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Sunday, December 19, 2004

What Ever Happened to Kansas? by Thomas Frank

How could someone who's ever worked for someone else ever vote Republican? How could one of the poorest counties in the nation go 80% for George W. Bush in the 2000 election? Those are the kinds of questions that Thmoas Frank, a disenchanted conservative Kansas republican examines in this book. Kansas become a metaphor for the red states (ironic that during the fifties the appellation red was such a negative.) How can these voters proclaim hatred for the elites while voting for an elite that proceeds to screw them?

American political life is all about getting people to vote against their own economic interests and the Republicans have been wildly successful at it recently. If you earn more than $300,000 per year you should raise your wine glass and Rolex encrusted wrist to the poor schmucks in Kansas who voted against their own economic interest so you could buy another Lexus. Thanks to them, unions are no longer a problem, the estate tax has all but disappeared, and meddling bank examiners no longer meddle. Hard times conservatism makes sense now to the indigent. It's like a chicken supporting Kentucky Fried Chicken.

This is part of the great backlash that emphasizes social issues all the way from busing to new wave art. But it's legacy is economic issues rather than social change. Globalization has succeeded where social change has not. It celebrates money uber alles. The benefactors have been the wealthiest on the planet. But the public pretense is that values matter most. Once in office, however, the only agenda priority is economic. The welfare state has been smashed and a 19th century pattern of wealth distribution has triumphed. "They talk Christ but walk corporate."

People have voted to rollback abortion, but give tax breaks to the rich. CEOs are rewarded today in a manner that is beyond understanding, often for failing to bring a profit to a company.
Conservatives portray themselves as the outsiders, the antithesis to the effete liberal intellectuals.

It will be interesting to watch and see if the conservative majority can now hold itself together as they become the insiders with the power rather the the downtrodden outsiders.

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