As a Republican tornado threatened Kansas’s 1.7 million God-fearin’ registered voters, 82,000 square miles of prairie, and who knows how many sunflowers in the run-up to the 2004 election, anguished native son Thomas Frank took to the metaphorical storm cellar to write What’s the Matter With Kansas?, his take on the conservative conversion of the heartland. From our Manhattan vantage point, it’s convenient to trot out the familiar bicolor political trope and blame the “other” America for this mess. But that might prove a false dichotomy. What brought 435,000 people to vote for John Kerry in the same state where Fred Phelps’s anti-gay jihad has its roots? And who are those 33 brave Kansans who voted Green? Nation columnist Katha Pollitt and sociologists Elijah Anderson and Kimberly DaCosta join Frank in this roundtable, which will invoke inner cities and suburban culs-de-sac as well as the cornfields of the Cyclone State to examine the heart of the country. Maybe this brain trust will come up with a plan to return us to peace and prosperity—beyond, of course, clicking our heels together three times and wishing we were home.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 15, 2005