In my latest reading of The Conscience of a Liberal, Paul Krugman interacts with Thomas Frank's 2004 book, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America? In that book, Frank argues that many people in Kansas vote Republican against their own economic interests because the Republican Party exploits social and cultural issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, creationism, etc.
I bought Frank's book, and I may still read it
before this year is over and I go on to my "Year (or More) of Nixon" in
2013, in which I celebrate the Nixon centennial by reading and blogging
through books by and about Richard Nixon.
Krugman disagrees with
Frank. First of all, Krugman believes that we're heading in a direction
in which conservative stances on social and cultural issues are not
particularly popular. Krugman in making this point does not focus on
Kansas specifically, but he cites polls that indicate that Americans are
becoming increasingly tolerant of homosexuality. Second, Krugman
questions the notion that "religious and social issues...have actually
led a large number of working-class whites to vote against their
economic interests", for "'Values voters' seem to be decisive only in
close races" (page 212). And, third, Krugman looks specifically
at Kansas, where, after 2004, prominent Republicans became Democrats in
protest of the religious right. Moreover, Krugman states that "At the
time of writing, Kansas has a Democratic governor, and Democrats hold
two of its four House seat" (page 212). (I didn't know it's House was that small!)
Krugman's book is dated to 2008.
In my latest reading, Krugman talked a lot about how a Democratic
majority is emerging, as the country becomes less white and more
tolerant. Consequently, Krugman talks about the Democratic
victories in 2006, but his book was written before the Republican
triumphs in 2010. Moreover, the current governor of Kansas, Sam
Brownback, is not only a Republican, but a strongly conservative
Republican when it comes to social issues.
analysis dated, then? He still may be on to something. My impression
is that many voted Republican in 2010, not out of a firm ideological
conviction, but rather because they were disappointed about the
economy. I don't think that most of the electorate is hard-core
conservative, and so there may be potential for a Democratic majority.
Or there could even be potential for a Republican majority, only
Republicans will have to recognize that the white working-class may not
be enough in the near future to carry them to victory on a consistent
basis. Republicans will have to show that their economic policies of
less government can benefit minorities, such as Hispanics. And perhaps
even a conservative stance on social issues could help them with many
Hispanic voters. I don't know. That thought would have to be balanced
with the realization that many in America are becoming tolerant.