So many good books out there to read and so many good writers! Still add the 2004 book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank, to your “must read” list. Written by a Republican turned Democrat so you can suspect some bias; Frank knows and ably writes about how the conservatives won the heart of America. One author calls the book “the most insightful analysis of American right-wing pseudo populism to come along in the last decade. (Spelled with an uppercase P, Populism refers to the specific movement associated with the Farmers’ Alliance and the People’s party in the late nineteenth century. Spelled with a lower case p, populism denotes a more general political style that emphasizes class antagonism and the nobility of the common man.) (P. 32). As for Kansas: However far it’s drifted into delusion, you’ve got to love a state that produced someone as wickedly-funny, compassionate, and non stop brilliant as Tom Frank”. Kansas is the home of many well known and prominent people; the most famous being Dwight Eisenhower, the ultimate Republican moderate out of Abilene, Kansas.
Illinois will never become a Kansas in it’s politics, but there are parts of middle Illinois that could have been lifted right out of the middle of Kansas just like Dorothy(while I lived in Kansas for two years, unlike Dorothy, I never had a desire to go back even for a visit). My wife and I were raised as small town conservatives and both of us were quite naïve when I was transferred by my company to Topeka. Recognizing our ignorance of the ways of the world, a married church going couple took us to Kansas City to see a night club show. It was not till after the show was over did our new friends tell us that the beautiful women we had watched perform on the stage were men in drag. They had a lot of laughs over our “welcome to the opposite side of Kansas conservative fundamentalism”.
Kansas is one of the poorest states in the union; if not the poorest, yet it voted 80% for George W. Bush in 2000. It was this puzzlement to Mr. Frank, who had long left Kansas, to return to Kansas to visit, research and to write this book.
Interesting and enlightening reading for either the most political or apolitical reader!! You will recognize some similarities of Kansas to Peoria and the Peoria area. Whether that is good or bad will depend on each individual reader. But this book may give you some insight to the possibilities of this community’s future.