Homeboy Thomas Frank made the bestseller list this year writing about Kansas -- and it was a metaphor brilliant enough to earn him Best Of status, even if he doesn't live here anymore. In What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Frank makes a hell of a case that his home state symbolizes a deranged era of American politics. George W. Bush won 58 percent of the vote in Kansas in 2000, which poses a question: Why would voters in a state where radical populism once thrived cheerfully follow a Republican son of privilege? Frank, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School who founded The Baffler magazine, concludes that voters in Kansas and other red states are being duped. Summoned to rage by issues such as abortion, school prayer and flag burning, voters in the Midwest elect Republicans who, once in office, are more interested in returning the county to a 19th-century pattern of wealth distribution than in ridding galleries of "Piss Christ." As Frank writes, "There is no bad economic turn a conservative cannot do unto his buddy in the working class, as long as cultural solidarity has been cemented over a beer."