Book review: What’s The Matter With Kansas?

What’s The Matter With Kansas?
Thomas Frank
Metropolitan Books, 2004

Much has been written about this book and its premise of the great backlash, the revolt against the increasingly liberal society of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Mr. Frank believes (I think) that working-class social conservatives in Kansas are not using their votes wisely, that they vote for Republicans for social reasons, and in turn Big Business Republicans turn around and mistreat them. Their social interest, in other words, works in opposition to their economic interest.

I have some quarrel with this, although I think it is true in some ways. Is it true that the interests of big business are opposite of that of the working man? That’s not always the case.

Reviewers of this book have remarked how witty and funny it is. I must have missed those pages. Mr. Frank is a liberal. He advocates liberal government positions, and there’s not much funny about that. Certainly, Mr. Frank is nowhere near as funny as P.J. O’Rourke. But then, I agree with most of what P.J. writes.

The best part of this book is the extensive research of Kansas and Kansas politicians that Mr. Frank did, and how much of that he includes. The footnotes are valuable. I read this book on loan from the library, but I may look for a used copy to keep as a reference work. It is for that reason that I can recommend reading this book.

Links to good reviews of this book: Resenting the Heartland’s Success by Kimberly Shankman

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