What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America

Front Cover
Macmillan, 2004 - History - 306 pages
One of “our 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

With his acclaimed wit and acuity, Thomas Frank turns his eye on what he calls the “thirty-year backlash”—the populist revolt against a supposedly liberal establishment. The high point of that backlash is the Republican Party’s success in building the most unnatural of alliances: between blue-collar Midwesterners and Wall Street business interests, workers and bosses, populists and right-wingers.

In asking “what ’s the matter with Kansas?”—how a place famous for its radicalism became one of the most conservative states in the union—Frank, a native Kansan and onetime Republican, seeks to answer some broader American riddles: Why do so many of us vote against our economic interests? Where’s the outrage at corporate manipulators? And whatever happened to middle-American progressivism? The questions are urgent as well as provocative. Frank answers them by examining pop conservatism—the bestsellers, the radio talk shows, the vicious political combat—and showing how our long culture wars have left us with an electorate far more concerned with their leaders’ “values” and down-home qualities than with their stands on hard questions of policy.

A brilliant analysis—and funny to boot—What’s the Matter with Kansas? presents a critical assessment of who we are, while telling a remarkable story of how a group of frat boys, lawyers, and CEOs came to convince a nation that they spoke on behalf of the People.

*Los Angeles Times

What people are saying - Write a review

Brilliantly insightful political journalism.

User Review  - humanmachinery - Overstock.com

Thomas Frank performs a yeomans work explaining how imagined cultural grievances against coastal elites have turned poor rural Americans into supporters of economic deregulation tax cuts for the rich ... Read full review

What's the matter with Kansas?: how conservatives won the heart of America

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Native Kansan Frank asks why his state, once famously radical, went the way of the entire country and turned Right. Read full review


INTRODUCTION Whats the Matter with America?
Two Deep in the Heart of Redness
Three God Meet Mammon
Five Con Men and Mod Squad
The Fury Which Passeth All Understanding
Seven Russia Iran Disco Suck
Eight Happy Captives
Nine Kansas Bleeds for Your Sins
Eleven Antipopes Among Us
EPILOGUE In the Garden of the World

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

Thomas Frank is the author of Pity the Billionaire, The Wrecking Crew, What's the Matter with Kansas?, and One Market Under God. A former opinion columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and a monthly columnist for Harper's. He lives outside Washington, D.C.

Bibliographic information