Thursday, March 24, 2005


I came across this review of Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas by Thomas Mertes in the New Left Review. Mertes brings up a good point about blue collar flight to the Republican Party that Franks doesn't acknowledge and liberals won't admit: a lot of the stereotypes of liberals played up by rightwing pundits are correct.
For all his spirited retorts to hucksters like David Brooks, Frank flinches from acknowledging the core of cold truth in their legends and demagogic stereotypes. In the recent Presidential election, the Democrats picked the wealthiest individual since George Washington ever to run for the White House as their candidate, outgunned the Republicans 59 to 41 per cent among donors with assets over $10 million, outspent Bush in every swing state of the Union, and hit an all-time financial record for a senatorial campaign: $17 million in a failed attempt to get Daschle back on the Hill. Moreover, there is little that is new in this: since the nineties virtually all of the richest electoral districts in the country have been Democratic bastions, Clinton’s cash-mountain easily topped Dole’s in 1996, and the Democrats have regularly received larger individual donations than Republicans, whose strength has been among smaller donors. In this situation, workers who vote Republican may be less deluded than Frank seems to believe. Putting it in sociological language, since there is so little to choose ‘instrumentally’ between the two parties, each of them dedicated to capital unbound, why not at least get the satisfaction of voting ‘expressively’ for the one which seems to speak for their values, if not their interests?
Combine this with the Democratic Party's turn away from labor as well as its perceived elitism and it's not hard to figure out why the white working class is embracing the faux anti-elitist populism of the GOP.