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What's the Matter with America?: The Resistable Rise of the American Right [Paperback]

Thomas Frank
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Sep 2004
With his acclaimed wit and acuity, Thomas Frank here turns his eye on what he calls the 'thirty-year backlash' - the common man's revolt against a supposedly liberal establishment. He charts the Republican party's success in building the most unnatural of alliances: between bluecollar Midwesterners and Wall Street business interests; between workers and bosses; between populists and right-wingers. Taking the state of Kansas as a paradigm, Frank describes how a place famous for its radicalism became one of the most conservative states in the union and, writing as a native Kansan and onetime Republican, seeks to answer some broader American riddles: why do so many of us vote against our economic and social interests? And whatever happened to middle-American progressivism? Frank reveals the true story, showing how voters have been persuaded to elevate 'values' and down-home qualities - lavishly attributed to the current occupant of the White House - above hard questions of policy. A brilliant analysis, and funny to boot, What's the Matter with America? - published in advance of the US Presidential elections - presents a critical assessment of the state of America today, while telling

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd; First Edition edition (2 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436205394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436205392
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 15 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,075,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'THOMAS FRANK, NOT MICHAEL MOORE, IS THE MOST INCISIVE WRITER ON CONTEMPORARY AMERICA His writing is so dazzling and witty and scornful it can stand comparison with the works of Twain or Mencken... Frank is in a different league from Michael Moore. He is a smarter and better writer. - Observer. 'Eloquent and often funny' - The Times. 'Important and fascinating...Frank [writes] vividly and with great insight' - London Review of Books. 'Brilliant' - Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

One of America's 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 (2004-03-15) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
To a British observer, the pyschology of American voters can seem at times, baffling. In the impoverished areas of the UK the dominant parties have always been, and continue to be with a few minor exceptions the parties of the left, with the Labour Party by far the most dominant of these. However, the situation accross the Atlantic could not be further removed from this British scenario, with Thomas Frank explaining how in poor rural areas accross the heartland millions of Americans are rejecting the ideas of the left, and siding with that bastion of right wing power, the Republican party.
Frank explains how, in affect the Democrats rejection of the language of class and equality during the 90's post Reaganomics period allowed the GOP a niche in which to exploit all kinds of cultural wedge issues, from guns to aborton, the natural instincts of the Kansas poplace Frank uses as an example throughout the book ran counter to that of the coastal/liberal Democratic establishment.
Frank gives a variety of examples of real Kansas 'blue collar Republicans' at the sharp end of the pay scale, who talk not about the harsh brand of conservative economics that have, ironically, undercut the traditional business of old, but instead rail against the 'liberal media', and other such leftist bogeymen. Unlike many authors such as Molly Ivins, Thomas Frank resists the urge to fill his book with too many real-life examples, which aides the flow of the book and allows him, a native Kansan, proper room to analyise the sizemic shifts have occured in his home state that so favour the GOP.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He's right on the button 15 Oct 2004
Not as majestic as his last - 'One Market Under God' - but that's a hard act to follow. Frank's latest has a slight feel of his publisher demanding something else, quickly. It's less satisfying than OMuG, but he's right on the button again, nailing the political malaise that effects the World's Only Superpower: Hobson's Choice between Moderately Conservative and Full-on Conservative. Frank uses his home state of Kansas - once, surprisingly, a hotbed of 'socialist' political movements as a case study - and charts the con the Cons have pulled to convince working people that free-market, pro-business, Republicanism represents their interests. Frank ascribes this puzzling shift to the disappearance of economics from political debate in favour of 'culture wars' over unwinnable issues like abortion, evolution and a fixation on a conspiracy of 'liberal' east-coast/hollywood/media, latte-drinking, abortion-loving, intellectuals (the latter a REALLY dirty word). Franks shows these culture wars to be nothing but useful fictions around which to rally the disgruntled authentic folks of the 'heartland'.
Franks ends with a critique of the Democrats' sell-out under Clinton. Equal blame lies with the Democrats' abdication from the debate on economics (taxation, public services, regulation) in favour of business-friendliness. Sound familiar? New Labour learned a lot of what it knows from Clinton's 'tiangulations'.
It's also worth saying that Frank can REALLY write: never a dull sentence or a pat phrase. I was dismayed to discover he's still in his 30s. Far too clever for his own good. Buy, read and begin to understand how Dubya got where he is today.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why does the American poor vote Republican? 8 Mar 2006
The original (American) title of this book is "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives won the Heart of America".
The book explores an apparant paradox - in the United States, the poorer states (like Kansas) vote Republican, while the wealthier states vote Democrat. The explanation for this is that the Republicans don't talk much about economics but focus on "moral values" e.g. abortion, evolution, homosexuality etc. which enhances their appeal to poorer voters. Meanwhile the Democrats have abandoned the poor to present themselves as a pro-business party.
Frank believes that many right-wing Republican politicians and commentators are opportunists who are insincere in their commitment to "moral values" and are posing as fundamentalists in order to attract support. He says it is safe for them to do this because they know there is no chance of the US actually banning abortion, evolution and homosexuality, and because their supporters are so gullible that they won't believe the people they support are hypocrites. I'm not so sure about this. I think that if they keep trying, the "moral values" Republicans can achieve their objectives.
This book is very well researched and written. It looks mainly at Kansas and how life and politics in the state have changed over the last century.
If you are interested in this sort of thing I would also recommend George Lakoff's books.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars truly stunning analysis 7 Mar 2006
like a lightbulb going on in the head.
explains how america can have both some of the best and brightest in the world, yet politically is going downhill fast.
on a different level of insight to the likes of michael moore.
and it's not a leftist polemic by any means, it's a genuinely intelligent attempt to get inside the mindset, tactics and worldview of the new right wing in the states.
i can't recommend this book enough, for anyone seeking to understand america - and by extension - our world - it is truly essential.
the only downside is that the conclusions (for america at least) are very bleak. but inescapable.
i don't write many reviews on amazon, but felt compelled to write this one... a must read.
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