Sunday, February 16, 2014

Quote for Day: Thomas Frank on What's Still the Matter with Kansas

Thomas Frank is incisive about the self-deluding, fatuous centrism (his word, and he's right) of the Democrats, who imagine that the sheer force of demographic change will somehow wrench the out-of-control American political process from the hands of the rabid right, whom the Democrats have cravenly appeased over and over again from Clinton forward. As he says, he knows what he's talking about when he talks about Kansas and its hard turn to the hard GOP right, because he grew up Republican in Kansas. And:

What I found was that the descendents of the Populists were in rebellion; they were furious at "elites" and their social betters; it's just that the politics of the situation had been inverted. ("Like a French Revolution in reverse — one in which the sans-culottes pour down the streets demanding more power for the aristocracy," I wrote.) This was the dark secret of the whole nasty business: The right had developed an entire ersatz proletarian movement, a full-blown astrology of class discontent in which the hard-working average citizen was invited to feel himself imposed upon by upper-class liberals. Class animus was — is — central to who they are and how they think about the world. And it has caught on. In a place like Wichita, Kansas, you encounter it on every street corner. Hating "elites," hating Hollywood, hating government, hating scientists — these are all part of everyday life. Yes, the reasoning behind this philosophy may be faulty; its origins may be suspicious; but it is powerful stuff, and in lots of heartland locales these days, it is just about the only form of social grievance being offered.

I wonder why the centrist crowd who imagine that they set the standards for the whole country from their beltway bubble and all the academic bubbles that take that bubble seriously don't listen carefully to Frank. He knows whereof he speaks.

As he points out, the technocratic expertise and appeals to rationality of liberal elites don't make a dent in the problem that has become Kansas (Kansas and much of the rest of the nation). They can't make a dent in this problem, when it's about an inversion of economic populism carefully created and manipulated by the very 1% to whom centrist Democrats continue to cozy up as they oil the machines of the banking industry and Wall Street. 

And, once they're elected to the White House, as they surround themselves with advisors who are in the pocket of the banking industry and Wall Street, turning their backs on the majority who elected them because that majority sincerely thought they'd--finally!--have an alternative to the soulless technocracy and appeasement of the rabid right wing represented by the ludicrous notion of "leading from behind" . . . .

The photo of Thomas Frank at the 2012 Texas Book Festival in Austin is by Larry D. Moore, who has made it available for sharing (with attribution) at Wikipedia.

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