What’s The Matter With Kansas?

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond says, “We have a president who talks like a populist and governs for the privileged,” and proceeds to present his charges a little more forcefully:

NAACP Chairman Compares Republicans to Terrorists

Thomas Frank offers a similar thesis, with more subtlety, in his new book, "What’s The Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won The Heart Of America". Frank describes the extant Republican party as a group of wolves in sheeps’ clothing, who are actively feeding on sheep, as the sheep cheer them on.

Here’s the teaser for What’s The Matter With Kansas?:

What’s the matter with America? What explains the dysfunction at the dark heart of our politics?

Over the last thirty-five years the Republicans have transformed themselves from an aristocratic minority into the nation’s dominant political party, a brawling, beer-drinking buddy of the working man. The strategy by which they have won this triumph is instantly familiar and yet so bizarre it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s actually happened: Think of Richard Nixon extolling the virtues of the “silent majority,” or Ronald Reagan shaking his head at those crazy college professors, or George W. Bush sticking up for the “regular Americans,” or the army of pundits who have written so eloquently in recent months about the humble folk of the “red states.”

And then think of the political changes that this sappy stuff has helped to sell: Privatization. Deregulation. Monopolies in every industry from banking to radio to meatpacking. The destruction of the welfare state. The beatdown of the labor movement. The transformation of the Midwest into the rust belt. And, shimmering in the heavens above all this, the rise of a new plutocracy, a class of overlords so taken with their own magnificence that they are moved to compare themselves to the Almighty.

What we are observing, then, is a populist movement that has done irreversible harm to the material interests of the common people it professes to love so tenderly-a form of class animosity that rages against a shadowy “elite” while enthroning a new aristocracy of bankers, brokers, and corporate thieves.

In the burned-over districts of conservatism the right-wing class war grown so powerful that it has taken over the environmental niche once held by the left. It is the dissenting movement out there, the voice of the hard-done-by, and in places like Kansas it draws headlines with its high-profile campaigns against evolution and abortion.

This is what’s the matter with Kansas, and with America. From the air-conditioned heights of a suburban office complex this may look like a new age of reason, with the Websites singing each to each, with a mall down the way that every week has miraculously anticipated our subtly shifting tastes, with a global economy whose rich rewards just keep flowing, with a promotion and a bonus every year, and with a long parade of rust-free Infinitis purring down the streets of beautifully manicured planned communities. But on closer inspection the country we have inhabited for the last three decades seems more like a panorama of madness and delusion worthy of Hieronymous Bosch: of sturdy patriots reciting the Pledge while they resolutely strangle their own life chances; of small farmers proudly voting themselves off the land; of devoted family men carefully seeing to it that their children will never be able to afford college or proper health care; of hardened blue-collar workers in midwestern burgs cheering as they deliver up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life, will transform their region into a “rust belt,” will strike people like them blows from which they will never recover.