Book details

What's the Matter with Kansas?

How Conservatives Won the Heart of America

Author: Thomas Frank

What's the Matter with Kansas?

What's the Matter with Kansas?

About This Book

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...

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Book Details

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 Angeles Times

Imprint Publisher




In The News

“The best political book of the year.” —Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

“Frank is a formidable controversialist-imagine Michael Moore with a trained brain and an intellectual conscience.” —George F. Will, The Washington Post

“Brilliant.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, The New York Times

“Mr. Frank re-injects economic-class issues into the debate with sardonic vehemence.” —Jerome Weeks, The Dallas Morning News

“A searing piece of work . . . one of the most important political writings in years.” —The Boston Globe

“Dazzlingly insightful and wonderfully sardonic . . . Frank has made much sense of the world in this book.” —Chicago Tribune

“Impassioned, compelling . . . Frank's books mark him as one of the most insightful thinkers of the twenty-first century, four years into it.” —Houston Chronicle

“Very funny and very painful . . . Add another literary gold star after Thomas Frank's name.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Drunk on tax cuts, favors for corporations and above all else, their undying lust for the culture wars most of us lost interest in years ago, conservatives have driven Middle America into a ditch, Mr. Frank argues in this brilliant book. His examination of how the right has prolonged the battles over pop culture, abortion and religion (and meanwhile accrued great power and financial gain) will not single-handedly eject President Bush from the White House--but it does contain the kind of nuanced ideas that should be talking points for the Kerry campaign.” —Kevin Canfield, The New York Observer

“When I read Thomas Frank, I hear a faint bugle in the background. It's the cavalry-to-the-rescue call: There you are, surrounded by Republicans--outmanned, outgunned, and damn near out of both ammunition and humor--when up shows Thomas Frank. A heartland populist, Frank is hilariously funny on what makes us red-staters different from blue-staters (not), and he actually knows evangelical Christians, antiabortion activists, gun-nuts, and Bubbas. I promise y'all, this is the only way to understand why so many Americans have decided to vote against their own economic and political interests. And Frank explores the subject with scholarship, understanding, passion, and--thank you, Mark Twain--such tart humor.” —Molly Ivins

“This is the true story of how conservatives punk'd a nation. Tom Frank has stripped the right-wing hustle to its core: It is bread and circuses--only without bread. Written like poem, every line in its perfect place, What's the Matter with Kansas? is the best new book I've read in years, on any subject.” —Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of American Consensus

“A wise reporter and a splendid wit; Tom Frank understands the grassroots Right as well as anyone in America. He is the second coming of H. L. Mencken--but with much better politics.” —Michael Kazin, author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History

What's the Matter with Kansas? is the most insightful analysis of American right-wing pseudopopulism to come along in the last decade. As for Kansas: However far it's drifted into delusion, you've got to love a state that could produce someone as wickedly funny, compassionate, and non-stop brilliant as Tom Frank.” —Barbara Enhrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

“Frank combines top-flight journalism with first-person reflections to dig deep into the Kansas psyche. Both exhilarating and a little scary, What's the Matter with Kansas? should help flat-landers and coastal types alike understand how traditional Republicanism gave way to the politics of the Christian Right in the heart of the heart of the country.” —Burdett Loomis, professor and chair, Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas

“A fire-and-brimstone essay on false consciousness on the Great Plains. 'The poorest county in America . . . is on the Great Plains, a region of struggling ranchers and dying farm towns,' writes native Kansan and Baffler founding editor Frank, 'and in the election of 2000 the Republican candidate for president, George W. Bush, carried it by a majority greater than 80 percent.' How, Frank wonders, can it be that such a polity--honest toilers descended from free-soil, abolitionist progressives and prairie socialists--could back such a man who showed little concern then and has showed little concern since for the plight of the working class?” —Kirkus Reviews

About the Creators

What's the Matter with Kansas?

What's the Matter with Kansas?