In his book “What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America,” Thomas Frank addresses the shift of working-class voters to the political right using his home state as an example of the shift.
Frank discussed his book and what he calls the “great backlash” with an audience of about 300 people Saturday night at The Blue Note. The event, “Bread and Butter: The Conditions of Employment,” brought together several panelists to discuss employment. KOPN/89.5 FM and Pacifica Radio sponsored the event. Frank was joined by a panel that included Rachel Write of the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, Ronald McClanahan, an unemployed worker from Doe Run Co. in Glover, and Bruce Herman, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. Judy Ancel, director of the Institute for Labor Studies, moderated the event.
Frank told the audience he found that 80 percent of voters in the poorest county in the United States, McPherson County, Neb., voted for President Bush in 2000. He suggested that these voters are doing harm to the working class and that the conservatives don’t address the values people are voting for.
“The movement’s basic premise is that culture outweighs economics as a matter of public concern,” Frank said. “It rallies voters who would have been ralliers of the New Deal to the standard of conservatism.”
But this backlash has not been addressed by the liberals.
“The backlash seems so improbable and so self-contradictory that liberal observers have trouble believing that it is happening,” Frank said. “For the Republican Party to represent the working class of America strikes the liberals as such an outrageous reversal of political tradition that they just dismiss the whole thing, they brush it off. They don’t want to take it seriously.”
Earlier in the program, Ancel and Write discussed outsourcing and its effects in Missouri. McClanahan provided a personal account of losing a job to outsourcing. He lost his job of 26 years in November because Doe Run moved the work to China.
Pacifica Radio has scheduled 10 events similar to the one in Missouri nationwide. The entire series will be aired on KOPN during the two weeks before the Nov. 2 election. The next broadcast will be at at 1 p.m. Oct. 20.