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October 18, 2004 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Lie Down for America, by Thomas Frank. "'How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?' she asked. How could so many people get it so wrong?"
posted by semmi (67 comments total)

 
From the third debate (names excluded):

There is a tax gap. And guess who usually ends up filling the tax gap? The middle class.

I support it for the middle class, not that part of it that goes to people earning more than $200,000 a year.

He talks about middle-class tax cuts. That's exactly where the tax cuts went.

The American middle class family isn't making it right now, Bob.

Under President Bush, the middle class has seen their tax burden go up and the wealthiest's tax burden has gone down.

And we worked together with Democrats to relieve the tax burden on the middle class and all who pay taxes in order to make sure this economy continues to grow.


To paraphrase, I don't know anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote for either of the two major parties. The poorest in this country, if they were voting for their self interest, would NOT be voting Democrat, they would be voting Socialist.
posted by iamck at 8:29 AM on October 18, 2004


I forgot to mention, the article appeared in Harper's Magazine, and I hope iamck's attempt won't derail you from reading the article itself.
posted by semmi at 8:37 AM on October 18, 2004


Under President Bush, the middle class has seen their tax burden go up and the wealthiest's tax burden has gone down.


I don't quite understand this argument. Of course if you cut taxes a certain percentage for everyone, of course the rich will get a bigger tax cut since they pay more taxes, and hence their burden goes down. But what does this really mean? The middle class still ends up with less taxes. So what's the problem? Should the "rich" never get a tax cut?
posted by gyc at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2004


semmi - wasn't an attempted derail, and i did read the article (in harper's, hence the quick response), and i apologize if it came off as such, but i can't help but view it as an unsupported claim (poor people SHOULD vote democrat, etc.).
posted by iamck at 8:42 AM on October 18, 2004


The middle class still ends up with less taxes.

Yes and no. I save maybe $60 on April 15, but I now pay more at the gas pump, more at the grocery store, more on my electric bill because of the irresponsible policies of this administration. I'd rather hand that $60 to the government and buy my milk for less than $3 a gallon like I did when Clinton was in office, thankyouverymuch.
posted by junkbox at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2004


gyc,

Most middle-class and poor people pay the majority of their taxes in payroll taxes, which did go up under President Bush, while most rich people pay the majority of ther taxes as income taxes of varying kinds, including the capital gains tax,and the estate tax, both of which were abolished under Presdient Bush. (The combination of abolishing those two is especially troubling, since most inheirited wealth is initially earned on the stock market in some way or another, meaning that a great deal of income for the vry rich is now never taxed.)
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2004


Great stuff semmi. I too read this in Harper's and quite enjoyed it.

What junkbox and eustacescrubb said.

Also the very small middle class "tax cut" from Bush was immediately replaced with higher state, local, property taxes, tuitions and "user fees." And the most pernicious "tax" of all just went through the roof. Its an "invisible" tax that MUST be paid and with absolutely no benefit in return. We call it interest on deficit spending and it is a large part of our federal budget, like it or not. A tax on our children. Thanks Bush!

Welocme to the new aristocracy!!
posted by nofundy at 9:02 AM on October 18, 2004



err.... Welcome

Lie Down for America

or at least bend over and grab your ankles. (beat quonsar to that one!)
posted by nofundy at 9:04 AM on October 18, 2004


The middle class still ends up with less taxes.

To add to what junkbox said, the problem is that the reduction in govt. income did not result in a reduction of govt. spending. Those extra dollars, that debt, will create inflation which is a highly regressive tax.

There is a school of thought that says that there should be no national taxes at all, but that the govt should just print the money it needs to spend as it needs it. The result would be that the inflation rate would approximate the govt spending as a ratio to GDP. This is a highly regressive tax system. The 'tax cuts' we have seen are a move towards this on the spectrum from 'no taxes' to 'balanced budget'. This is another reason why the 'tax cuts' on the middle class are not really easing the financial difficulties of the middle class.
posted by H. Roark at 9:19 AM on October 18, 2004


unemployed - the ultimate middle class tax cut

So was that the middle class tax cuts Dubya was talking about?!?! There are lots of those.
posted by nofundy at 9:29 AM on October 18, 2004


Frank has an amazing book further exploring this same thesis called What's the Matter with Kansas?, one of the best I've ever read.

iamck: I think Frank is a socialist, or at least a pretty hardline liberal, but the Dems are a good start, yknow? One of his points is that the Democrats should move further to the left economically because by moving so far to the middle they leaves poor voters barely any criteria to decide upon other than "values".
posted by abcde at 9:29 AM on October 18, 2004


My parents live in Overland Park, and while the author nails the dominant god-fearing, gipper-beatifying, poster-child-for-sprawl-control culture, when we were there last month I was stunned by the propensity of Kerry signs and stickers. Not like there's a chance in hell that Kerry will take Kansas, but at least it shows that there are thinking people alive and well in the republican heart of suburban wealth.
posted by ulotrichous at 9:32 AM on October 18, 2004


semmi - apologies again, as I believe I may have derailed the thread.
posted by iamck at 9:37 AM on October 18, 2004


What it boils down to for me is a simple question of my personal standard of living. And the answer to that is it's been going down steadily since 2000. My federal taxes may be less, and I've been lucky to have received a pay raise each year but the amount of money it takes to live keeps going up. The net for me is less each year. Granted, it's not thousands less, but the trend is clear and downward.
posted by tommasz at 9:37 AM on October 18, 2004


Lie Down For America is an except from What's The Matter With Kansas, and in the conclusion, Frank points out that the Democrats share the blame for the country's shift to ultra-conservatism, because starting with Clinton's New Democrats, the Dems abandoned the unions and really don't differ much from Republicans on economic issues any more.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:37 AM on October 18, 2004


Which is worse:

Being a "tax-and-spend liberal"

OR

Being a "don't-tax-and-spend-anyway" neo-con?

I guess if you don't ever mention the spending part, the latter seems to be the way to go...

On Preview:
Ulotrichous - Mine too! And despite their being lifelong republicans, they aren't voting for Bush. Wish there were more of them, but every little bit helps.
posted by Windopaene at 9:37 AM on October 18, 2004


From the article: "The trick never ages, the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital-gains taxes."

This "Culture of Life" thing that Bush is talking about -- it's going to be privatized, right? Those poor people will thank us for the capital-gains tax cut when it comes time to sell their babies.
posted by eatitlive at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2004


Those extra dollars, that debt, will create inflation which is a highly regressive tax.

That's debatable. While it inflation can result in higher costs of consumer goods, don't forget that it benefits debtors at the expense of creditors. If the lower middle class is truly drowning in debt, a dose of inflation will serve them well.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:44 AM on October 18, 2004


I skimmed that read but couldn't extract any actual thesis - can anyone summarize it in a few short sentences ?

This is not just the mystery of Kansas; this is the mystery of America, the historical shift that has made it all possible.

".....In Kansas the shift is more staggering than elsewhere, simply because it has been so decisive, so extreme."

Frank writes as if this shift just kind of happened, quite inexplicably. Or did I miss his attempted explanations ?

Somehow, I think small fortunes raised by televangelists who exploited that new medium and channeled also from right wing financiers - the Mellon-Scaifes, The Hunts, The Coors's - played a significant role in Kansas....
posted by troutfishing at 9:46 AM on October 18, 2004


Buchanan identifies the real secret of the Republican Party's current success:

"Cut taxes and don't let the Democrats outspend us."

No matter that Bush's policies have created millions of jobs in China instead of the U.S., or that he turned a $236-billion US surplus into a $521-billion deficit. His tax cuts and spending win elections.

As the real president, v-p Dick Cheney, observed to a horrified U.S. Treasurer Paul O'Neill, "deficits don't matter." This kind of liberal-left Democrat economic voodoo used to be anathema to Republicans.

Today, there's no real conservative party left in Washington, says Buchanan. Only in tax-cutting do Republicans still hew to their principles. Otherwise, they are just like the wildest-spending liberal Democrats.


And more from the same article:

"Republicans don't care. Amazingly, a recent CNN/USA Today poll showed 62% of Republicans still believe Iraq was behind 9/11. This is after a flood of contrary evidence and Duelfer's report.

How can Republicans remain so blinkered? Part of the fault lies with the sycophantic national media, which collaborated with the Bush administration in whipping up war fever. The media still are not telling people the truth about Iraq, Afghanistan, or the so-called war on terrorism.

The media utterly failed to remind Americans that Bush, who loves to play war leader, actually claimed Iraqi drone aircraft were poised to fly off ships in the North Atlantic and bombard America with germs. Bush should have been laughed out of office for believing and promoting this comic-book nonsense."

posted by acrobat at 9:46 AM on October 18, 2004


Far too many words in this article. Clearly, the target audience was the liberal working class who have the time and desire to read such nonsense.
posted by jmccorm at 9:48 AM on October 18, 2004


Keep in mind that a tax cut while running a deficit is not really a tax cut at all. It is simply a tax shift from the present to the future. And because the Bush policies shift the tax burden from the weathy to the middle class in the future, the result is a tax increase for the middle class.
posted by JackFlash at 9:51 AM on October 18, 2004


fuck all this noise! isn't fear factor on tonight?
posted by quonsar at 10:06 AM on October 18, 2004


I was stunned by the propensity of Kerry signs and stickers ... at least it shows that there are thinking people alive and well in the republican heart of suburban wealth.

"People who disagree with me don't think." Way to win friends and influence people there, Dale Carnegie.
posted by kindall at 10:13 AM on October 18, 2004


This puzzled me when I first read about it, as it puzzles many of the people I know. For us it is the Democrats that are the party of workers, of the poor, of the weak and the victimized. Figuring this out, we think, is basic; it is part of the ABCs of adulthood. When I told a friend of mine about that impoverished High Plains county so enamored of President Bush, she was perplexed. "How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?" she asked. How could so many people get it so wrong?

The left's mindset that anyone who disagrees with them must be stupid or misguided is so amusing to watch.

"Lovey, how can those poor sods in the mid-west possibly vote for Bush?"

"I know Thurston, it makes me sick. If only we could talk to them."

"But it's so dusty there, I'll just write a book about it that only are friends will read instead."
posted by Mick at 10:17 AM on October 18, 2004


Haha, I just went to the book publisher's website.

"Tonight at the Privileged Self-Important Urbanites Reaching Out benefit do be a dear and ask Noam who his publisher is."
posted by Mick at 10:24 AM on October 18, 2004


Far too many words in this article ...

you don't have to read it all at once, you know. if you can take it with you, you can read it on the bus or while eating your lunch.

also, a dictionary can help with words you don't know.

i read this back in April and didn't like it as much as his writing about marketing and consumer culture.

the Village Voice had a better (and shorter) essay last December that suggests "the most meaningful political alliance in this country is between the rich and the chronically stupid."
posted by mrgrimm at 10:27 AM on October 18, 2004


Far too many words in this article.

Evidently it wasn't targeted to the ADHD-addled people who don't have... hey look, a dog with a puffy tail!!!
posted by clevershark at 10:57 AM on October 18, 2004


The left's mindset that anyone who disagrees with them must be stupid or misguided...

That's terrible! Why on earth would they think that?

Oh, yeah:

a recent CNN/USA Today poll showed 62% of Republicans still believe Iraq was behind 9/11.

The prosecution rests, your honor.
posted by deanc at 10:58 AM on October 18, 2004


While it inflation can result in higher costs of consumer goods, don't forget that it benefits debtors at the expense of creditors. If the lower middle class is truly drowning in debt, a dose of inflation will serve them well.

Only if on the whole wages rise with inflated prices. Which they haven't and won't.
posted by sic at 11:07 AM on October 18, 2004


The left's mindset that anyone who disagrees with them must be stupid or misguided is so amusing to watch.

not as amusing as "are" wingnuts' spelling.
anyway, those of us who have actually bothered to read Frank's (excellent) book, understand all too well how all this talk of "elites" by the GOP was a (horribly cynical) masterstroke -- getting bluecollars to vote against their economic interests (ie, to subsidize untaxed mega-corporations) only to spite those invisible abortion-loving, baby-eating, gun-hating terrahist "elites"
posted by matteo at 11:21 AM on October 18, 2004


The Democrats chose to abandon social conservatives, and, not surprisingly, some social conservatives chose to change parties rather than to change fundamental beliefs.

The Thomas Franks' strategy is to say, "What stupid beliefs. Don't they know what's good for them?"

Even were that a true statement, it's not very good marketing.

On preview -- sic, in past inflationary periods, wages have risen. In part this was due to a variety of civil servant and labor COLA schemes which are less prevalant now, so the wage market reaction to inflation might be muted.
posted by MattD at 11:25 AM on October 18, 2004


"If the lower middle class is truly drowning in debt, a dose of inflation will serve them well"

I know where you're coming from, but damn, I wish someone in the administration had said that. The election would be over, even though it's a valid point.
posted by 2sheets at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2004


MattD, that and the long term loss of employment.
posted by sic at 11:37 AM on October 18, 2004


The Thomas Franks' strategy is to say, "What stupid beliefs. Don't they know what's good for them?"

I think what Franks has pointed out is that conservatives managed to convince certain segments of the population that voting their social conservative consciences would serve their economic interests and in the end satisfied neither. Maybe you should have read the article before commenting. The essence of the argument is in the bumper sticker "A Working Person That Supports Democrats is Like A Chicken The Supports Col. Sanders!" It's emphatically not an argument over "social conservative values."

The Republicans promise economic salvation while "sticking it" to the "liberal elites" why advocating for socially conservative values. Meanwhile, those voters get nothing in return (as we see in the Bush administration, the abortion rate is up while the size of the workforce is down).

As Howard Dean said about the south-- they've been voting republican for more than 30 years. What has it gotten them?
posted by deanc at 11:40 AM on October 18, 2004


Hey Matteo, shouldn't you be worrying about wheter the trains are running on time?
posted by Mick at 12:05 PM on October 18, 2004


That's it, I'm starting a new party. THE GODFEARIN' COMMUNISTS.

We're going to be about Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ first, and smashing the capitalist system second.
posted by Eamon at 12:35 PM on October 18, 2004


I've read several excerpts of the Trouble with Kansas, although not the entire book.

Maybe I should have been more clear, but my summation of Frank's "strategy" is as much a critique of his argument as a gloss of it.

I think that he does candidly, and even sympathetically, acknowledge that social issues were the opening that Republicans used to start building the Party in the 1960s and 1970s.

The problem comes that Frank just can't imagine how anyone could define their self-interest, and, hence, in most cases, align their votes, on any axis other than economic. So he then proceds from the social-issue opening to assume that the Republicans proceeded to sell their economic policies with great persuasive effect to those people.

That's the mistake. Frank butresses his argument with outlying anecdotes and incidents, like the "Democrat = Col. Sanders supporter" bumper sticker while (basically) ignoring what he reports again and again what he's been told -- for very many of these voters, it really is about guns, secularization, abortion, the traditional family.

What astonishes me is the reluctance of left-wing political analysts to grapple with this dynamic in any kind of sincere way, despite their training in multi-culturalism.

I know I've commented about this before, but I was never so enheartened (as a Republican) for George Bush's chances as when Howard Dean was forced by waves of political correctness into abject apology for his stump-speech line about winning the votes of the guys with confederate flags on their pickups. He really did get what it would take to retake large majorities, even if he was an imperfect vessel, but the rest of the Democratic Party just wasn't ready for that.
posted by MattD at 12:44 PM on October 18, 2004


Eamon -- have you heard about the Catholic Worker Movement? They might fit your criteria. That pro-life position might be a bit hard for you to swallow, though.
posted by MattD at 12:51 PM on October 18, 2004


Thanks for the tip, MattD. The thing is, I don't have to swallow anything. I'm just manipulating people to serve my own ends, like any good politician.
posted by Eamon at 1:01 PM on October 18, 2004


The blue states subsidize the red states:
...of the 32 states (and the District of Columbia) that are "winners" -- receiving more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes -- 76% are Red States that voted for George Bush in 2000. Indeed, 17 of the 20 (85%) states receiving the most federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are Red States...In contrast, of the 16 states that are "losers" -- receiving less in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes -- 69% are Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000. Indeed, 11 of the 14 (79%) of the states receiving the least federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are Blue States.
Based on a report by the Tax Foundation.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:02 PM on October 18, 2004


The problem comes that Frank just can't imagine how anyone could define their self-interest, and, hence, in most cases, align their votes, on any axis other than economic. So he then proceds from the social-issue opening to assume that the Republicans proceeded to sell their economic policies with great persuasive effect to those people.

You're missing two important parts of his argument:

1. It's not merely that the Republicans campaigning on moral issues, but also that they never deliver. Frank believes the GOP deliberately picks issues they can't do much about. This doesn't make sense by itself, but it works very nicely with the other point you missed:

2. Since Americans tend to leave economics out of our analyses of what divides people, favoring instead, stereotypes about "character" (e.g., that David Brooks hogwash about Red and Blue states), this willful ignorance means we can't ever analyse a problem completely. Frank is not trying to argue that economcs provides the only explanation, but rather that right now, we don't talk about it at all, and we need to.
We need to because it is this economic dimension that reveals that Republicans, for from doing anything to deal with the various moral issues that average Americans worry about, do a lot to exacerbate the problems. He argues that the lassez-faire economics policies of the neo-cons are largely responsible for most of the very problems Republican rail against. Why do Republicans rail against liberal Hollywood but never do anything about it? Well, because it's their own media deregulation that takes the media out of the hands of individual, average Americans and puts it in the hands of a powerful few, who just want to make money, and hedonism sells movie tickets.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:05 PM on October 18, 2004


...for very many of these voters, it really is about guns, secularization, abortion, the traditional family.

What astonishes me is the reluctance of left-wing political analysts to grapple with this dynamic in any kind of sincere way, despite their training in multi-culturalism.


Isn't that just what Frank is grappling with, or is he not sincere enough for you?
posted by eatitlive at 1:11 PM on October 18, 2004


"While it inflation can result in higher costs of consumer goods, don't forget that it benefits debtors at the expense of creditors. If the lower middle class is truly drowning in debt, a dose of inflation will serve them well."

Only if on the whole wages rise with inflated prices. Which they haven't and won't.


I'd like to add to that meme with a reminder that once interest rates start blasting back upwards as a result of inflation, anyone who refi'd with an Adjustable Rate Mortgage is going to lose their shirt - or at least their house. If you're in now at 5.5% and the Prime Rate is at, say, 7% when your ARM reaches the first adjustment, your house payment might in fact triple or even quadruple.

Poof, instant foreclosures, panic sales, real estate market crater. Very, very bad.

And need I mention people carrying 30% to 50% of their annual income on variable-rate credit cards? Those are tied to the Prime Rate too, as I recall... if you're paying 12%, 14%, 18% now, wait until your interest rate is 24%. That will be so much fun.

America is more mortgaged and indebted than it's ever been. People are in hock well beyond even the CURRENT value of their asset properties; imagine what can happen if those properties are devalued by inflation.

No, inflation is not going to help anyone at all, not this time.

As for standard of living, mine has improved over the last 5 years - but only because 5 years ago I was heavily in debt, and lucked into a well-paying job that allowed me to dig myself out through sending 60% of my take home pay to the creditors every month, avoiding bankruptcy. So I'm a complete anomaly in that sense. Almost everyone else I know is seeing things get worse, especially people with families.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:33 PM on October 18, 2004


"'How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?' she asked. How could so many people get it so wrong?"

See, anyone that is entirely unwilling to lend any credence to the "other side" whatsoever is just... below contempt. If you sincerely can't handle or comprehend the fact that, given the same set of data, different people will come to different conclusions, you need to not be writing columns.
posted by kavasa at 1:46 PM on October 18, 2004


Eatitlive, sincere grappling requires one to set aside preconceptions -- to be willing to be persuaded.

Frank ought not to have been persuadable on the subject of abortion, but he ought to have been persuadable that social conservatives might deem action, even incremental action, on abortion more important than tax policy.

Most importantly, he only needed to look to 1998/1999 to see that in full effect, on the left, when the entire feminist movement fell in line behind Bill Clinton despite his attrocious behavior, with a party line that he might be cad, but at least he was a pro-choice cad.

I found conspiracy-style assertions of GOP sandbagging on social issues to be unpersuasive. The Supreme Court is essentially the only venue for social issues. David Souter was a cluster-f*ck, a matter of too much trust (Bush's in Sununu, and Sununu's in Souther) and not deliberately blowing the game -- they certainly wouldn't have rolled on to Clarence Thomas the next year had their intentions been to get someone like Souter ended up.

Kennedy and O'Connor are tougher to judge -- perhaps an overreliance on Goldwater style Far West conservativism than on the more firmly-resovled Chicago-style conversatism of Scalia.
posted by MattD at 1:47 PM on October 18, 2004


for very many of these voters, it really is about guns, secularization, abortion, the traditional family.

On that mark, I would say you're actually dead wrong. In your own patronizing way, you mythologize the poor midwesterners as "noble savages" accepting their poverty in order to defend "traditional values." In fact, they're just sold as false a bill of goods-- lured with big promises of prosperity from Republicans and told that Democrats are all about welfare and keeping everyone down-- it's just that this is expressed in the language of 'values.' Their concerns are economic, and they vote with economic concerns in mind, however, their Republican votes are votes bought from them with the hope of such a future-- the idea that if we have more guns, have organized prayer in schools, ban abortion, and get rid of the gays, our kids will stop moving out of the small towns, and jobs will return. Of course, neither happens. Their votes only go to support tax cuts on dividends for "coastal elites."

The above analysis may only be relevant to the Reality Based Community, so your mileage may vary.
posted by deanc at 1:54 PM on October 18, 2004


when your ARM reaches the first adjustment, your house payment might in fact triple or even quadruple.

Most ARMs are capped. And I won't be spending my sympathy on those who bought uncapped ARMs, hoping to save half a percent.

Poof, instant foreclosures, panic sales, real estate market crater. Very, very bad.

No. Excesses must be blown off. The longer they continue, the fiercer the inevitable correction must become. Furthermore, rents will also crater in the situation you describe. This is also a boon to the working poor.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:06 PM on October 18, 2004


I didn't read the complete article, but I would like to say that I think MattD is honestly on to something. I'm a socially liberal a Democrat as you can find, I think, but one of my great problems with the party (who I nonetheless emphatically support in this election and others) is that they do a really piss-poor job of explaining to non-Kool Aid-drinking social conservatives that liberal social policies really don't interfere with their living what they see as a "traditional" life. We talk a whole lot about winning the war of progressive, democracy-oriented, freedom-oriented ideas in Middle Eastern countries, and we haven't even bothered to fight it here. It's just blatantly obvious to me, and most liberals, that the fact that gay people could marry doesn't make a lick of difference in the lives of a married Pentacostal couple in Nebraska -- it's TOO blatantly obvious, and nobody's spent any time on the message, words, or ideas that would convince that couple otherwise. Our electoral system, more than ever before, really is pandering to the "get out the base" mentality, and that plays right into the hands of the Republicans, who know how to mobilize votes on the anger generated by wedge issues.

I agree with the thesis that the Republican party has hijacked social-conservatism to further their economic agenda without really serving the social one; but I think MattD is on to something by saying that the Democrats shouldn't act so flabbergasted that people vote so emphatically on these social issues when they've yet to provide the reasons that they shouldn't.
posted by logovisual at 2:32 PM on October 18, 2004


Mick, Would you propose that liberals are not misguided? Of course everyone thinks the other side is wrong. Do you have a point?

In that same book Frank points out that conservatives wail whenever urban liberals even implicitly belittle the midwest, and yet dump bales of slanderous crap on them in irate editorials every day.
posted by abcde at 3:05 PM on October 18, 2004


Incidentally, also, he's from Kansas. On the Amazon reviews you'll see conservatives who haven't read it complaining about him being a clueless east-coast elitist.

I have liberal friends in the midwest (Kansas, even) who share more or less the same opinion of the political climate. You act as if no one can have these views if they've ever actually lived there.
posted by abcde at 3:09 PM on October 18, 2004


but he ought to have been persuadable that social conservatives might deem action, even incremental action, on abortion more important than tax policy.

This is why you should A: read the whole book and B: read the article linked more closely.

Frank's entire thesis revolves around the fact that social conservatives consider action on abortion more important than tax policy. He knows that. What he doens't understand is why, if that's so, do social conservative vote Republican, since the GOP has a proven track record of doing nothing about these issues while at the same time enacting economic polices that make those very issues worse.

I didn't read the complete article, but I would like to say that I think MattD is honestly on to something.

Really not trying to be snarky here, but it doesn't surprise me that someone else who didn't read thoroughly/completely agrees with MattD...
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:12 PM on October 18, 2004


Most importantly, he only needed to look to 1998/1999 to see that in full effect, on the left, when the entire feminist movement fell in line behind Bill Clinton despite his attrocious behavior, with a party line that he might be cad, but at least he was a pro-choice cad.

MattD, that just duplicates Frank's argument. The Left is not a cohesive bloc with one line of thinking. It's more a collection of often-contradictory viewpoints -- civil rights, environmentalist, feminist, gay rights, unionism, etc. And what's more, each of these viewpoints has their own extremists. Democrats do crazy things in trying to appeal to this plurality. What the Republicans have done is brand every form of left extremism as "Liberal." They apply this the term to so many different political viewpoints, they can't even say exactly what a Liberal is.

Frank is just pointing out that the Right is not as cohesive as it would present itself, and social issues are not their primary concern. For all the allegiance they've won, they've accomplished very little -- even incrementally. Four years of Republican-controlled congress and my taxes are still going to pay for the NEA? Baby killing is still legal. Small businesses are still hamstringed by OSHA. And so on.

Republicans have promised an end to the ills brought about by Liberalism, and have failed to deliver. With social conservatives like Buchanan calling them out on their moral bankruptcy, you wonder how long they can manage the deception.
posted by eatitlive at 3:16 PM on October 18, 2004


"I was stunned by the propensity of Kerry signs and stickers ... at least it shows that there are thinking people alive and well in the republican heart of suburban wealth." -" "People who disagree with me don't think." Way to win friends and influence people there, Dale Carnegie." (kindall) - heh, heh. Kindall - no, some people do not get basic PR concepts, do they. *rolls eyes, spits at ground in vague disgust*

It must be something to do with the Amygdala.

eatitlive - ("Frank is just pointing out that the Right is not as cohesive as it would present itself, and social issues are not their primary concern. For all the allegiance they've won, they've accomplished very little -- even incrementally.") - You're kidding, right ?
posted by troutfishing at 3:32 PM on October 18, 2004


god, this is a civil discussion. And in an election year too. Maybe there's hope.
posted by Miles Long at 3:33 PM on October 18, 2004


eustace -- at no point do I challenge the thesis, which I agree with, that it's a mistake for social conservatives to vote Republican since the party makes no progress on their issues while exploiting their vote. You claim that's the heart of the piece, so what am I missing in my comment? It's disheartening to see you responding only to the portion of my comment that you think can be used to label me as clueless, and not to anything else...
posted by logovisual at 3:38 PM on October 18, 2004


I'm reading the article in full now, since I'm unqualified to speak about my political party otherwise, apparently. This paragraph jumped out at me:

If this is the place where America goes looking for its national soul, then this is where America finds that its soul, after stewing in the primal resentment of the backlash, has gone all sour and wrong. If Kansas is the concentrated essence of normality, then here is where we can see the deranged gradually become normal, where we look into that handsome, confident, reassuring, all-American face - class president, quarterback, Rhodes scholar, bond trader, builder of industry - and realize that we are staring into the eyes of a lunatic.

As I've said before, I'm extremely liberal and I can feel the satisfaction of agreeing with this paragraph. But come on, calling the citizens of Kansas "lunatics" for subscribing to the current American ideal that's in vogue there is not exactly rhetorically high-minded, and it underlines the point I was trying to make above -- that we, as progressives, liberals, or whatever you want to call it, are REALLY not doing a very good job of reaching out to these people and honestly trying to find out why they're supporting the Republican party. Eustace, I don't think you're misrepresenting the piece when you say...

What he doens't understand is why, if that's so, do social conservative vote Republican, since the GOP has a proven track record of doing nothing about these issues while at the same time enacting economic polices that make those very issues worse

...because it's clear that Thomas Frank really DOESN'T understand why they vote Republican. And he doesn't seem to be bothering to find out -- he's just cataloguing the disparity, the "mystery of America," and sighing about it. As such, I continue to think MattD is right when he points out that it shouldn't mystify people that a Democratic party which abandons social conservatism should find social conservatives joining the other party -- they were the ones that had the door open, and you've got to belong to a club in this country. I'm not saying that it's the Democrats who should move even closer to the center; I'm advocating that they should work on pulling the red states closer to it. It's possible, and even historically plausible, as Frank has pointed out; but the stunned, disbelieving tone of his rhetoric is not helping anybody.
posted by logovisual at 3:58 PM on October 18, 2004


Troutfishing, correct me if I'm wrong but abortion is still legal, godfearing judges are now prohibited from posting the Ten Commandments in their courthouses, sodomy is now legal, gays can even get married, affirmative action still admits "inferior" students to universities, illegal immigration is at record numbers, free competition hasn't lead to a better healthcare system, art is still funded by the government, public broadcasting still receives federal funding to promote their agenda, kids still listen to rap music, the IRS still conducts audits, drug use has gone up, global terrorism has increased, and I could go on but more importantly -- I am still not rich. Republicans were supposed to fix all that.
posted by eatitlive at 4:36 PM on October 18, 2004


logovisual-

I feel like my point is getting lost. Let me try and say it differently.

Frank seems be curious why:

person A says "I vote for party A because they believe in lemonade."
That part is understandable.
What Frank spends the book examining is why person A continues to vote for party A when, after 30 years, party A has not only never made lemonade, but has also passed laws that encourage people to cut down lemon trees.

It's the Right's weird inability to compare the Republican party's rhetoric with its record that's the point. Frank believes (this comes out in a bit of the book much later than the bit from whch the essay is excerpted) that it's partly because the GOP have spent considerable time creating a self-reinforcing myth - like "the media has a liberal bias" or "Hollywood is filled with anti-Christian liberals who hate family values." Then when the GOP doesn't do anything about, say, continually increasing movie violence, and when, in fact, it's a conservative economics philosophy that encourages big media to make overly violent movies (because the "free" market demands it!) they can then turn around and bemoan about how victimized we are by those nasty liberals in Hollywood. The GOP's lack of efficacy proves thier bogeyman exists, and the bogeyman keeps people voting Republican.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:41 PM on October 18, 2004


But, logovisual, do republicans have any credibility left on these wedge issues when they have had four years to do anything about them, but didn't want to risk accomplishing anything for fear they might not have that plank to campaign on this time?

Like I have said before, if I was a socially conservative I would feel extraordinarily used by these republicans.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:48 PM on October 18, 2004


this article only gets about half of the problem ... think of it ... what do the people who don't vote want? ... many of them want someone to speak clearly and fight with them to get the economic issues resolved, to make their lives easier ... but no one's doing it ... why? ... because the democratic middle and upper classes have many of the same economic interest in keeping them down as the republicans do ... they want the same kind of factories ... the same kind of wages ... the same kind of restrictive zoning ... the same kind of elitist preferences ... and they work with republicans to get them

i'm talking about LOCAL politics here ... and a good part of small town america's fate is decided on what local politicians do ... and their response generally, is to circle the wagons and leave the poor and working class out of the picture as much as possible

the end result is this ... a republican party that can appeal to the social, religious conservatives ... and a democratic party that's opposed to such conservativism, but is willing to play along on the economic issues ... and a shut out group of people that no one is willing to represent or talk to in terms they can relate to ... and unlike in the big cities ... you can't become a hellraiser or major activist ... because everyone in town will know it and the local powers that be will make sure you're not working because of it ... both parties ... representing the local government and business class ... band together to do their best to shut the rest of us out

that's how it works in small town and small city america ... effectively ignored and talked down to, the significant "populist" constituency ... which still exists ... throws its hands in the air and doesn't vote at all ... or votes for people they know aren't going to really do anything for them

what can the democratic party do? ... start speaking for the working class again
posted by pyramid termite at 5:01 PM on October 18, 2004


eustace -- I don't disagree with anything that you/Frank outline there; the lemonade formation is pretty spot-on, in fact. But Frank's article/excerpt doesn't really address the question of how, to not bother couching it in less horrifying language, people should be shown what's good for them.

Like I have said before, if I was a socially conservative I would feel extraordinarily used by these republicans.

But you aren't, and they don't (or at least the vast majority don't), and that's what I was trying to point out, not the admittedly valid point that the Republicans have co-opted this vast group of the electorate under false pretenses. I just feel like we need to spend a lot less time calling the victims of that co-optation "lunatics" (or at the very least, passing judgement and throwing our hands up in despair) and a lot more time addressing the problem. MattD is a Republican, but he's right about a Democratic problem -- we spend a lot more time denigrating these folks than we do earning their vote and working to put their states back on the historical course they were following before "the backlash." (And no, I am not a self-hating Democrat. Aren't we the people who say the way to love your country is to criticize it?)
posted by logovisual at 5:24 PM on October 18, 2004


Frank's article/excerpt doesn't really address the question of how, to not bother couching it in less horrifying language, people should be shown what's good for them.

True. I don't think that he knows. He does, at the end of the book, discuss where the Democrats went wrong, but that's not the same thing.

He also discusses in the book how he was one of those social conservatives who figured out the GOP's game, which is part of why he "turned left."
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:16 PM on October 18, 2004


The postmodern right: "In this passage to a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor of truth, the age of simulation thus begins with a liquidation of all referentials - worse: by their art)ficial resurrection in systems of signs, which are a more ductile material than meaning, in that they lend themselves to all systems of equivalence, all binary oppositions and all combinatory algebra. It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself; that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have to be produced: this is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection which no longer leaves any chance even in the event of death. A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and the simulated generation of difference."
--Baudrillard
posted by semmi at 9:47 PM on October 18, 2004


I've read Frank since he wrote for The Baffler, read this article when it came out and got my signed copy of the book, and have lived in both the western and eastern halves of the state. And despite all of Frank's careful deconstruction of it, there's still this powerful idea held by conservatives and progressives alike that people out here are somehow more self-reliant, purer, down-to-earth and decent than the average run of humanity. I'd call it horse shit, but I like horses too much.

What Frank elucidates best in his book is that the current Kansas zeitgeist was born out of a sense of both beleaguerment and entitlement fostered brilliantly by our nauseating politicians. Most of them who yell the loudest about our virtues have the least connection to them: they are wealthy, well connected and well educated people from the urban areas who've never done actual farm labor, but have discovered our greatest cash crop -- our supposed moral superiority. Those hours not spent managing their portfolios are devoted to railing against elitism, secularism, and big government while the state gets poorer and more desolate each year. If you've never been, you may envision a land of earnest George Baileys; there are a few, but they largely reside in Pottersfield thanks to a state legislature far more interested in debating the threat of gay marriage and the merits of creation science than funding education or public health. Not to mention our men in Washington, who protect us us from such menaces as stem cell research while helping corporate agribusiness wipe family farms off the face of the earth.

These guys sing "Bringing in the Sheaves" while screwing us and half of us think it's the Tabernacle. The fact that federal subsidies and WPA programs like rural electrification built much of the infrastructure out here is conveniently omitted from their song of our virtues. Another missing bar: corporate welfare rules this state, which also happens to have some of the worse labor protections in the country. (Go visit a beef processing plant if you want to see the salt of the earth in its current habitat: the grinder.) It's one hell of a shill, beautifully played by our politicians, who constantly stir a witch's brew of unsolveable moral issues, religious zealotry, and fake provincialism to keep us distracted from the fact that we get poorer and older every year. Our rural communities look like rest homes. Ambitious young people flee the state in herds. And this is the fault of the eastern cultural elite and Hollywood liberals how? They can't wait to pull on shapeless overalls and square their jaws to portray us for an instant Oscar.

So feel free to give love to Kansas, but give it to our history, our magnificent cranks and reformers: to Brown, to Lease, to Dinsmoore, to Populism and all its lost promise. Don't give it to the rhetoric of a bunch of mealy-mouthed and ultimately deeply cynical politicians who are sending us to hell while pretending to defend us from it.
posted by melissa may at 3:18 AM on October 19, 2004


"reaching out to these people and honestly trying to find out why they're supporting the Republican party"

Have you not been reading MeFi of late? There is absolutely no interest infinding this out. Anyone who supports Republicans or Bush, especially openly, is attacked as a drooling idiot who must have either no IQ or no grasp of reality. Its this sort of insular masturbatory discussiont hat led to the "Deaniacs" reality based wake up call when they thought it was all going their way.

It will be interesting to see what happens on Nov 2. I myself am not a single issue voter, but one of the other issues in this election is that I don't want to see the sheer hatred, anger and visciousness that has been coming fromt he Democratic left win them an election this time around.
posted by soulhuntre at 5:53 AM on October 19, 2004


"....despite all of Frank's careful deconstruction of it, there's still this powerful idea held by conservatives and progressives alike that people out here are somehow more self-reliant, purer, down-to-earth and decent than the average run of humanity. I'd call it horse shit, but I like horses too much." - melissa may : right on.

What's more, did you know that the divorce rate (the murder rate too) tends to be higher inside the Bible Belt than outside of it ?

"In fact, believe it or not, Teddy Kennedy's home state of Massachusetts is No. 1 in marital stability. Donald Trump's New York follows close behind. Conversely, almost all of the states with the highest divorce rates are found
below the tan line. And four of these states - Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee - are located right in the heart of the Bible belt."
posted by troutfishing at 9:12 AM on October 19, 2004


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