Tom Frank's Intellectual Hole


Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this scathing Raleigh News & Observer review of Thomas Frank's bestselling What's the Matter with Kansas?:

The contemptuousness of Frank's analysis does not make it wrong. Perhaps rafts of his fellow Kansans—and working-class Americans across the country—are gullible pawns, so out of touch with the reality of their own lives that voting has become, for them, a form of self-immolation….

Rather than interview a representative sample of these folks to understand their thinking, Frank arrogantly concludes that they suffer "derangement." What else but a mental condition—and a healthy dollop of ignorance—could prevent them from seeing Frank's light?

This lack of curiosity and empathy is particularly troubling. If we no longer see the point of understanding one another, how can we bridge the gaps between us?…

For Frank…politics hinges less on measurable results than emotional perception. Liberalism has not declined because people prefer alternatives, they maintain, but because Republicans have seized control of reality itself—twisting truth to demonize their saintly opponents and cover their horns and tails with a Wal-Mart halo.

Thus, liberals do not proclaim that President Bush is wrong or misguided but that he's a liar and a con artist—throughout his book, Frank refers to conservatives as the "Cons." The suggestion is that Bush and his allies do not believe what they say, that deep down they know the liberals are right. Driven by dark and evil forces, they deceive the people for their party's selfish ends.

"What's the Matter With Kansas?" is a lazy, self-satisfied work. It is also an important one. It shows how deep an intellectual hole liberals have dug for themselves. Its success suggests how hard it will be for them to crawl out from it.

Whole thing here.

Reason's Jesse Walker reviewed the same book here.