Monday, October 23, 2023

What's the Matter With Kansas?


What’s the Matter With Kansas?

Peter Schultz


            Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? reflects Frank’s failure to understand politics, what it is, and what it means to humans.


            Politics creates conflicts because it’s about determining right and wrong, the just and the unjust, the beautiful and the ugly, fair and unfair. When people vote, e.g., they vote for what they think is right, just, beautiful, and/or fair. They are not voting as their interests, economic or social, dictate, which is how people like Frank want them to vote in order to minimize conflict, to guarantee progress.


            To be sure, if Kansans voted their interests, there would be less conflict than when they vote their politics. Economic disagreements are less divisive then, say, class conflicts because the latter involve issues of justice. Which is why those who emphasize class are accused of advocating class warfare. Interests are negotiable in ways different conceptions of justice, e.g., are not. The latter often lead to violence, racial or religious, e.g., whereas the former, not so much.


            The problem is: Politics is destiny. Politics defines us; our politics demonstrates who we are, e.g., “Americans,” “Palestinians,” “Ukrainians,” “Russians,” or “Jews.” Politics is authoritative; it is determinative of the most important things, like right, justice, the beautiful, or the fair. Hence, for many, “America [is] the beautiful.”


            To think that there is something the matter with Kansas because many Kansans vote against their interests reveals there is something the matter, but it’s with Thomas Frank because he doesn’t understand politics or humans. Politics is ineradicable; it’s permanent. And it will always trump economics, science, or more broadly even progress.

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