In this modern political age of ideological conflict and apathy,
conservative doctrine in the media has reached an all-time high.
Rush Limbaugh shouts, Bill O’Reilly rampages and Ann Coulter
glares from the frontlines of vituperative conservative commentary.
Surprisingly, there is a growing popularity of conservatism
concentrated in the Midwest, where a large population are
blue-collar workers, the traditional Democratic base. Thomas Frank
charts this phenomenon in his book “What’s the Matter
with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.”

Book Reviews

“What’s the Matter with Kansas?” investigates
the strange contradiction of blue-collar workers who support
Republicans. Even more interesting is a tendency of middle class
workers to take strong action against liberals, based on the angry
brand of conservatism that Frank terms backlash. “The Great
Backlash,” according to the book, “began with the
coming together of two very different political factions:
traditional business Republicans … and working-class
“Middle Americans.” “What’s the Matter with
Kansas?” traces the phenomenon in Kansas, historically a
radical hotbed. Frank asks bewilderedly, “How is it that the
Kansas conservative rebels profess to hate elites but somehow
excuse from their fury the corporate world, even when it has so
manifestly screwed them?”

Frank’s witty style is superbly suited to the
investigation of this political anomaly. His dry prose and clever
description allow the reader to follow the somewhat complex ideas
outlined in the book. Factual information rides alongside keen
analysis and political insight, cultivated from years of critical
writing and observation. He also uses, to much effect, his own
experience as a born and raised Kansan.

Frank tells readers what he thinks are the biggest political
problems in American politics: “One is the culture wars and
totally irreconcilable cultural conservatism. The other thing is
that the Democrats will not talk to their base and I think that is
a terrible mistake. So between those two things, you’ve got a
recipe for disaster, and that disaster’s name is George W.
Bush.”

Frank makes his opinion on the election clear. Bush “took
us into a war on trumped-up facts and that in my opinion is the
worst crime you can do … people are dying.” However,
Frank is not hesitant about criticizing his own party. “Kerry
is playing this … the wrong way. ”

Well written and researched, “What’s the Matter with
Kansas?” is a strong example of good political writing. It
avoids crudity and brashness and refers to facts in order to
support its arguments. Frank writes for himself. “I
don’t have a target audience. (I) try to bring out … a
strong voice and strong ideas. That’s what it’s all
about.”

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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