What’s the Matter with Kansas?
Metropolitan Books. 320 pages, $24.
FOR THE MILLIONS of Americans, including most gays and lesbians, who awoke on November 3, 2004, aghast to find maps of the United States awash in Bush Red, Thomas Frank offers a witty yet incisive study of how conservatives swept the American heartland. What’s the Matter with Kansas? takes its name from a Republican essayists’ critique of the radical populism prevalent in the Great Plains states in the 1890’s. At the time, hordes of struggling farmers, led by Nebraska Democrat William Jennings Bryan, were rising against the strict monetarist policies of the capitalist elite of the Northeast, famously decried by Bryan in 1896 as a “Cross of Gold.”