Thomas Frank on “Bittergate”

I had forgotten all about What’s The Matter With Kansas?  Thomas Frank’s thesis on why voters in middle America consistently voted against their own economic self interest in favor of culturally targeted political campaigns.  At least, I forgot about it right up until “Bittergate” happened.

In the aftermath of Obama’s supposed gaffe, however, Frank’s work immediately leapt to the forefront of the debate once again.  The similarities between Obama’s argument and Frank’s argument couldn’t be ignored.  Nor could the fact that so many people who supported Frank’s work in the past were now blasting a very similar argument now that it was being offered up by a rival candidate.

If there’s one thing this Democratic primary is never short on, it’s irony.

But up to this point, while Franks’ book had been cited over and over again, the man himself had remained relatively quiet.  That is, up until now.

Frank provides a very interesting op-ed on the subject in the Wall Street Journal (Yes, I know, WSJ.  Who’da thunk it?) that is definitely a must read.  After you wrap your head around where this article is published what becomes clear is that this is not necessarily a wholesale defense or endorsement of Obama, but it does shed quite a bit of light on the playing field in which Obama made his statement.

Just as the greatest trick the Devil ever performed was convincing people he doesn’t exist, the greatest trick a wide swath of our political culture ever did was convincing ordinary folks that they weren’t elitist when in truth they were…

…on a much more significant level.

Which brings up a powerful perspective on the state of politics today that has become a recurring theme in my continued writings.  We focus on minutiae and red herrings; we elect presidents on what they drink and whether or not they have the right accent.  Can they bowl a decent game, do they believe in Jesus Christ, and can they hunt all become major topics in deciding the qualifications of someone who is going to be managing the economy and military.

It seems utterly ridiculous, but these people have valid concerns to a degree.  To all of us our culture is important.  For me, my life has been structured on multiculturalism and tolerance, and those are the things that I hold most dear and want to ensure are preserved and progressed.  For others it’s their religion, or the fine hunting traditions passed on from generation to generation.

In a political world where it seems that everyone is facing wolves at the door that threaten to change the world as we know it, of course some people are going to be worried about their culture and the things that they believe in.  And these cultural fears divide us.

But what politicians are doing isn’t finding a way to bring us together; they are calculating ways to rip us apart in ways that are advantageous to them.  Hence the great backlash regarding Obama’s remarks.

He was, ultimately, trying to bridge those gaps, explaining to one demographic what was going on with another demographic.  Indeed, these two different demographics have turned their backs on each other; the elitist left have given up on being able to communicate with and form solitarity with the Rustbelt Democrat, and the Rustbelt Democrats have turned their backs on the other because they are culturally offensive.

As hamhanded as Obama was in his remarks, he wasn’t trying to divide, he was trying to foment understanding between two classes whose animosity towards one another has been destructive to both.

And the political establishment that has banked so heavily on these divisions just couldn’t have that.

Frank concludes his piece with the assertion that he doesn’t care who agrees or disagrees with him, they’ve got his support so long as they can end the kind of cynical politicking off of class warfare that has left us in the lurch we are currently in.  Frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

More at Memeorandum:  TownHall Blog, JustOneMinute, American Street, and Liberal Values.  G-spot.  Opinionator. JustOneMinute, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook