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this is what you shall do:: What's The Matter With Kansas?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What's The Matter With Kansas?

I am about 100 pages into Thomas Franks' What's The Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won The Heart Of America. For a political/philosophical bit of non-fiction, this is a delightful read. Frank is the editor of The Baffler, a Chicago based current events magazine. Frank grew up in Kansas and uses his Woodland Hills suburbia roots as the back drop to describe how right wing, ultra conservative evangelical Christians took over the Republican party and eventually stood their ground, capturing the White House, both houses of Congress and most state legislatures and governorships. I don't have time or the distance yet to summarize all of Frank's points but it boils down to the malaise of Progressives (once a dominant voice in Midwestern politics) and the moderate Republicans (once the back bone of Kansas politics i.e.: Eisenhower and Dole). Combine that fiercely efficient organization of the one or two issue fervor of right wing Christians ("They are aborting fetus'! The gays are coming, the gays or coming.) And Frank contends that no one stood a chance. Its a good read and puts a lot little things that I noticed in my years of following local politics into some sort of focused national debate. Frank details how evangelical conservatives began a focused effort in the early 1990s to take over the Republican Party by establishing themselves as a powerhouseat the precinct level. By forcing themselves into precinct chairmanships, county by county, in the course of four to six short years (short in political terms) they captured their party and soon began filling city councils, school boardsand local legislatures with a new kind of politician, short on ideas, impatient with progress but strong in their love of Jesus and hatred of taxes.