Our country has 50 states, but if you really want to understand the fractious debates currently dividing the nation, it’s more important to understand the 11 rival cultures that truly make up the United States, according to a new book by Colin Woodard.
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America argues that the differing mindsets and values in these areas are in constant conflict as the United States grapples with social issues and challenges.
Image: Colin Woodard and Tufts/Brian Stauffer via Business Insider
Those 11 regions are:
Deep South: Founded by English slave owners, this region has rigid social structures opposes most government regulation. It includes Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Texas and South Carolina.
El Norte: Made up of former Spanish territory empire. Hispanic culture dominates. The region values independence, self-sufficiency, and hard work. The region includes parts of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California.
Greater Appalachia: Settled by very independent Scots-Irish settlers. People in this largely mountainous area value personal freedom and are suspicious of government. The region includes pieces of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana and even Illinois.
Dallas is located in Woodard’s Greater Appalachia
Tidewater: This region includes parts of Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. There is a high value on tradition and respect for authority. The region heritage is being eroded by the growth of the more liberal Washington, DC area.
The Midland: The genial residents of this region created the notion of the “American Heartland.” The region’s politics are moderate, government regulation is viewed skeptically, and the population is diverse. The Midland includes New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.
New Netherlands: This region, consisting of New York and New Jersey, has a relentlessly commercial culture. Materialism, tolerance of diverse religious and ethnic groups, and support for education and scientific inquiry are key traits of the area.
New York City is located in Woodard’s New Netherlands
Yankeedom: Education, intellectual achievement and citizen participation in government are valued in this swath of territory that encompasses New England, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The Left Coast: This is Yankeedom’s staunchest ally. It mirrors many of that region’s values. Coastal California, Oregon and Washington make up the Left Coast.
Far West: This is the conservative part of the West, settled by people who were seeking to escape the limited opportunities and heavy regulation of the East. The Far West includes all or parts of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Washington, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California.
Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park, in Arizona is located in Woodard’s Far West
New France: This is the New Orleans area, a bastion of liberalism in the Deep South. There is a great deal of tolerance for diversity, and comfort with government regulation of the economy.
First Nation: This encompasses the sovereign territory controlled by various Native American tribes across the country. While it is geographically large, First Nation has very few residents.
How these regions interact and negotiate to set national policy is far more important than the role of any one state, according to American Nations. In other words, each of the regions is a sort of super-state.
If that somehow bothers you, you probably shouldn’t jump on the current bandwagon to dump the Electoral College. As this cartoon humorously points out, going to a popular vote for President would be fantastic – if you live in one of four very populous states!