Thomas Carr Frank (born March 21, 1965) is an American political analyst, historian, journalist, and columnist for Harper's Magazine. He wrote "The Tilting Yard" column in the Wall Street Journal from 2008 to 2010, and he co-founded and edited The Baffler. He has written several books, most notably What's the Matter with Kansas? (2004).

Frank is a historian of culture and ideas. He analyzes trends in American electoral politics and propaganda, advertising, popular culture, mainstream journalism, and economics. His topics include the rhetoric and impact of culture wars in American political life and the relationship between politics and culture in the United States.


Frank started his political journey as a College Republican,[2] but he has come to be highly critical of conservatism, especially the presidency of George W. Bush. Frank summarized the thesis of his book The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule as "Bad government is the natural product of rule by those who believe government is bad."[3]

Frank's other writings include essays for Harper's Magazine, Le Monde diplomatique, Bookforum, and the Financial Times. His book What's the Matter with Kansas?, published in 2004, earned him nationwide and international recognition.

  • "The backlash…is a crusade in which one's material interests are suspended in favor of vague cultural grievances that are all-important and yet incapable of ever being assuaged."
  • "While earlier forms of conservatism emphasized fiscal sobriety, the backlash mobilizes voters with explosive social issues...which is then married to pro-business economics."
  • "To [conservative] backlash writers, the operations of business are simply not a legitimate subject of social criticism. In the backlash mind, business is natural; it is normal; it is beyond politics."
  • "Backlash culture abounds with tall tales of liberals out of control, with hippies spitting on [Vietnam War] veterans, with Jane Fonda narking on POWs to their Vietnamese captors..."
  • "Whereas liberals are thought to erupt self-righteously whenever they feel like it, conservatives believe that they themselves are never permitted to say what they really think."
  • "The backlash is a theory of how the political world works, but it also provides a ready-made identity in which the glamour of authenticity, combined with the narcissism of victimhood is available to almost anyone."
  • "To be a populist conservative is to be a fatalist...where the liberal stranglehold on life can never be broken. This is a curious set of beliefs for a coalition that quite literally rules American politics."
  • "Ignoring one's economic self-interest may seem a suicidal move to you and me, but viewed in a different way it is an act of noble self-denial, a sacrifice to a holier cause."[2]
  • "...the great goal of the backlash is to nurture a cultural class war."[2]
— Thomas Frank from What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004)
  • "The big government that [conservatives] rail against is, by and large, their government. For a political faction to represent itself as a rebellion against a government for which it is itself responsible for may strike you as a supremely cynical maneuver."[2]
— Thomas Frank from The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. (2008)

Since December 2010, Frank has written the monthly "Easy Chair" column for Harper's Magazine, alternating bi-monthly with Rebecca Solnit. [2]

Personal life

Frank was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1965. He grew up in a local suburb, Mission Hills, Kansas. Frank graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School. He later attended the University of Kansas. He also attended the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago, where he received a doctorate in history in 1994. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and children.