In his 2004 book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” Thomas Frank argues that the state has become increasingly conservative in recent years.
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The history of Kansas
In the early 1800s, Kansas was mostly unsettled prairie land. But by the mid-19th century, it had become a destination for white settlers from the eastern United States. These settlers brought with them their culture and values, which were very different from those of the Native Americans who already lived in Kansas.
The white settlers wanted Kansas to be a free state, where slavery would be illegal. The Native Americans, on the other hand, had their own form of slavery. They often captured other Native Americans from neighboring tribes and made them slaves.
This difference in values led to conflict between the two groups. In 1854, Congress passed a law called the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This law allowed each territory to decide for itself whether it would allow slavery or not.
The law caused an influx of new settlers into Kansas, many of whom were pro-slavery. This led to more violence between pro- and anti-slavery groups, and eventually to civil war. In 1861, Kansas became a state, and four years later it joined the Union.
The political climate of Kansas
In the early 2000s, Kansas was considered a solidly red state. Republican candidates had been winning statewide elections for years, and the state legislature was firmly in Republican control. However, things started to change in the 2010s. A series of close elections led to Kansas becoming a battleground state, and in 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won the state’s electoral votes.
What caused this shift in the political landscape of Kansas? There are a few potential explanations. First, the state’s demographics have changed in recent years. The population has become more diverse, and there has been an influx of residents from other states (particularly from nearby liberal bastions like Colorado). Second, the state’s economy has struggled in recent years, leading to dissatisfaction with Republican governor Sam Brownback’s tax cuts and spending cuts. Finally, Kansans may simply be tired of Republicans after years of one-party rule.
Whatever the reasons for the change, it’s clear that Kansas is no longer a sure bet for Republicans. If Democrats can continue to make inroads in the state, it could turn into a key battleground in future presidential elections.
The economy of Kansas
For many years, Kansas was an agricultural state, and its economy was based on that industry. However, in recent decades, the state’s economy has diversified, and agriculture now accounts for only a small portion of the state’s GDP. Today, the largest sectors of the Kansas economy are health care, education, manufacturing, and agriculture.
The Kansas economy has been through some ups and downs in recent years. In 2007, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.7%, which was lower than the national average. However, by 2009, the unemployment rate had jumped to 6.9%, which was higher than the national average. The state has since experienced some economic recovery, but it has been slower than in other states. As of 2014, the unemployment rate had fallen to 5.2%.
Kansas is not immune to the problems that have affected other parts of the country in recent years. The state has been affected by the housing market crash and the recession that followed. However, Kansas has fared better than many other states during these difficult times.
The social climate of Kansas
In the late 19th century, Kansas was known as a hotbed of progressive reform. The state was founded by abolitionists, and it was here that the iconic battles of the Civil War’s Western Theater were fought. In the years after the war, Kansas became a leader in agrarian reform, helping to pioneer the movement that would eventually lead to the rise of corporate agriculture.
In the latter half of the 20th century, however, Kansas underwent a profound transformation. The state became increasingly conservative, both socially and politically. By the 21st century, it had become one of the most solidly Republican states in the country.
What caused this dramatic shift? There are a number of possible explanations. Some believe that it is simply a reflection of changes in the national Republican Party; as the party has become more conservative, so too have its voters in Kansas. Others point to economic factors, such as the decline of manufacturing and farming jobs in the state.
Whatever the cause, there is no doubt that Kansas today is a very different place than it was just a few generations ago. And that difference is reflected in its politics and its culture.
The future of Kansas
In his book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Thomas Frank tries to answer this question by looking at the history of Kansas and tracing the rise of the conservative movement in the state. He argues that conservatives have been successful in politically mobilizing working-class Kansans by using wedge issue campaigning to divert attention away from economic issues.
Frank’s thesis has generated a great deal of controversy, with some critics arguing that he overstates the importance of wedge issue campaigns and downplays the role of economics in voting behavior. Nevertheless, his book is widely regarded as an important contribution to our understanding of contemporary American politics.