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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

3.9 42
by Thomas Frank
 

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With a New Afterword by the Author

The New York Times bestseller, praised as "hilariously funny . . . the only way to understand why so many Americans have decided to vote against their own economic and political interests" (Molly Ivins)

Hailed as "dazzlingly insightful and wonderfully sardonic" (Chicago Tribune), "very funny and very

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What's the Matter with Kansas? 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Offers an interesting perspective on America's changing political landscape. Very well written, witty, insightful and concise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This should be a must read in EVERY school, not just in Kansas, If the people in Kansas REALLY wanted to turn things around.
cmartin323 More than 1 year ago
After waiting so long, I finally got the time to read this book and could not be more disappointed. I was more than a third of the way through the book and Frank had not even started to tell us WHY these people are voting against their own self-interests - which is the main premise of the book. His writing is so incredibly self-indulgent. He lambastes conservatives for their perceptions of liberals as haughty but then uses a writing style so pretentious as to fit that stereotype.  He also writes like a junior high student who just got a thesaurus for Christmas. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is to Kansas what 'Roger and Me' was to Michigan.. a must read
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although this book was written several years ago, its message resonates even more loudly today.  There are no moderates left in the GOP; for them, it's all about  big business, big oil and big bucks...for the wealthy.  What is amazing is how the GOP has been able to co-opt the Religious Right to buy into the GOP philosophy through opposition to abortion, gun legislation, prayer in schools, and related issues that the wealthy could not care less about.  And this is the heart of this book.  How is it that middle class and even poor Kansans support the GOP when its economic policies cut against these Kansans?  This is the rank hypocrisy of the GOP as supposedly representing real America.  The simple fact is they do not.  But the Democrats don't get a pass;  they seem incapable of shaping a simple message that will resonate and expose the hypocrisy of the GOP.  Of course, talking about issues is always more complex than simply using labels.  For GOP voters, just branding anything as liberal, Obamacare, Pelosi, etc., conjures up evil.  The simpler the message, the easier to sell.  The problem here is that virtually every dictator or tyrant followed this path of the simpler the message, the easier to sell.  Democracy is not an easy sell; in a dynamic and diverse society, life is more nuanced and complex.  But at a time when an informed public is vital, we are witnessing the dumbing down of our public education system; reliance on sound bites and spilled venom;  talking heads and self-proclaimed pundits doing the thinking for us; all designed to keep us fat, dumb and happy.  This book, and others like it, tell a sad, shocking but true story about where we are in our national intelligence.  I am not saying the GOP is all wrong and the Democrats have all the answers.  Neither is correct.  But on the hypocrisy scale and truth-telling scale, the GOP is off the charts.  
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