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What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004)

by Thomas Frank

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,685415,185 (3.7)68
Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

One 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
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-wingers.
In 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 more concerned with their leaders' "values" and down-home qualities than with their stands on hard questions of policy.
A brilliant analysis‚??and funny to boot‚??What's the Matter with Kansas? presents 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 People.
*Los A
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» See also 68 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
One of the best explanations for 2016 I've read yet - and it was written in 2004. A tad dated but nevertheless spot on in it's analysis of why the culture wars dominate politics and the blasé way that the rankest hypocrisy is ignored in political discourse. The only downside was it length (a bit too long) and the organization of notes at the end. ( )
  dhaxton | May 18, 2023 |
I think generally it's a good book to understand the mentality of midwest conservatives. It does a good job showing just how we got to the point that low-income voters will almost unanimously line up behind anyone willing to claim abortion is murder or religion belongs in schools. It had some really good points about how conservative politicians will run on social issues then primarily legislate on economic ones, and how low income republicans are basically voting against their own economic interests constantly - something I haven't seen as much in my other readings.

However I would have liked a lot more data and citations because most of his arguments just sounded like a left-wing Ann Coulter: arguing that this is how the conservatives think and vote and are impacted with little to no external evidence to back it up. Stats on the decline of small business in Kansas, or the increase in voting based on social issues, or changes in wealth inequality. Without this the tone just came off kind of condescending. Additionally some discussion of the people manipulating these voters would have been good, rather than just name drop Coulter and Hannity and not talk specifics as to what they've done ( )
  martialalex92 | Dec 10, 2022 |
Spot on. For those who keep coming up scratching their heads at the things people on the Right do. ( )
  btbell_lt | Aug 1, 2022 |
No particularly original or stunning insights to offer on the paradox of the right-wing backlash. Most of the book was simply prologue to the last chapter, which in my opinion contained the meat of the book and could have stood alone as an article. Nevertheless, I'm glad someone wrote this book. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
He's a really entertaining and smart writer.
  vive_livre | Oct 18, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Frank's book is remarkable as an anthropological artifact. Although not terribly successful at explaining the cultural divide, it manages to exemplify it perfectly in its condescension toward people who don't vote as Frank thinks they should.
added by mikeg2 | editNew York Times, Josh Chafetz (Jun 13, 2004)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Frankprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cotton, FrédéricTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Oh, Kansas fools! Poor Kansas Fools!
The banker makes of you a tool.
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The poorest county in America isn't in Appalachia or the Deep South.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

One 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
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-wingers.
In 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 more concerned with their leaders' "values" and down-home qualities than with their stands on hard questions of policy.
A brilliant analysis‚??and funny to boot‚??What's the Matter with Kansas? presents 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 People.
*Los A

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