One of the books sitting on my desk (actually it is on floor because there is no room left on my desk!) waiting to be read is Darren Dochuk’s From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism.
I am now even more eager to crack it after reading Paul Harvey’s interview with Dochuk at Religion in American History.
Here is a small taste:
PH: I read somewhere, on another online interview I think it was, that in part this book is a response (and historical critique) of the “What’s the Matter with Kansas” thesis, which of course holds that a fair number of Americans have been effectively snookered into voting against the own material economic interests by forces which have sold them on a falsely cultural populism. Am I right in seeing this book in part as a response, and if so, how so?
DD: I didn’t set out to address Frank’s thesis, but my book touches on a few of its themes. At the least, it tries to add a layer of complexity to Frank’s notion that Main Street populists have been “duped” by Wall Street corporate types into voting against their economic interests. First of all, the “duped” motif has its limitations. Some of the Wall Street types I include in my story could be classified as evangelical populists themselves whose own politics covered a range of issues beyond their pocketbooks; economic interest wasn’t their sole interest. And many of the Main Street types I talk about continually measured their economic interests against the “culture wars” agenda they’ve purportedly been spoon-fed from above, so to say they were snookered into doing something against their wellbeing shortchanges their own capacity as rational political actors.
Along this same line, I think Frank’s provocative critique also downplays the processes of negotiation that have taken place between Wall Street and Main Street over the past half-century. The people I talk about were embroiled in a struggle against liberalism that started much earlier than the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s, and the alliances they forged to fight their battles were not static, uncontested, or permanent. The Main Street evangelicals I write about were never perfectly or entirely or always willing to do Wall Street’s dirty work in the trenches, and the evangelical businessmen I talk about sometimes acted on behalf of their rank-and-file brethren in ways that defied fiscal logic.
And ultimately, I’m hesitant to say someone is voting or acting against their best interests, as if I have some deep wisdom they don’t; I can’t even figure out what my own best interests are, let alone someone else’s, so I’m not that eager to pass judgment.
Read the entire interview here.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.