Thursday, August 31, 2006

What's the matter with Kansas?

As the anniversary of September 11 and the Fall elections get closer, we all have to fasten our spin goggles to wade through the ideological claptrap that will be spewed forth. Pandering has already started, with Cheney and Rumsfeld making speeches that demonstrate at best, that they have lost touch with reality, and at worst, that they are the incarnations of evil. You be the judge. (Check out this article on Slate.com.)

One of the most convincing books to emerge about the 2004 elections was by Thomas Frank. His book, entitled "What's the Matter With Kansas?" answers the question, why would anyone go against her/his class and economic interests to vote with the party of the wealthy elite, namely the Republicans? The average working class or middle class American does not profit from the Bush tax cuts or corporate protection schemes. Instead, Frank contends, Republicans have waged class warfare, pitting themselves as "regular folks" against the liberal bi-costal "elites" who don't share their values. By choosing cultural "wedge" issues, scores of citizens have become single-issue voters who look past their declining financial status, lack of health care, lack of job protection, etc. to vote, say, against gay marriage or abortion.

The republicans have made sure that there is no immediate or optimistic answer to the question, where's the revolution? Until the working and middle classes start looking at the economic realities of life in our country, and until we all start voting those interests, change will not be forthcoming.

In keeping with this theme, Frank published an extraordinary editorial in the New York Times on Tuesday (8/29) entitled "Defunders of Liberty." Unfortunately, it is difficult to read this article on-line unless you are a subscriber to the NYTimes, but I urge you to try to get your hands on it. In it, Frank writes about infamous "lobbyist" Jack Abramoff as participating in the Republican party program of displacing and discrediting the left. As this quote by Abramoff shows, theirs has been a systematic program of removing leftist thought from the American discussion: "Our job is to remove them from power permanently." This is not about a fair debate and equal representation for all sides. Frank traces the way Abramoff and the College Republicans (and later the K Street Project) went about defunding the left, realizing that by taking funding away from organizations, their ability to contribute to the national debate would be vastly compromised. His lobbying career, until his arrest, was also about ensuring that sources of finance and capital were cut off from Democrats, so that working for Democrats or progressive causes on Capitol Hill would be less appealing.

What is the saddest about this all is that it has mainstream appeal, because Republicans have been very successful in couching their arguments in terms of 'fairness.' Everything from Intelligent Design and global warming ("it's only fair that both sides of this scientific debate should be heard!") to Social Security "reform" and school vouchers ("it's only fair that people should have a say about what happens to their own money/education!") falls under this mantle. But it's not fair. Pseudo-science has no place in the classroom (or anywhere for that matter). Social Security reform is really only about taking money away from the most vulnerable Americans and putting money in the coffers of Wall Street. School vouchers are simply a way to shirk governmental responsibility in improving the conditions of public schools.

If you know anyone who is that rare bird known as the UNDECIDED VOTER, please steer them towards the book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Perhaps it can help them see that unless they are billionaires, they will not benefit from voting Republican this Fall.


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1 comment:

Urban Vegan said...

Sounds like a great read. I know I would seethe with anger if I read too much of it.

I am so tired of their pithy sound bytes that have absolutely substance. And I find it incredulous that people actually swallow these air-pockets of BS like potato chips.