Thomas Frank

It might be hard to believe, but sometimes politicians don't have our best interests at heart. Though this is the gist of Thomas Frank's argument, his in-depth analysis of the conservative movement over past decades is hardly simplistic. In What's the Matter with Kansas? he explored why middle and lower class Americans vote for politicians who support the rich. In The Wrecking Crew, Frank ventures to the capitol of wealth: Washington, D.C. There he pens a stinging indictment of conservatives' ultimate goal: to tear down government and move things into the private business sector.

CP: You state that it's the conservative agenda to dumb down government, and bring in private business. Why would conservatives do this?

TF: For one thing, their hostility toward government runs pretty deep. As a business party they've always objected to government because it meddles with the economy, and regulates things like business and taxes. The particular tactics they use come from their hatred of bureaucracy and the civil servants they regard as the "permanent government," which they think is inherently liberal. The idea is to replace them with private sectors. Privatizing the work of government has a lot of advantages from their perspective: Not only do you get around the civil servants; you can reward particular companies and build your own constituencies. The problem is that it really doesn't work.

CP: We're founded on the principle of separation of church and state, but what about separation of business and state? Do we need to rethink boundaries? Is it even possible to separate the two?

TF: Well, those boundaries have to be there, but ultimately it's impossible to separate them. People have to be ever vigilant. Business and government, you can never disconnect them entirely. And business should have a role. When decisions are being made that will affect an industry, you need to consult with those businesses. But the way things are now they are calling the shots at every level. They essentially control the government.

CP: How about this coming election? What about McCain?

TF: I'll tell you, I used to like John McCain. You hear this from a lot of liberals. He was the one Republican in Washington that I really liked; the man that busted Abramoff. He's good on contractor issues, or was. He's good on campaign finance reform, something I really believe in. In a lot of respects he's a really good guy, the best candidate the Republicans could have. He's one of the few not tainted with scandal. But since he got the nomination, that John McCain is gone. I don't know what happened to him. It's just crazy attacks, one after another after another. It's like Carl Rove has taken over his personality. I don't understand it. You know, "McCain the Reformer" could actually get my vote. It's possible! But not "McCain the Hit-and-Run Artist." No. Hell no.

Thu., Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m., 2008

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