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The Kansas kid 

Thomas Frank looks at the culture wars from the front lines

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Following the legislative takeover by Colorado Dems last fall, some liberal activists may be tempted to savor their victories until the next election alarms are sounded. That would be a big mistake, and Thomas Frank will be in town this week to remind them why.

Frank's most recent book, What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, tackles the unnerving trend of working-class Americans voting against their own economic interests. No East Coaster dealing pretentious know-how, the author is a Kansas native who writes as such.

In fact, Frank's out to debunk the myth of that latt liberal -- the aloofly philosophizing, Pinot-sipping priss -- as the beneficiary of Democratic policy. After all, over the past 20 years, that's how the opposition party and much of the media have sketched their archetypical "liberal elitist." At the same time, the wealthiest of conservatives have cast their images among the domestic beer-swilling, church-going masses, screwed by "big government" at every turn.

In his book, Frank often employs the term "backlash." Speaking last summer to online newsletter Dissident Voice, he elaborated on it.

"By 'backlash' I mean populist conservatism of the kind pioneered in the '60s by George Wallace and Richard Nixon, perfected by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and crafted into entertainment form by Fox News," Frank said. "Instead of selling conservative politics on economic grounds, it imagines conservatism as a revolt of the little people against a high and mighty liberal elite."

Frank, a self-described "Reagan youth," subscribed to such persuasions in the not-so-distant '70s and '80s. Today, along with other politically progressive heroes like George Lakoff, his dance card is filled with liberal-arts college audiences like that which undoubtedly will amass in Packard Hall on Wednesday night.

-- Vanessa Martinez

capsule

Thomas Frank lecture

Packard Hall, Colorado College, 5 W. Cache La Poudre St.

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m.

Free; call 389-6607 for more.

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