Thomas Frank, the author best-known for "What's the Matter with Kansas?" who's also a Washington political journalist, places the blame for the election of President Donald Trump squarely on the back of the Democratic Party and its abandonment of working-class Americans.

"They love it when unions work hard for them and give them campaign funds," Frank said in a telephone interview.  

"But they aren't deeply concerned with the problems faced by working-class people," he said. "They need to stop taking those people for granted."

What they got in exchange for that neglect was Trump, he said.

Frank will be in Lincoln next Sunday to deliver the 2017 C.A. Sorensen Lecture at the Unitarian Church. His address, "The Age of Trump: How We Got Here," will begin at 7 p.m.

"The Democratic Party used to be very concerned with working-class issues," Frank said. Not so much anymore, he suggested.

Frank has described the change as a shift of political attention from the working class to professionals, "the highly credentialed and creative class."

In the process, he said during an earlier address at the Kansas City Public Library promoting his book, "Listen, Liberal," the Democratic Party became "a party of New Economy winners." 

And last November it paid the price, he said.

Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in key industrial states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, upsetting Clinton and astonishing most political prognosticators.

"Trump himself may come and go," Frank said during the telephone interview.

"But here's the deal: Trumpism is definitely here to stay.

"Traditional conservatism with all these populist clothes is not going away."

Trump won "without essentially knowing what he was doing," Frank said.  

Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz and House Speaker Paul Ryan "know what they're doing," he said, "and they're going to continue to succeed.

"America has changed in lots of different ways," Frank said. "When I drive through Kansas and Missouri, I'm always astonished and depressed by what has happened to small towns."

Frank is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, and a graduate of the University of Kansas.

"The change that is most disturbing to me is the way the middle class has evaporated," he said.

During his Kansas City speech, Frank said the disintegration of the middle class has sparked "outrage and fury around every corner."

Can Democrats win in 2018 when control of Congress will be at stake?

"It will be very hard," Frank said.

"But they certainly can beat Donald Trump" in 2020, he said. However, they cannot do it by "going down the road they've been going," he said, and they will need to choose a nominee "who is good on working-class issues."

"Their present state of powerlessness was made possible by the changes they made."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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