Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2008, pp. 162.
Brian Mann's Welcome to the Homeland weaves together astute observations of the American political system with a personalized journey into the oonservative base of American politics. Mann's thesis is that the political divisions in America can be best characterized by an urban versus rural divide that has evolved over the past eighty or so years. Mann refers to rural voters as homelanders who have increasingly turned to the Republican Party in pursuit of their version of an America with nineteenth-century traditional values. City folk, meanwhile, are dubbed metros, and their increasingly cosmopolitan, multiethnic, and secular world view has led them to turn to the Democratic Party.
Unlike Thomas Frank in What's the Matter with Kansas?, Mann does not argue that the Republican Party is duping homelander voters by paying homage to traditional values. Instead, he outlines how the Republican Party strategy of building a rural base takes full advantage of the rural biases inherent in the design of American political institutions, including the Electoral College and the u.s. Senate, which disproportionately provide more relative political influence to low population states.
Historically, the biased design advantaging small states mattered little, but the development of a two-party system with bases divided among rural versus urban voters has contributed to a divided polis. Mann also clearly outlines that homelanders do not maintain a "false consciousness" about economic issues, and they do hold Republican feet to the fire when their values are not pursued. Thus, Mann conceives of a homelander movement that seeks to take back American politics, largely through controlling the Republican Party, but also Democrats with the right stripes. Indeed, major players in the Democratic Party have and still do depend on homelander support (e.g., Senate leaders Tom Daschle and Harry Reid).