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July 6, 2005

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

Thomas Frank - 080507774X

Reading this book is akin to enduring the screech of fingernails on a chalk board. While Frank makes some good points, if rarely in a civilized or thoughtful way, he reminds me of the philandering professor in Moonstruck to whom Olympia Dukakis comments: “what you don’t know about women is a lot!” What Frank doesn’t know about the red state people he so scorns is . . . well . . . a lot!

You’ll see numerous quotes in this review. They are simply too graphic not to use.

A casual disclosure midway thru the book may be the key to his derisive attitude: “I did not win a spot at some highly selective eastern college . . . . I did not understand what had caused me to be sifted one way and them [his upper middle class classmates] the other.” Perhaps it was this rejection which bred all of the contempt?

“How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?” (except for a Kennedy or two, is there anyone on the planet who hasn’t worked for someone at some time or another?) Or . . . “People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about. . . . This derangement has put the Republicans in charge . . . [and shifted] the Democrats to the right.” He believes as an article of faith that business and labor ought to be at each other’s throats constantly, but observes that they agree because the stupid blue-collars vote bad economics in exchange for fundamentally unimportant issues like abortion, fetal stem-cell research, federal judges, the supreme court, etc. The country “seems more like a panorama of madness and delusion . . . [imagine] sturdy blue-collar patriots reciting the Pledge while they strangle their own life chances.” Phheew!

Haranguing “fundamentalists” (whom he lumps with the “blue-collars”) overlooks the fact that there are myriad people who simply don’t agree with him. He concurs with Howard Dean that Republicans are evil. Then there is the obligatory attack on foes of abortion and stem cell research, who are troglodytes, trolls, etc. “Class animus,” he posits, is the theme in this “Great Backlash” (of the red-state imbeciles.)

“Thanks to [liberalism’s] chokehold on the nation’s culture, liberalism is thus [believed to be] in power whether its politicians are elected or not; it rules over us even though Republicans have prevailed in . . . elections . . . It doesn’t matter that liberals have long since lost their power over government. In the backlash mind liberalism is still what changes our mores . . . what makes or interprets the laws.” He doesn’t seem to recognize that there is mountain of truth in this convoluted statement. The courts usually do decide for the liberals, and liberals really don’t need to be in power anymore. If you don’t believe it consider the very recent liberal decision on the taking of private property for private use, as we marvel over their decision on the Ten Commandments fiasco. It is clear that liberals will “Bork” any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court.

“None of what I have described here would make sense were it not for a critical rhetorical move: the systematic erasure of the economic.” He refuses to accept that some people consider factors beyond economics when they decide who they are, what they believe, how they live, how and what they want their children taught.

He launches into Adelphia, Tyco, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, etal, forgetting that this activity occurred on Clinton’s watch, and prosecutions are proceeding under Bush; and rather well it appears, since most all have been convicted and most of those given heavy sentences, and Enron is soon to be in the dock.

After exploring the thoughts of “rightist” Kansans he declares that “Few of the [conservative] writers I have described . . . are meticulous or systematic thinkers. Their theories don’t hold water; their books are jam-packed with errors and omissions and preposterous interpretations.” That may be so, but his book is certainly not an example of meticulous, systematic thinking either. It is a vicious diatribe which demonstrates no understanding of, or insight into dealing with people of alternate persuasions.

He reviews how Roe v. Wade “demonstrated the power of the legal profession to override everyone,” quashing the debate over abortion and settling the issue by fiat, thus cementing forever the stereotype that liberalism is a doctrine of a tiny clique of experts securing their “reforms” by judicial command rather than democratic consensus. Exactly! “When Scalia accused his Supreme Court colleagues . . . [when overturning sodomy laws] . . . more out of deference to the ‘law profession’s anti-anti-homosexual culture’ than respect for any particular provision of constitutional law, he was invoking this stereotype.” Exactly!! What prevents Frank from seeing that this is a fact not a stereotype?

Finally, “it didn’t matter that the Swifties argument crumbled under the slightest scrutiny” . . . etc. Kerry’s problem was that the argument didn’t crumble. Further explication enhanced its verity. Kerry’s continuing refusal to release his complete military record suggests that there is something more there still. We know of course that he is as average the adversary he tried so hard to belittle. Of necessity Frank emphasizes that Bush actively avoided service in Viet Nam (which isn’t true), and avoids altogether the brouhaha of “Rathergate.” Selective? Na-a-a!

“Oddly enough, Zell Miller had once been known as a fairly formidable class warrior on the left . . . blasting Bush’s father . . . as a clueless ‘aristocrat’ . . . but in the election of 2004 all the class anger was on the other side. . . . It was the Democrat whose aristocratic lifestyle was always coming into question.” Miller’s arguments weren’t about aristocracy. They were about arrogance and misunderstanding of facts and reality. Miller explained, but Frank just can’t . . . or won/t believe it.

Yep . . . like so many on the left, what he doesn’t know about people is a lot!

Posted by respeto at July 6, 2005 3:31 PM