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What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
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What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  10,074 Ratings  ·  680 Reviews

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 h

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Kindle Edition, 332 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2004)
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Kristen
In the last year I’ve started on a half a dozen books all claiming to explain the marriage of social conservatism and capitalism, this being the second I’ve actually managed to finish (the others written either by some criminally insane conservative whose lunatic ravings caused me to vomit in my mouth by page five or liberals whose smug sense of superiority was palpable.) This one at least was enjoyable, I suppose, yet somewhere about a third of the way in I realized the utter pointlessness of e ...more
Trish
Thomas Frank makes a good deal of sense if one can listen long enough to hear his thesis. But he is his own worst enemy, providing story after statistic to describe Kansas voting for conservatives against their own best interests. His arguments are extreme and unsettling. You’d think Kansas was the most unholy place on earth with pollution, unemployment, and immigrant slave labor, but actually conservatives have only slowly been crushing the lifeblood out of the state. This last election voted 6 ...more
Belarius
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans And Others Curious About America
Simply put, "What's The Matter With Kansas?" in its latest (paperback) edition, is a book every politically active American should read. What its author, Thomas Frank, lacks in terms of tone (the book is likely to offend some) he overcomes with an incredibly clear-sighted appraisal of the ideological framework of modern conservatives and, to an extent, of America in general.

Frank's opening thesis is that the "new conservatives" that sprang from the 1990s represent a seeming paradox: the poor fur
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Connie  Kuntz
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Connie by: Jesse Kuntz
Thomas Frank, a Kansas native and former conservative, actually does manage to thoughtfully and fairly answer the title question "What's The Matter With Kansas?" He also does explain how conservatives won the heart of America. More importantly, in my opinion, he got me to analyze why I feel the politics I feel and, ultimately, vote the way I vote. His book has a marvelous way of balancing emotion and logic in political rhetoric. Because of that, I consider this book one of beautiful, swift polit ...more
Michael
Jul 12, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Holy cow I hated this book.

This was really an unpleasant experience, I’m glad it’s over. I read the book because I am moving to Kansas and figured it would be a useful introduction to the state’s political dynamic. I was expecting an analysis that I would likely not be very sympathetic to, but I was still disappointed. The book is not so much analysis as explanation -- explanation as to what is going on in flyover country, from the perspective of a committed, doctrinaire, old school liberal. The
...more
Nicholas
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in politics, all liberals
A remarkably account of the development of "backlash" politics in the microcosm of Kansas. Thomas Frank asks himself why working-class people would vote against their economic interests to put the Republicans (Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2) in power, when it would make much more sense to vote for liberals who would improve their educational options and increase progressive taxation. Put simply—why do poor American vote to lower the taxes on the rich? The answer is a little more complicated than this, b ...more
Jesse
Oct 02, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who already read a lot of pop culture political theory.
Eh. I don't know about this one. I think it has some good points and insights as to how people living in middle America see the conservative movement as relating to their self interest even when decisions made by that movement are somewhat against their self interest. At the same time I feel like this analysis "others" middle America and assumes something is "the matter" with Kansas as opposed to assuming that perhaps something is wrong with progressive messaging that is not connecting with many ...more
Hadrian
Apr 04, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
No seriously, what the fuck is the matter with Kansas? Is it 1954 over there instead of 2014?

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/20...
sologdin
Posits the existence of a “Great Backlash,” a derangement that is the return of “a style of conservatism that first came snarling onto the national stage in response to the partying and protests of the late sixties” (5). It is apparently “like the French Revolution in reverse” (8): “sans culottes pour down the streets demanding more power for the aristocracy.” The central problem:
Strip them of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and
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Aaron
Dec 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hating this book would be like hating cancer: Raging won't make it go away or succor those who have been damaged by it.

But it is well worth repeating the fact that this is a deeply stupid book, smug and vicious and unapologetic on both counts.

To say that Frank is preaching to the choir is insulting to preachers, who by and large seem sincerely interested in persuading their charges, and choirs, who by and large seem to sing from a place of joy and compassion. Rather, Frank begins with a hateful
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Darlene
Although my political views are left of center, I approached this book with great curiosity and an open mind. I was hoping to understand what makes a group of people vote against their own political and economic interests. However, I didn't come away from this book really learning the answer to that question. Mr. Frank, a native Kansan, wrote a very interesting book about his very colorful home state. He talked about conservative voters voting their values.... I understand that. I feel I vote u ...more
keith koenigsberg
A scathing polemic diatribe, this book discusses how the conservatives have won the hearts and minds of a state which, by any of the author's yardsticks, ought to vote liberal. Frank is preaching to choir with me. However, even as I sit on his side of the fence, I could not help but fault this book for a)lack of humor (the tone is as screechingly accusatory as any of the conservative pundits he enjoys bashing) b)lack of economic, scientific, or other logical background. He sets up the chapters w ...more
Moxie
I know this is supposed to be a great book, but, as a Kansan, I had a hard time getting past Thomas Frank's apparent bitterness about all things Kansas. Its an interesting assessment as to how Kansas got so Red. However, things have been changing significantly in this state over the last few elections so its no longer very insightful about the current state of Kansas politics.
Will Byrnes
Frank looks at Kansas as a prime example of how the Republican Party has convinced working people to vote against their own economic self-interest by using so-called wedge issues. It is compelling analysis.
Sean Sullivan
Jan 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book has got to be one of the most read (or at least most discussed) political commentary texts of the last ten years. It seems like everyone I know is familiar with the thesis – that Kansas is an example of what is strange (and Frank thinks, wrong) about American electoral politics – people will vote against their economic interests if they think such voting is in line with their moral concerns. So, though the Republican party shits all over working class people, they will continue to vote
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Katie
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I learned early on that reading the opinion pages of the newspaper was just spitting into the wind. You get so fed up to the point that you have to do something about it, and then you end up making it worse. Much of "What's the Matter with Kansas" was a play-by-play rehashing of the news stories that have helped make Kansas the laughing stock of the nation. While I find Frank's concept of "cultural backlash" interesting, it still doesn't answer the question of "why do rural people continue to el ...more
Marti Garlett
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is fascinating, but I also expect will be debunked by most Kansans. I'm not a Kansan, but my husband is, and I lived there for 15 years plus four years of undergraduate experience. One of my two sons was born in Kansas; both of them were raised there. The author is a Kansan, ergo, giving him more credibility in addition to his massive research. This is a meticulously detailed tome that demonstrates that it us true conservatives consistently vote against their own self interests, includ ...more
Keith
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a sort of guide to understanding conservative thinking, and it was really good. A bit dated (I think it was written in 2005?) but spot on when describing the mentality that eventually shattered the Republican party and metastasized into the diseased thing we call 'conservatism' today. While completely relevant to 2014, I'm not sure what exactly the book evokes more for the reader, contempt or pity for the 'backlash' conservatives he describes here. Either way, it was depressing to learn ...more
Peter
Aug 29, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awful
What utter nonsense! I would give this no stars if I could. Extremism on either end of the political spectrum does not make for an interesting book. Mr. Frank seems to think that one party is better than the other one, and that anyone who voted for that evil party has somehow been deceived, should have their heads examined, or has fallen under the spell of some kind of nefarious plot to take over the world.

I suppose some people enjoy polemic arguments like this, but they so often become boring
...more
Ned Mozier
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most autobiographical from one of the preeminent spokespersons for the economics of capitalism and (surprisingly) pop culture. This tells of his youth and intellectual development and, ultimately, seeks to understand his fellow man's inexplicable support of policies that harm him. Or such is his position. This is highly readable and will stimulate your thinking! Frank's writes a monthly page in Harper's magazine that is always fresh and provocative.
Sheffy
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Democratic partisans
Shelves: aborted
While I agree with the general hypothesis of this book that the Republican coup is to generate "social" wedge issues to get the "heartland" to vote against it's economic best interest, this book is a partisan editorial rant that lacks true scholarship and authenticity (despite footnotes). Althouh it is entertainingly written, I couldn't get through it.
Patty
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A nonfiction book attempting to explain the upswing in conservative voters in the midwest and other rural areas. It's a bit out of date; it was published only in 2004 but things change fast in the politics game. Nonetheless, this book is pretty amazingly prescient; a lot of his discussion of conservative Republicans choosing to vote for their values (pro-life and anti-gay marriage in particular) against their own economic self-interest could apply perfectly to the Trump tax bill that passed just ...more
Juan
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Circuitry
Recommended to Juan by: Joachim Ratoff
Un sorprendente relato sobre el estado de Kansas en la época de Bush Jr. y cómo la colaboración entre el sector radical del Partido Republicano, diversas confesiones religiosas, algunos medios de comunicación y los grandes capitales desmantelaron al electorado demócrata y los sindicatos mediante un discurso que apelaba a los valores morales y los sentimientos, mientras Charlton Heston aparecía en los mítines explicando que lo importante era el derecho a portar armas y la prohibición del aborto, ...more
Geordy Kortebein
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It seems almost shocking to finish this book and consider it was written over a decade ago. "The year's most prescient political book" is written on the cover from a New York Times review, a quote I particularly agree with, considering Frank's accuracy with detailing the right-wing proletarian political movement; a movement that has only gotten more fanatic and more removed from reality, boiling over with rage when schools teach their kids about evolution or safe sex or when states approve gay m ...more
Donna
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays-ideas
I bought this book a couple of years ago, mainly because of the title. I, too, had been wondering about the egg-headedness of the so-called American "heartland," all those people in the "red" states in the 2000 and 2004 elections that voted en masse against their own economic interests.

But like most Americans, I wasn't really interested in economic matters, figuring it was up to the "experts" to keep the wheels of commerce churning. Thus, I had a share in the tragic complacency that brought all
...more
Al Young
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frank was the founder of The Baffler - a magazine I remember vaguely from the 90s as being liberal and (though it had its moments) pretentious as hell. Still, Kansas is a book that I have read a lot of good things about, and stands as one of the great political books written in the last decade.

I expected that I might like it, but there was a lot more to it than I would have guessed. You could probably guess the main plotline of how the GOP has garnered blue collar support - even to the point tha
...more
Candice
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re Republicans: "The leaders of the backlash may talk Christ, but they walk corporate. Values may 'matter most' but they always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won...Their grandstanding leaders never deliver, their fury mounts and mounts, and nevertheless they turn out every two years to return their right-wing heroes to office for a second, a third, a twentieth try. The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion, receive a rollback in capi ...more
The American Conservative
'What’s the Matter With Kansas? is a dispatch from the front lines of the culture war, a book filled with anecdotes about the men and women, rich and poor, who dedicate much of their lives to fighting over abortion, evolution, and control of the state government. Frank, a native Kansan himself, doesn’t agree with these people politically but, at least where the blue-collar activists are concerned, he often finds them likeable and always accords them a degree of respect. That goes not only for th ...more
Jason
Mar 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
is there a liberal slant to this book? yup. is there still something totally messed up about kansas? yup - that, too. frank wrote a fascinating book about KS politics, and the state's history of political figures who, shall we say, are outside of the mainstream. i'd love to read a *reasoned* counter-perspective from a right-wing writer, but, alas, that screeching harpy coulter isn't incapable of producing such a thing. if you know of one, please do share. in the meantime, this is a terribly ente ...more
Olivia "Don't Blame Me I Voted for Hillary"
It provided an excellent explanation as to why right-wing nutjobs are so prevalent in the hinterlands.
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Thomas Frank is the author of Pity the Billionaire, The Wrecking Crew, and What's the Matter with Kansas? A former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Harper's, Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and writes regularly for Salon. He lives outside Washington, D.C.
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“For decades, Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting.... The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant. They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege. They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawoof toffs. They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. 'We are here,' they scream, 'to cut your taxes.” 11 likes
“...the people at the top know what they have to do to stay there, and in a pinch they can easily overlook the sweaty piety of the new Republican masses, the social conservatives who raise their voices in praise of Jesus but cast their votes for Caesar.” 10 likes
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