Hopefully, a re-reading of Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas” is on David Axelrod’s agenda as he lies on some well-deserved chaise lounge over the weekend. Sadly, too much of working class, white America remains just racist enough to be inaccessible to Obama. But the remainder are getting creamed by an economic incentive system which eviscerates the lower middle class. $4 gas is not the problem; it’s a symptom of what they’ve sacrificed for so long in favor of voting for candidates who “share their values.” As empty as that phrase has always been, it’ll work one more time if we let it.
From The New Yorker:
Kansas, once home to farmers who marched against “money power,” is now solidly Republican. In Frank’s scathing and high-spirited polemic, this fact is not just “the mystery of Kansas” but “the mystery of America.” Dismissing much of the received punditry about the red-blue divide, Frank argues that the problem is the “systematic erasure of the economic” from discussions of class and its replacement with a notion of “authenticity,” whereby “there is no bad economic turn a conservative cannot do unto his buddy in the working class, as long as cultural solidarity has been cemented over a beer.” The leaders of this backlash, by focussing on cultural issues in which victory is probably impossible (abortion, “filth” on TV), feed their base’s sense of grievance, abetted, Frank believes, by a “criminally stupid” Democratic strategy of triangulation. Liberals do not need to know more about nascar; they need to talk more about money and class.