We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
“What’s the Matter With Kansas?” was the title of a Populist-savaging 1896 essay by William Allen White. More than a hundred years later, native Kansan Thomas Frank turns the question on its head in a book of the same title, asking how it is that America’s heartland has been pocketed by policymakers who work demonstrably against their constituents’ interests. So, what’s the matter with Kansas these days? Frank thinks it’s that conservative Republicans have managed to tap into a bottomless reservoir of cultural bitterness—specifically, that many formerly Democrat heartland voters feel left behind by an increasingly liberal culture. Republicans and Democrats both worship at the free-market altar, but only the conservatives have spoken to the “dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values.” In other words, the problem is kids: the unborn ones’ right to life; the school-aged ones’ right to not contemplate evolution; and the Christers’ right to prevent gays from parenting them. And, as the re-election of Dubya makes painfully clear, whatever’s the matter with Kansas is bound to be a bother to us all. Frank reads at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Chris Hagan)