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Thomas Frank
Thomas Frank, photo by Robin Holland
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January 15, 2010

Will Rogers once said, "The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office." But as Democrats face what many believe will be a tough mid-term election, historian Thomas Frank argues that it might just be the other way around for incumbent Democrats. The Republican Party, which lost Congress and the White House in the last four years, may be poised for a comeback. A comeback Frank believes is only possible because Americans have forgotten what their country looked like under conservative rule, "That's the disease of our time...that sort of instant forgetting."

On BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, Frank looks into the not-so-distant past to describe what America looked like before the time of President Obama, focusing on the last ten years, which he's called "A Low, Dishonest Decade" in a recent column for the WALL STREET JOURNAL.

Frank believes that many of the crises that afflicted America during the oughts should be laid at the feet of the conservative movement. Frank's list is long: the inadequate response to Katrina; the Enron, Abramoff and Madoff scandals; the mismanaged Iraqi reconstruction; two mismanaged and unpopular wars; and the 2008 financial disaster. Frank argues that it can all be traced back to an intentional dismantling of the government's oversight infrastructure, driven by a belief that government is always bad: "This is why the wreckage that I've described can't be separated from the conservative ideology and the conservative movement, generally: Because of their hatred of big government and their disdain and contempt for the federal workforce."

But according to Frank, the financial disaster has wiped clean Americans' memories. They are mad at the bankers and mad about the economy, and conservatives may ride a wave of populist outrage back into power.

Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank was born and raised in Kansas City. He graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas (1983), and from the University of Virginia (1987). He founded THE BAFFLER magazine in 1988, and he edits it to this day. He has a PhD in American history (U. of Chicago 1994) and is the author of three books having to do with the cultural inversions of our times: THE CONQUEST OF COOL (1997), about the advertising industry; ONE MARKET UNDER GOD (2000) about the myths of the new economy; AND WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS? (2004) about the red-state mindset. His book about conservative governance, THE WRECKING CREW, was published in 2008.

Guest photo by Robin Holland.
Related Media:
David Sirota and Thomas Frank
Political columnist and blogger David Sirota and WALL STREET JOURNAL columnist Thomas Frank talk with Bill Moyers about their hopes and expectations of this administration.


Katrina Recovery Gone Wrong?
THE JOURNAL profiles a group known as the Steps Coalition, which is fighting on behalf of families who are still in need of housing, and examines what's happened to the money Congress sent to rebuild. (November 16, 2007)

Iraq and Afghanistan

Buying the War
How did the mainstream media get it so wrong in the lead up to the Iraq War? (April 25, 2007)

Moyers on War
View our complete coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Financial Crisis

Moyers on Banks and Bailouts
View our complete coverage of the banking and bailout crisis from early warning from THE NEW YORK TIMES' Gretchen Morgenson in 2007 to date.

Jack Abramoff

Buying the WarCapitol Crimes
A special Bill Moyers investigation into the Abramoff scandal — and the dark side of American politics.

References and Reading:
More from Thomas Frank

Bill Moyers interview with Thomas Frank about THE WRECKING CREW.

"The Tilting Yard"
Read the complete archive of Thomas Frank's opinion column in the WALL STREET JOURNAL.

Thomas Frank's Web site.

THE BAFFLER magazine.

A "Decade of Failure"?

"'The Uh-Ohs': A Decade of Conservative Failure"
Terrance Heath, of the Campaign for America's Future, makes the case that the first decade of the century was marked by conservative failures.

"Down With Big Business"
Conservative congressman Paul Ryan blames government interference for the market collapse.

Also This Week:
WALL STREET JOURNAL columnist and author of THE WRECKING CREW: HOW conservatives RUINED GOVERNMENT, ENRICHED THEMSELVES, AND BEGGARED THE NATION takes a look back at the decade that was.

View our complete coverage of the banking and bailout crisis from early warning from THE NEW YORK TIMES' Gretchen Morgenson in 2007 to date.

Author and humanitarian Greg Mortenson, whose best-selling books THREE CUPS OF TEA and STONES INTO SCHOOLS argue that education is the best way to peace in Afghanistan and across the Islamic world.

View a collection of reports on the United States and Afghanistan.

View profiles from BILL MOYERS JOURNAL of people who are making a difference in their communities.

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