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The phenomenon produced a 2004 best seller, Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” It argued that Republicans drew working-class voters to their platform against taxes and spending not with economic arguments, but by appealing to their conservative cultural preferences — against gay rights, abortion rights, affirmative action and gun control.
The contradiction has only become more pronounced over time. As Americans have grown more reliant on federal programs over the last 50 years, they have increasingly embraced the Republican Party, a trend put in stark relief by President Trump’s 2016 victory. Of the 10 states in which government transfers account for the largest share of income, seven voted for Mr. Trump. Speaking to the economic and social anxieties of blue-collar white voters over immigration, trade and demographic change, Mr. Trump has championed tax cuts for the well-to-do paired with benefit cuts for the struggling voters in his base.