Friday, February 25, 2005

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

Both Paul Krugman and Farhad Manjoo look at how the Republicans have snookered the Red States into voting for them by using the old carny game of distracting them with queer-fear and get-rich-quick Ponzi schemes for Social Security. But the red-staters might be catching on.

This is a playout of Thomas Frank’s excellent book, What’s The Matter With Kansas? Rural voters were once the backbone of the Democratic party thanks to the help they got from FDR and the New Deal. But beginning in the 1960’s they got roped into the Republican camp with the fear-mongering of the right wing (Integration! Hippies!), and it was solidified by the feel-good empty calories of the Reagan years (Rugged individualism! Jesus is Lord!). The Democrats aided their own decline by sacrificing economic issues in exchange for championing cultural issues such as civil rights and it cost them dearly.

But the red-staters are beginning to see that “moral values” include such things as a secure retirement and affordable health care. A hot-button issue like gay marriage is put in perspective: there haven’t been gay couples lined around the block at the Montgomery County courthouse in Independence, Kansas to try to get married, but plenty of people are wondering if they’ll have enough money to pay for the rest of their lives, and that’s the reality they care about. If the Republicans stick with the culture wars, they could be just like the Democrats in the 1960’s. Heh.