Tuesday, November 29, 2011

politics with a historical dimension

I usually like books with a point of view. They are much more interesting to read than "one hand/other hand" works, or ones where the reader is never really sure what the author is trying to say. Here's a fascinating book that traces U.S. political segmentation back to early colonial settlements and later migration patterns -- Colin Woodard's "American Nations."

Woodard describes eleven regional "nations" of North America and argues that they each have strong unifying cultures that keep them separate even today, despite some recurring broad regional alliances.His case is probably overstated -- so I'd like to see a rebuttal by another historian -- but he argues it persuasively and with ample documentation to quite respected historical studies. His work also falls short in predictive value, but it does explain in more nuanced detail than I've seen before the differences, for example, between the "Deep South" and "Greater Appalachia," and between "Yankeedom" and the "Midlands." As a Colorado native, I've always felt that politics in my state were quite different from either New England liberalism or southern or midwestern conservative. Woodard gives a plausible explanation based on their motives for migration and their discomfort at being dependent on eastern bankers and railroad owners as well as on the Federal Government.

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