personally, I seldom vote conservative becaues of the state of conservative ideology and I understand that this 'liberal' vote is not always in my own self interest.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2004

    a must-read

    As a liberal Democrat from southcentral Kansas, I loved this book. It will have you laughing, shaking your head, and feeling proud for the radical state that KS used to be. Why, oh why did that have to change?? The sarcastic tone of the author is awesome. Unfortunately, I doubt too many conservative Republicans would be able to read this cover to cover since they would get too mad, but I doubt they would pick it up anyway, given the text that displays on the cover!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2004

    The Coalition That Is The GOP

    Frank clearly explains the coalition that is the GOP. It is composed of one group of people who worship market forces and another group of people who have tuned out economic issues. Frank's book was such a delightful and easy read that I went out a purchased his earlier book 'One Market Under God'. The earlier book is a more difficult read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2004

    Brilliant

    This book is to Kansas what 'Roger and Me' was to Michigan.. a must read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2004

    A must read for anyone interested in politics

    If you want to know why so many otherwise bright working class people are foolishly voting for Republicans, this book has the answers. I bought extra copies for my friends: some for the sociological phenomena, others for the political.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2004

    Knot-heads of America Unite!┬┐All you have to lose is your livelihood.

    The plainspoken Harry Truman once said ¿How many times do you have to be hit on the head before you figure out who¿s hitting you on the head?¿ Thomas Frank¿s What¿s The Matter With Kansas provides a fascinating blow-by-blow account. The voting pattern of Red-stater¿s give new meaning to the term ¿Hard Hat Conservatives.¿

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2012

    Not truthful

    Bottom Line: if Molly Irvins likes it, it's filled with lies.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2010

    I highly dislike this book.

    I have to say I have never read a more dry book. I cant see why this book stayed on the best seller list, or how it got there in the first place. I was forced to read it twice and Franks snide remarks often left me wondering "who is he trying to ridicule?". I highly recommend you save your cash and not buy this book.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2006

    What a disappointment

    First, I'm a liberal and was looking forward to this book however I was sorely disappointed. I did not think the endnotes supported the conclusions in the book. It stuck me as a screed -- just what the author accuses so many conservative writers. I thought he had some interesting premises, but did not support them in the book. I recommend you skip this and go with Al Franken's Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. It did a much better job supporting it's premise and it was funny!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2004

    He just doesn't get it.

    Frank suffers from what many liberals, and John Kerry, suffer from. A lack of common sense. He just doesn't get it. It is not about voting against your 'own self interest', it's about voting for a better government, and government governs best when it governs least. Profiles of Courage every time you step in the ballot booth.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2004

    Not all it's cracked up to be

    The author uses broad generalizations to lump all conservatives together and as a conservative I can say that his assumptions (which is what they are, he proved nothing here) are false. He paints the Republican party as a bunch of rich boys, but 93 % of the donations for over $1 mill in 2000 were for Democrats, how's that for being the rich, elitist party? Good writing, false generalizations, 2 stars.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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