In his book, ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas’, Thomas Frank has explored the rise of conservatism in the US by way of a true picture of his home state Kansas, which was initially a stronghold of the left-wing movements in the nineteenth century and later became more conservative in nature in the current times. Frank delves into the term ‘The Great Backlash’ which is the title of his book, by describing the cultural transformation during the 1960s and 1970s, which was the result of political influence in recent times in shifting leftist attitudes towards tolerance of abortion and gay marriages. In his work, his vent has been directed against the liberal elite of society by measuring the rise of conservatism and rightist beliefs within the socio-political setup of Kansas. He feels dismayed at the unconditional support of Kansas residents for the Republicans due to their adverse economic policies that have caused immense economic loss to Kansas and led to hardships for the livelihood of the communities by favoring the wealthy class who have multiplied their wealth. He is critical of the party in its having failed on moral issues such as gay rights and abortion, which in turn has encouraged liberalism. Frank has described the divide between the moderate and conservative Republicans by labeling them as ‘Mods’ and ‘Cons’ and further predicted such stereotypes in future politics in the country. In this context, he has detailed the kind of fiscal conservatism that endangers the country as becoming a universal practice along with political wars being waged over cultural issues.
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Frank has also detailed how Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who is a liberal Democrat and a native of Ohio won in Kansas which is a Conservative stronghold. Sebelius emphasized issues such as school financing, healthcare, and avoided delicate hot social issues indenting the adverse opinion about him and his party, and was able to get an absolute majority. Frank wishes to convey that American politics is dominated by conservative coalitions which are further divided into social and economic conservatives. He believes that although these two offshoots of conservatives may not be in disagreement with each other, they have totally contrasting agendas. The economic conservatives are in favor of a cut in business taxes and want deregulated practices to be allowed. The social conservatives require that there be a ban on abortion and gay marriages. Frank further goes on to say that this collaboration has been very successful for the economic conservatives, for, the Republican policies have been primarily directed at economic reforms, but such policies have led the social conservatives to be disgruntled due to social changes not being implemented. Frank has argued that the capitalist policies followed by the economic conservatives have always aimed at deregulating the economic systems to appease commercial interests thus rendering a virtual assault on traditional values.
It is in this context and for this reason, as Frank says, that social conservatives continue to vote for the Republican Party even though social issues never get resolved and economic policies do not achieve desired objectives. The coalition is alive because the social conservatives believe in the liberal elite which actually is non-existent. Frank is of the opinion that this so-called elite is not in favor of respecting the culture of the society, does not respect family values, and is responsible for all that is going wrong in the world.
Thomas Frank, What’s the matter with Kansas, 2004, Holt Paperbacks.