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Woodard says regionalism explains why U.S. politics are so divisive

October 25, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
Journalist Colin Woodard just released "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America," a book that claims that it's too simplistic to group the country into "red states" and "blue states."

I've only read excerpts of the book, but I think he might be onto something here. Woodard looks at the historical settlement patterns and the cultures that developed in different regions of the country and their competing interests supposedly influence politics to this day. The regions, which seem to include all of North America, are "Yankeedom, Tidewater, New Netherland, New France, Deep South, Greater Appalachia, the Midlands, First Nation, the Far West, the Left Coast and El Norte."

He's grouped western North Dakota into a region he calls "The Far West" along with "northern Arizona; the interiors of California, Washington and Oregon; much of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alaska; portions of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories; the arid western halves of the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas; and all or nearly all of Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Utah and Nevada." Topography seems to have as much to do with this region as the people who settled here; he writes that the difficult climate means that this area couldn't be effectively colonized without industry that is controlled by large corporations in large cities far away from the region.

Woodard writes in an excerpt in The Bloomberg Report that "Its political class tends to revile the government for interfering in its affairs -- a stance that often aligns it with the Deep South -- while demanding that it continue to receive federal largesse. Yet the Far West rarely challenges its corporate masters, who retain near-Gilded Age levels of influence over the region."

It's a description that I thought seemed particularly apt for these times.

The whole book sounds like it would be worth a read, particularly if it can give our leaders a better understanding of what is influencing politics and how they might work together better.


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