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According to his analysis, the political discourse of recent decades has dramatically shifted from the class animus of traditional leftism to one in which "explosive" cultural issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, are used to redirect anger towards "liberal elites."
Against this backdrop, Frank describes the rise of conservatism and the so-called far right in the social and political landscape of Kansas. He finds it difficult to understand the overwhelming support for Republican party politicians, given his belief that the economic policies of the Republican party do not benefit the majority of people in the State. He also claimed that the party fails to deliver on the "moral" issues (such as abortion and gay rights) which brought the support of cultural conservatives in the first place -- in his view deepening a cycle of frustration aimed at cultural liberalism.
Frank also claims a bitter divide between 'moderate' and 'conservative' Kansas Republicans (whom he labels "Mods" and "Cons") as an archetype for the future of politics in America, in which fiscal conservatism becomes the universal norm and political war is waged over a handful of hot-button cultural issues.
What's the Matter with Kansas? takes viewers to the heart of Middle America, which twice helped elect George W. Bush. The movie shows how Kansas, once home to left-wing movements like the Populist Party, became very conservative in the late 20th century.
Abortion is a particularly volatile issue in Kansas, and pro-life activists had long staged protests around Dr. George Tiller's abortion clinic, because he was one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions. The largest of these protests, the Summer of Mercy campaign in 1991, sparked a conservative takeover of the state's Republican Party.
The movie features a variety of Kansans, most of them conservative, but focuses on three main characters.
Angel Dillard is a mother of two, and a lifelong Republican activist. We first meet her at the Kansas State Fair, where she is volunteering for the Kansans For Life booth.
Brittany Barden is a tireless veteran of several rounds of Republican campaigns. Her mission is to return America to its roots as “a Christian nation.” She’s 18 years old.
Donn Teske describes himself as “a red-neck Kansas farmer.” He also says corporate greed is “not very Christian.” He fights to save his family farm and others like it.