[Marxism] Thomas Frank op-ed piece

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 16 08:13:26 MDT 2004

(Thomas Frank's new book "What's Wrong With Kansas" argues implicitly 
that the Democrats lose elections because they are identified with the 
wrong side of the "culture wars". This is the same sort of position that 
Michael Moore argued in the Nation Magazine in 1997 and that Richard 
Rorty put forward in "Achieving Our Country". You get a more strident 
version of this in Todd Gitlin's "The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why 
America Is Wracked by Culture Wars". Moving directly into the enemy's 
camp, you get  Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s "The Disuniting of America: 
Reflections on a Multicultural Society" and Jim Sleeper's "Liberal 
Racism: How Fixating on Race Subverts the American Dream". Somehow, this 
kind of economism that panders to white workers has been associated with 
Marxism in some circles. Frank himself would probably describe himself 
as a Marxist, but not on the Charlie Rose show--I don't imagine. In any 
case, this has little to do with the outlook of Lenin who urged that 
socialists act as a "tribune of the people".)

NY Times, July 16, 2004
Failure Is Not an Option, It's Mandatory


For three days this week the nation was transfixed by the spectacle of 
the United States Senate, in all its august majesty, doing precisely the 
opposite of statesmanlike deliberation. Instead, it was debating the 
Federal Marriage Amendment, which would not only have discriminated 
against a large group of citizens, but also was doomed to defeat from 
the get-go. Everyone knew this harebrained notion would never draw the 
two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment, and yet 
here were all these conservatives lining up to speak for it, wasting day 
after day with their meandering remarks about culture while more 
important business went unattended. What explains this folly?

Not simple bigotry, as some pundits declared, or even simple politics. 
While it is true that the amendment was a classic election-year ploy, it 
owes its power as much to a peculiar narrative of class hostility as it 
does to homophobia or ideology. And in this narrative, success comes by 

For more than three decades, the Republican Party has relied on the 
"culture war" to rescue their chances every four years, from Richard 
Nixon's campaign against the liberal news media to George H. W. Bush's 
campaign against the liberal flag-burners. In this culture war, the real 
divide is between "regular people" and an endlessly scheming "liberal 
elite." This strategy allows them to depict themselves as friends of the 
common people even as they gut workplace safety rules and lay plans to 
turn Social Security over to Wall Street. Most important, it has allowed 
Republicans to speak the language of populism.



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