Frank has now written a book to explain one of the knotty problems of recent US politics: how the free-market, hard line de-regulators of corporate capitalism (the GOP) emerged as the dominant party in the 2010 Elections s despite the tremendous losses in the economy just two years earlier under the Bush-Cheney Administration.
Mr. Frank shows in short and snappy prose how the far right revitalized itself and used corporate power to finance a lightning-fast conservative revival with the help of former Bush campaign guru Karl Rove, former Congressman Dick Armey's lobbying prowess and the money from the likes of billionaire Charles Koch and his brother in an alliance to "change the story" of the Wall Street banking crash and the mortgage crisis into a government plot rather than a failure of the heights of investment macro-capitalism and shady schemes like the credit-default swap and toxic securities games that led to the worst downfall in economic US history since the Crash of 1929 and subsequent free-fall.
Frank's book follows the rise of the American Tea Party and its appeal to the simple and accessible heartland-narrative that everything the government does is wrong and all regulations are bad because they hurt "small" business (i.e., multi-national banking and financial speculators and bond and futures traders.) Frank spends a good deal of the book showing the rise of unlikely "populists" like the commentator Glenn Beck and the enduring power of the super-capitalist propaganda writer Ayn Rand to help explain the "intellectual energy" behind the movement.
This book is a very good analysis of how the right wing of America continues to regroup over and over again (for the fourth time in forty years if you count the rise of Richard Nixon's "Silent Majority" in 1968, The Reagan "Revolution" of the 1980s and Newt Gingrich and the "Contract With America" movement in 1994.) Counting the recent upsurge in 2010 and its apparent that, like clockwork, every dozen years or so, a "thunder on the right" campaign emerges from the boardrooms and think-tanks of the American rightward establishment. And, s far, each time said movement is more radical rather than conservative than the last movement. So radical indeed that previous leaders like Nixon and Reagan would be considered too soft to lead the movements they inspired not so long ago.
Here's a portion of Frank's main themes in the book, taken from a analysis he wrote on the "Reuters" website: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2012/01/12/how-everyone-got-the-right-wrong/
"Rather than acknowledge that they had enjoyed thirty years behind the wheel, they declared that they had never really got their turn in the first place. The true believers had never actually been in charge, the “Conservative Ascendancy” never really existed—and therefore, the disastrous events of recent years cast no discredit on conservative ideas themselves. The solution was not to reconsider conservative dogma; it was to double down, to work even more energetically for the laissez-faire utopia.
"Pure idealism of this sort is unusual in American politics, however, and the jaded men of the commentariat sat back and waited for the system to punish the wayward ones, for the magnetic pull of the “center” to work its corrective magic. But this time the gods didn’t intervene in the usual way. In 2010, a radicalized GOP scored its greatest victory in congressional elections in many decades.
'The simplest explanation for the conservative comeback is that hard times cause people to lash out at whoever is in power. In 2010, that happened to be Democrats. Ergo, their rivals staged a comeback. But surely the two parties are not simply interchangeable, like Coke and Pepsi. They are able to control their own fate to some degree, to differentiate themselves from each other. Besides, history provides enough examples of public sentiment moving consistently in a particular direction to show that it need not always flop aimlessly back and forth."
Yet flop the average "independent voter" who bothered to vote in 2010 did--flopping right back into the main party that led the way (along with pliable semi-conservative Democrats) to the sub-prime mortgage/toxic securitization scams that put us in trouble in the first place!
Oh, well. At least I feel better having read this engaging 187 page book. I now at least understand better how the swindlers operated.
Here's an interview with the author from January.
For access to Thomas Frank's recent essays: http://www.tcfrank.com/essays.php