Monday, April 25, 2005

What's the Matter with Tom Frank

Tom Frank, of What's the Matter With Kansas? fame, has a piece in the NYRB that pushes his analysis up through the 2004 election. At some point I need to do a more thorough debunking of Frank's arguments, but I'll just add these two points for now. First, in the NYRB article Frank talks about how John Kerry has, since he first ran for Congress in 1972, been unfairly attacked for his elitism. I went back and checked and in 1972, Kerry actually ran behind George McGovern in the Massachusetts 5th District. Call it elitism or whatever, but Kerry was and has remained a distinctly unimpressive political figure.

Second, on that matter with Kansas, Frank argues that the Sunflower State has, through conservative manipulation, shifted heavily to the right in recent decades. Again with my handy 1972 edition of the Almanac of American Politics, I looked at the average ADA score for Kansas's U.S. Senators and Representatives. In 1972, the average score was 14. In 2004, however, it was 23. Of course, comparing ADA scores across years is tricky, but this is hardly evidence of a swing to the right. If anything, Kansas has gotten more, not less liberal in the last 30 years. And what about on economic issues, where Frank argues the change has been the most pronounced? In 1972, the average was 28 and in 2004 is was 26. In other words, no real change.

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