Thomas Frank
Historian, Political Commentator


Thomas Frank is the author of numerous best-selling books and the founder of The Baffler magazine. He is also a Ph.D. in history (Chicago, 1994). After years on the lecture circuit, Thomas is an accomplished public speaker on many subjects.

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Hardcover
The People, NoA Brief History of Anti-Populism
Metropolitan Books

Rarely does a work of history contain startling implications for the present, but in The People, No, Thomas Frank pulls off that explosive effect by showing us that everything we think we know about populism is wrong. Today “populism” is seen as a frightening thing, a term pundits use to describe the racist philosophy of Donald Trump and European extremists. But this is a mistake.

The real story of populism is an account of enlightenment and liberation; it is the story of American democracy itself, of its ever-widening promise of a decent life for all. Taking us from the tumultuous 1890s, when the radical left-wing Populist Party—the biggest mass movement in American history—fought Gilded Age plutocrats to the reformers’ great triumphs under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Frank reminds us how much we owe to the populist ethos. Frank also shows that elitist groups have reliably detested populism, lashing out at working-class concerns. The anti-populist vituperations by the Washington centrists of today are only the latest expression.

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The Wrecking CrewHow Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation
Henry Holt and Co.

Casting his eyes from the Bush administration's final months of plunder to the earliest days of the Republican revolution, Frank describes the rise of a ruling coalition dedicated to dismantling government. But rather than cutting down the big government they claim to hate, conservatives have simply sold it off, deregulating some industries, defunding others, but always turning public policy into a private-sector bidding war. Washington itself has been remade into a golden landscape of super-wealthy suburbs and gleaming lobbyist headquarters—the wages of government-by-entrepreneurship practiced so outrageously by figures such as Jack Abramoff.

It is no coincidence, Frank argues, that the same politicians who guffaw at the idea of effective government have installed a regime in which incompetence is the rule. Nor will the country easily shake off the consequences of deliberate misgovernment through the usual election remedies. Obsessed with achieving a lasting victory, conservatives have taken pains to enshrine the free market as the permanent creed of state.

Stamped with Thomas Frank's audacity, analytic brilliance, and wit, The Wrecking Crew is his most revelatory work yet—and his most important.

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What's the Matter with KansasHow Conservatives Won the Heart of America
Picador

What's the Matter with Kansas? unravels the great political mystery of our day: Why do so many Americans vote against their economic and social interests? With his acclaimed wit and acuity, Thomas Frank answers the riddle by examining his home state, Kansas-a place once famous for its radicalism that now ranks among the nation's most eager participants in the culture wars. Charting what he calls the "thirty-year backlash"-the popular revolt against a supposedly liberal establishment-Frank reveals how conservatism, once a marker of class privilege, became the creed of millions of ordinary Americans.

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Rendezvous with OblivionReports from a Sinking Society
Picador

Rendezvous with Oblivion is a collection of interlocking essays examining how inequality has manifested itself in our cities, in our jobs, in the way we travel—and of course in our politics, where in 2016, millions of anxious ordinary people rallied to the presidential campaign of a billionaire who meant them no good.

These accounts of folly and exploitation are here brought together in a single volume unified by Frank’s distinctive voice, sardonic wit, and anti-orthodox perspective. They capture a society where every status signifier is hollow, where the allure of mobility is just another con game, and where rebellion too often yields nothing.

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Pity the BillionaireThe Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
Picador

In Pity the Billionaire, a brilliant, funny, and disturbing tour de force, Thomas Frank analyzes the sleight of hand involved in the right's resurgence—all the upside-down grievances that have transformed economic suffering into valentines for the rich and powerful. This great chronicler of American paradox dissects the contradictions at the heart of the country's politics, and in this "dazzling" book once again shows himself as "one of the best left-wing writers America has produced" (The Guardian).

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Listen, LiberalOr, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
Picador

Hailed as “the most prescient book” of the year, Listen, Liberal accurately described what ailed the Democratic Party even before the election of 2016 made their weaknesses obvious. It is the story of how the “Party of the People” detached itself from its historic constituency among average Americans and chose instead to line up with the winners of our new economic order.

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Read a review of The People, No from Splice Today.

Read Thomas Frank’s piece in Harper’s about the fall of Bernie Sanders.

Check out all of Thomas Frank’s articles in The Guardian.

Read Thomas’s piece about Joe Biden in The Guardian.