Thomas Frank

It was a very different time in 2004 when Thomas Frank published his much-discussed What’s the Matter With Kansas?, which posited that Republicans had pulled a bait-and-switch on good, decent conservative-values voters. Vote for God and against abortion, the book argued, and soon you find yourself without health insurance and your manufacturing job outsourced to China, while GOP lobbyists and corporate donors laugh their way to the bank. Turns out Bush and Cheney weren’t actually friends of the common man. In The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule (Metropolitan, $25), Frank follows that thesis to Washington, D.C.’s Gucci Gulch. I would love to report that the corruption he uncovers is news, but the misdeeds of Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Enron, Halliburton, et al. have been fairly well documented by now. Frank has clearly read all the same accounts, to which he adds a few interviews—like Grover Norquist of the Club for Growth, he whose “starve the beast” philosophy of governance hasn’t exactly gone as planned. That Frank sits down with Norquist over drinks and finds the guy fairly charming and persuasive points to a fresher avenue not taken. Norquist and his and “K Street Project,” which put partisan hands at the levers of regulation, did achieve some results. And yet the beast is not starved, and soon—this November, in all likelihood—it may bite back. Having Frank and Norquist do a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates would probably be a whole lot more entertaining than this book, which easily could’ve been reduced to a shorter—though equally valuable—magazine piece. Frank sees conservative governance as institutional “vandalism” and says “conservatism is a destroyer of tradition, not a preserver.” And though many Seattle readers will flock to hear that message, Frank’s message is emphatically backward-looking. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Mon., Aug. 11, 7 p.m., 2008

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