Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thomas Frank Captures the Zeitgeist?

Frank wrote about an interview with Thomas Frank below (for some reason I can't link to Frank's post below, but the interview is here in the original.)  I first came across Thomas Frank when I skimmed his What's The Matter with Kansas? at the Borders bookstore in Wynnewood in 2004, which is now a DSW shoe store, which is not necessarily anyone's definition of progress (although I shop at the DSW now too.)  I seem to recall I wasn't all that impressed with the book, but I was a Republican back then, younger and full of ideas about being rich.  

Well my politics have changed -- reclaiming the heart that Churchill told me I should lose in favor of a brain as I got older -- and so maybe my opinion of Frank's Kansas book would change but I am not right now willing to revisit 2004.  (I am still working through Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Poetry as well as some back issues of the Biblical Archeology Review, and other reading here and there, as well as binge watching a trashy show called The Blacklist.)

I have increasingly become fascinated with Frank (not Frank Wilson who I have always been fascinated with, among other reasons because he is one of the last Philadelphia gentlemen, but more on that later) but Thomas Frank, because T. Frank seems to be perfectly sane, commonsensical, and able to capture our current state.  Here is an excerpt from T. Franks' latest work Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?:
Larry Solomon was the leader of the local United Auto Workers union at Decatur’s Caterpillar plant during the War Zone days. He hired in at Caterpillar, he tells me, in 1963; he retired in 1998, having gone back in after the strike ended. When I met Solomon in his tidy suburban home in a small town outside Decatur, he told me in detail about the many times he got crossways with management in days long past, about all the grievances he filed for his coworkers over the years and the puffed-up company officials he faced down...
“We were promised, all during the time we worked at Caterpillar, that when you retire, you’re going to have a pension and full benefits at no cost to you,” Solomon recalled. He told about a round of contract negotiations he and his colleagues attended in the 1960s during which a management official complained, “We already take care of you from the cradle to the grave. What more could you want?”
Today, it is inconceivable that an American official of any kind, public or private, would utter such a phrase. In this age of disruption and innovation, everything pushes in the opposite direction.
Link here 

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