The basic question he asks is, why do Kansan’s (and other “red states”) vote against their “own best interests.”
It’s a fascinating concept, really, considering how completely nuts it is.
There are a few assumptions he makes that I’d like to share.
1. Kansas is blue-collar and uneducated.
2. The Republican ticket offers nothing to Kansans.
3. Kansans have been “hoodwinked” into voting social issues rather than economic, which is foolish because once in office, Republicans don’t do anything with the social agenda.
There is more, but it’s neither here nor there. Much of the book talks about how the state transitioned from a “progressive” thinking state to a “moronic, poor, non-thinking state.”
First of all, I’d like to talk about point 1. I live in Johnson County, Kansas, which is the 4th richest county in the United States. The average Johnson County citizen earns $61,000 per year (national average $41,000). 3.4% of its residents are below the poverty level (national average is 12.4%). The average home (owned by an individual or family) is $150,000 (national average is $119,000). 47.7% of Johnson County residents have a Bachelor’s degree or higher (national average is 24.4%).
So, we’re perhaps not as illiterate and jerkwater as the author might like to suggest. Where the author starts to be correct is when he talks about the economic implications. Johnson County residents on average don’t make enough to fall into the “tax cuts for the rich” category. And Republicans certainly historically try to cut social programs. So what gives?
Point number 2. What the Republicans offer to us is the social issues that conservatives hold dear. Pro-life, anti gay marriage, pro-guns… in essence, traditional Christian values. But what they also offer is more money in my pocket. Republican’s basic stance (although it’s a game of slight degrees) is that government should be smaller, and that individual responsibility should be increased. And of course, this feeds both into the desire to be a person of character (take care of ourselves, don’t want a handout, want to choose how we spend our money and go about our business), and also has the added benefit of putting some of our hard-earned money back into our pockets. The tax cuts affect more than just wealthy Americans. The wealthy get MORE of a tax cut, but they also fit FAR more of the bill than the rest of us… and not just in raw dollars, by percentage of income as well. But that’s a topic for another day.
So his argument that Republicans offer nothing economically to us is absurd. Liberals offer economic incentives that amount to nothing more than pandering, hand-holding, paternalistic pig-slop. Part of being a conservative is valuing the basic idea of personal responsibility. At the same time, as a conservative, I can say “I support certain causes, and I give freely to support them.” I just object to having the Federal Government choosing which causes I support.
Point 3. Kansans have not been “hoodwinked” into voting against their best interests. 61% of Kansans voted Republican in 2004. It was a combination of all the things I already stated. We feel strongly about social issues, we feel strongly about personal responsibility, we feel strongly that the federal government having more of our money can only be bad, and we feel strongly about choosing how we spend our money.
His point that Republicans once in office ignore the social issues that got them elected is pretty darn silly, too. Sure, they don’t do as much as most Conservatives would like, but think about what has been accomplished. Partial Birth, at least for the moment, is banned. Another appointment or two to the Supreme Court, and we’ll finally get Roe v Wade overturned. Many states are defining marriage with the traditional Christian definition. I’d say that the Conservative agenda is chugging along just fine.
He makes the point that social issues are basically unimportant, and that all that mattered, as James Carville has so often been quoted “It’s the economy, stupid.” But it’s not the economy, stupid. And all of my comments are not to say that liberal Dems are bad or immoral. They interpret “Character” differently than me, but this is America and they have that right. I don’t think it makes someone dumb if they disagree with me. However, I think it makes them wrong. Wrong in the sense that I believe in an absolute definition of Character: Knowing who you are and what you believe, and standing up for that whether it be in your best interest at that moment or not, whether you’re being watched or not. Never backing down from your fundamental beliefs, and refusing to accept everything as “grey.”
Frank lived in Kansas before moving to one of the “blue” states. Yet strangely, his description of Kansas and its people was at odds with reality. Kansans, along with the rest of the Midwest and South, will continue to vote Republican as long as Democrats continue in their belief that we vote Republican because we’re ignorant Bible-thumpers.
The founding fathers wanted small goverment. They’d turn over in their graves if they saw what we have today. The fact of the matter, whether you like it or not, is that the country was founded by Christians, with Christian values as building blocks. It’s evident in the founding documents, even the Constitution (if you ignore the insane interpretations that have followed).
Thomas Frank merely grasped at straws trying to understand a paradox that isn’t.