What's the Matter with Kansas?

Hooray for Hollywood?

Flickr/The City Project

The article of the day is Jon Chait's piece in New York addressing the question of Hollywood's liberalism. To simplify it a bit, Chait argues that conservatives are basically right in their belief that Hollywood liberals are warping our minds with left-wing propaganda, though they seem to have all but stopped bothering to complain about it. I find it hard to disagree with the first part of Chait's premise: Hollywood is, indeed, dominated by liberals. There are a few high-profile conservatives there (Bruce Willis, Tom Selleck, Clint Eastwood), but they're a small minority. It's not hard to figure out why. Any industry that is made up of creative people is going to be dominated by liberals. Most novelists are liberals too. I'm sure most graphic artists are liberals. There's a whole lot of psychological research demonstrating that liberals tend to be more tolerant of ambiguity, open to experience, and interested in change than conservatives, while conservatives tend to be more conscientious and drawn to hierarchy and order (Prospect alum Chris Mooney details all this in his book The Republican Brain; there's a short version here). In other words, artists are going to be more liberal. Conservatives may not like it, but that's how it is and how it's probably always going to be.

The next question is what values are communicated by the products those liberals produce, and whether we have a problem with them...

No, Really, Americans Aren't Motivated by Ideology

Richard Florida has a post in The Atlantic that sees the number of people who self-identify as conservative state by state as evidence that "America is an increasingly conservative nation, by ideology and by political affiliation." Let's leave aside the obvious point that Americans telling us they are "conservative" is essentially meaningless in terms of sussing out the ideological bent -- if any -- of the country. Florida asks a more interesting question, which is why some states are becoming more conservative, looking at a variety of possible correlating data.

Heartland Blues.

Alexandra Gutierrez explains how a new documentary revisits Thomas Frank's Kansas but forgets about what's the matter with it.

Midway through George W. Bush's tenure, Thomas Frank diagnosed the cause of low-income voters' self-defeating conservatism with his much toasted book, What's the Matter with Kansas?. The invective dropped in the heat of the 2004 election season, just as John Kerry -- veteran, statesman, and the Democratic Party's safest bet -- was being cast as a windsurfing snob. The counterattacks that Bush, too, was a dynastic son of privilege just didn't stick. After all, Bush understood "Real America." It was maddening and, to many, inexplicable.