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Frank is wrong. Kansas is actually somewhat above average in income and benefits hugely from government programs favored by the local Republican party.  Furthermore in general in the US there has not been any shift among poor white voters to the GOP except in the South, and even there it is much smaller than popular myth would make it out to be.  Furthermore he is condescending by suggesting that someone voting against their class interests is necessarily being deceived.  It is interesting that nobody is writing any books on 'What's the matter with the Upper West Side' or any other representative wealthy liberal area of the US that likes to vote for people who promise to raise their taxes.  

Keep in mind that whatever their rhetoric both Blair and Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy and upper middle class.

France also happens to be a special case where there really is a pretty substantial extreme left that genuinely hasn't come to terms with any variant of capitalism, whether of the American or Scandinavian variety.  The views of a left-wing Dem politician would be in the middle or right of the PS - and very far removed from the Trotskyists and Communists. Cohn Bendit's words have to be understood in that context.

by MarekNYC on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 01:09:11 AM EST
I've never understood the argument that "Frank is wrong" because Kansas just happens to be above average in income. As Jerome has pointed out, average and median are two different things, and economic inequality has increased in Kansas more than just about anywhere else in the country.

But all of this is beside the point. Kansas has always been a conservative Republican state, as Frank well knows because he grew up there. Frank's argument is that the nature of that conservatism has changed in the last 15 or 20 years, from a sort of "Main Street" conservatism to a more radical version defined more by the religious right and cultural/social issues than economic ones.

Beyond that, is it really "condescending" to think that, in a world of Fox News and a right-tilting media, along with a milquetoast Democratic Party establishment, that people may not fully understand that there are more economic policy options before them than just tax cuts and deregulation? Or that people may get wrongly convinced that George Bush is a new kind of "compassionate" conservative? Or that he is more moderate than he actually is on foreign policy?

I don't think so.

Of course, if people think cultural or social issues are more important than class or economic issues, then that's one thing.

But if they fail to distinguish between the two parties on economic issues or become convinced that the center-left are "extremists" on cultural issues because of a successful right-wing propaganda campaign, then that is something else, and we need to understand why it has happened and what to do about it.

That's what Frank's book is really about.

by TGeraghty on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 02:21:17 AM EST
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But all of this is beside the point. Kansas has always been a conservative Republican state, as Frank well knows because he grew up there. Frank's argument is that the nature of that conservatism has changed in the last 15 or 20 years, from a sort of "Main Street" conservatism to a more radical version defined more by the religious right and cultural/social issues than economic ones.

Your forgetting that back in the day of 'Main Street' conservatism traditional values regarding sexual morality were the established consensus. Over the past forty years the US (and Europe) has seen a dramatic change in how sexual behaviour is judged by society. It is natural that conservatives should become a lot more militant about such issues when that social consensus has crumbled.

With regard to economic issues I'd say it would make more sense to see the period from the mid fifties to the mid seventies as a temporary swing to the left by the Republican party. They opposed all government programs from Social Security to Medicare and Medicaid when they were proposed. So their views on that part of the political battlefield are also consistent with the past.

To sum up - not much has changed except a feeling by conservatives that their ideology is being undermined by a changing world, and it is the very essence of conservatism to become upset under those circumstances. Before you could have a de Maistre you needed the Revolution. The precondition for the rise of the Christian Right was the sexual revolution.

by MarekNYC on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 02:46:27 AM EST
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True, but there were other social issues that divided the country along similar lines - immigration, prohibition, the Catholic issue. The fundies always find something to bitch about.

You know, "rum, romanism, and rebellion."

It may be, though, that during the immediate-post WWII period American society was as secular as it ever has been.

by TGeraghty on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 11:47:40 AM EST
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Kansas has always been a conservative state? In the 1850s-1880s it was quite radical. But even in the long years of republican dominance, it was nothing like what it is now. But consider someone like Frank Church or George McGovern or ...
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 08:36:34 PM EST
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Actually, there is a very extensive rightwing literature on just that, dating back at least to Tom Wolfe's 1970 "Mau-mauing the Flack Catchers" and the phrase Radical Chic, and widely adopted by pop journalism, not just the righwingers.  The old-line rightwing press is content just to call the Upper West side types traitors, while mentioning casually that many of them are Jews....
by cambridgemac on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 08:50:25 AM EST
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What's against the economic interest of upper west siders? The Al Gore knowledge economy is exactly in their interests. The Bush Haliburton economy takes money from higher education, tech, health care professions, ... - the litany of upper west side employement and gives it to corporate interests not represented there.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 08:19:41 PM EST
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