Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?

I just finished Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas? Mr. Frank's enthusiasm for his state comes through loud and clear. I also enjoyed reading about how the Republican Party created a false, too-simple divide between "salt of the earth" red-state residents and "latte-drinking liberals." Still, I can't recommend the book, because I did not pick up any major insights. Also, some of the book comes across as elitist pablum. (More here.)

The entire gist of Mr. Frank's book can be summarized in one sentence: using moral polemics, especially abortion, the Republicans have extracted common sense from the people and caused them to vote against their own interests. Of course, Mr. Frank expands on his thesis, but I've just given you 99% of his literary enchilada.

Another point Mr. Frank makes is that political parties have succeeded in pulling the wool over voters' eyes by getting them to view preferences as most relevant to a person's true intentions:

They call them the liberal elite and they talk about their tastes and their preferences all the time. They run these TV commercials that say liberals are supposed to sip Chardonnay and eat fancy cheese and drink lattés—lattés are especially identified with liberals. And Volvos.

See this interview for more of Mr. Frank's ideas. After you read the interview, if you want to read more about the same ideas, check out Mr. Frank's book.

Bonus round: I didn't read all of it yet, but I already feel comfortable recommending Lowenstein's While America Aged. Below are two links relating to Mr. Lowenstein's book:

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