This book ponders two questions: How did Kansas (and the Midwest) go from being a leftist, progressive bastion to a land that votes overwhelmingly for conservative Republicans? And how did the Democrats let it happen?
It comes down to messaging, says Frank. The Democrats have moved to the right on many "black and white" issues, such as the economy, education, and defense. He compellingly argues that the only issues left to distinguish the parties are "grey-area" moral issues, such as abortion and gay rights. On that end, conservatives have positioned themselves as protectors of these supposedly insidious threats against morality, which explains why voters run to the GOP over "illusionary slights to the Ten Commandments," yet don't seem as troubled by the threat of falling wages or corporate crime.
This fascinating read explains why conservatives have been so successful, the lessons Democrats must learn, and the tough road liberals face in bringing the discussion back to their terms.
Title What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
Author Thomas Frank
Publisher Metropolitan Books (May 2005), 306 pages
Reviewed by Andrew Gordon