Thursday, November 18, 2004

I'm on semi-sabbatical, so this is a good chance to republish blogs I wrote last summer summarizing the key points from Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas? Frank understands what beguiles ordinary Republicans to vote against their own best interests, and we're going to need that understanding as we work to build the progressive movement. Here is the first in the series.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Anybody that pulls in less than 200K a year and votes Republican has been played, had, scammed. But for this scam to be successful, it must continue to fleece Americans, year after year, all the while convincing them that it's the other guy's fault--the liberal. That's quite a parlor trick, and Republicans have been playing it on people for the last several decades. Thomas Frank's new book What's the Matter with Kansas? details how Conservatives have persuaded much of the American public to vote for its own destruction. The heart of the con is creating a backlash among people who resent feeling one down.
Maybe you were one of those who stood up for America way back in 1968, sick of hearing those rich kids in beads bad-mouth the country every night on TV. Maybe you knew exactly what Richard Nixon meant when he talked about the "silent majority," the people whose hard work was rewarded with constant insults from the network news, the Hollywood movies, and the know-it-all college professors, none of them interested in anything you had to say. Or maybe it was the liberal judges who got you mad as hell, casually rewriting the laws of your state according to some daft idea they had picked up at a cocktail party, or ordering your town to shoulder some billion-dollar desegregation scheme that they had dreamed up on their own, or turning criminals loose to prey on the hardworking and the industrious. Or perhaps it was the drive for gun control, which was obviously directed toward the same end of disarming and ultimately disempowering people like you. Or maybe abortion changed your political sympathies, like the man who was persuaded . . . that the sanctity of the fetus outweighed all of his other concerns, and from there he gradually accepted the whole pantheon of conservative devil-figures: the elite media and the American Civil Liberties Union, contemptuous of our values; the la-di-da feminists; the idea that Christians are vilely persecuted--right here in the U.S. of A.
Well, okay, so these folks want abortion halted and raunchy behavior in films, hip hop and MTV reined in. Fair enough, then, to vote Republican--IF the Republicans ever delivered on their promises to change the American scene. But they don't.
The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act. Even the greatest culture warrior of them all was a notorious cop-out once it came time to deliver. "Reagan made himself the champion of 'traditional values,' but there is no evidence he regarded their restoration as a high priority," wrote Christopher Lasch . . . . "What he really cared about was the revival of the unregulated capitalism of the twenties: the repeal of the New Deal."
Members of this Backlash have hurt themselves most of all, yet they continue to vote for their leaders with increasingly fierce commitment. What is this derangement? More on that subject later.

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