Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's the Matter With Kansas?

Last month I enjoyed going thru What's the Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Frank. While I found it to be very interesting in terms of the history of Kansas politics and the modern conservative movement, it lost a bit of its narrative steam towards the end and turned into some distantly related articles on religious sects in Kansas. The book came to mind during our recent drive through Texas and Louisiana (which I need to post about): I saw a few small towns that only had a Wal-Mart and no other grocers, as well as lots of antique shops, something he says has happened all across the deserted small towns of Kansas.

Frank brings up the wide socialistic swing that populism took back in the early 1900s and repeatedly points out that citizens back then would not put up with recent Republican leadership. He casts the shift back towards conservativism as being a well-masterminded backlash movement but I couldn't help but wonder if maybe the less-educated are just easily swayed during different times (he even points out how the movement filled with the great unwashed). While times are certainly bad now maybe times were worse back in the late 1800s and that inspired the liberal swing, rather than people just being smarter back then. It seems pretty simple: when times are tough enough, the masses listen to the liberal bumpersticker slogans; when times aren't so tough, they listen to the conservative ones (and are more vulnerable to divisive tactics like race-baiting).

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