Friday, November 16, 2018

The 2018 midterms, the American Nations and Washington Monthly

I have an expanded version of my American Nations-powered analysis of the results of 2018 midterm election here in the U.S. over at Washington Monthly. Please check it out.

For past electoral analysis in this vein, you may also be interested in:

The rural vs urban divide and the American Nations in the past three presidential elections, in the New York Times and, with data tables and such, at Medium.

The 2016 presidential election and the American Nations, including the hows, wheres, and whys of how Donald Trump succeeded where Mitt Romney and John McCan failed (at the Portland Press Herald.)

The 2013 Virginia governor's race and the American Nations.

The 2012 elections and the Republican problem in Yankeedom (Maine Sunday Telegram)

The 2012 primaries and the American Nations.

The 2011 off-year election and the Tea Party's problems at Washington Monthly.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The 2018 midterms and the American Nations

For the past week, readers of American Nations have been asking for an analysis of the midterm elections via the underlying regional cultures identified in the book, which defines our regions based on early colonization patterns and argues that they are and have always been proto-nations. If you’re unfamiliar with the paradigm, you’ll find a good digest here, a quick summary here, and the actual book here.)

With most of the contests resolved, the bottom line is clear: the 2018 midterms exhibited the same regional patterning we’ve long seen in presidential contests, and represents a hardening of regional divides.


argued after the 2016 contest that Donald Trump owed his narrow Electoral College victory to his ability to make gains in the Midlands and rural Yankeedom via very un-Republican communitarian promises he made on the campaign trail: government would rebuild infrastructure, revive US manufacturing, protect entitlements, and replace ObamaCare with something providing better coverage at lower cost. I predicted his failure to keep any of those promises would cause these “Trump Democrats” in places like the Upper Mississippi Valley, upstate New York, and rural Maine to revoke their support of him. His failure to condemn white supremacists, anti-semites, and xenophobes would further consolidate opposition to him in New Netherland (the Dutch-founded area around New York City), El Norte (the Spanish-settled parts of the southwest) and Tidewater (which has been rapidly transforming into something resembling the culturally pluralistic immigrant society of the Midlands.) 

Last week, this is precisely what happened.

At this writing, the Democrats appear to have flipped at least 35 US House seats, and nearly half of them (16) are districts in Yankeedom, the Midlands or straddling the two, including expansive (read: not urban) places like Iowa’s first and third districts, Yankee New York’s 22nd, and, almost certainly once Ranked Choice Voting there is completed, Maine’s white, Maine-2, which voted for Obama twice before giving Trump one of the Pine Tree State’s Electoral College votes. Of the remaining pick-ups, 12 were in El Norte, New Netherland, Left Coast and Tidewater. Just two were in the Far West and three in the Deep South. Greater Appalachia – the largest “nation” in the country with a population of nearly 60 million – netted just one.

In statewide contests, Democrats faced heartbreak in close races across Greater Appalachia and in the Deep South, including the Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas Senate contests. That there may have been an effort to steal the Senate and governor contests in Georgia and Florida via voter or vote counting suppression only reaffirms a shameful Deep Southern tradition.  By contrast, their pickups were in states controlled by Yankeedom and/or the Midlands (gubernatorial contests in Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas) and El Norte (New Mexico governor), plus two in Far West (Nevada Senator and governor) -- a region I’ve argued is primed for partisan realignment – and one in a state straddling El Norte and Far West (Arizona Senate.)

Where did Democrats flip state legislative chambers? In Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Minnesota – all Yankeedom -- New York (Yankeedom/New Netherland) and Colorado (Far West again.) Now state legislative control maps almost perfectly to the American Nations fissures. The 30 state houses Republicans fully control include every single state that is dominated by Deep South and Greater Appalachia, plus most of those in the Far West. Sixteen of the 18 state houses Democrats run are Yankeedom (including every chamber in New England), the Midlands, New Netherland, Left Coast and El Norte; the remaining two (Nevada and Colorado) are Far West. Today, only Minnesota has divided government.

At multiple levels of government, the partisan and American Nations maps have become more closely aligned than ever, largely because the parties are more ideologically oriented than ever. Notice the only real exception to partisan sorting involves a species now extinct in Congress: genuinely moderate Republicans of the old Eisenhower/Rockefeller variety that once held sway across Yankeedom. These endangered creatures – the white rhinos of American politics – easily won reelection to the governor’s mansions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maryland.

These are encouraging signs for Democrats in 2020, in that they all point to decisive net Electoral College gains for them over the 2016 map. But they’re yet another ominous sign for the survival of our awkward federation, a place where regional divides have become frighteningly acute.

[Update, 11/16/18: I have an expanded version of this analysis up over at Washington Monthly.]





Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Talking American Nations and the midterms on KABC Los Angeles


While Americans were voting, I rejoined Peter Tilden at Los Angeles' talk radio mega station KABC to discuss American Nations, American Character, and the implications for the midterms. Our conversation is available online as a podcast here. (See the Nov. 6, 2018 link.)

My prediction came true: Democrats made substantial gains in the US House in Yankeedom and the Midlands, flipping seats in Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, northern Illinois and (likely) Maine. Their other gains at this hour were almost entirely in Tidewater, El Norte, New Netherland and the Far West.

I was last on KABC in February 2017.

Enjoy the show and thanks again to Tilden and producer Joe Armstrong for having me on.



Monday, October 29, 2018

Coalition of pro-offshore oil governors is run by oil lobbying firm

Earlier this year, Maine Governor Paul LePage made a stir when he -- alone among Atlantic seaboard governors and in opposition to coastal New England's entire Congressional delegation -- supported the Trump administration's draft plan to open most federal and New England waters to oil and gas exploration.

At the time, I reported how he'd actually called for exactly this policy several months earlier, as chair of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group of pro-drilling governors whose other members area all from states where offshore oil is already extracted. I also put in a public records request for the governor's correspondence with and for the group, which was finally fulfilled this month.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have a story on what that request revealed: that the coalition is staffed and administered by employees of a Texas energy lobbying and consulting firm. Details in the story.

The lobbying firm was also active -- via the industry-funded non-profit advocacy groups it runs -- in the debate over solar power incentives in Maine and New Hampshire, and over loosening protections for New England's marine national monument.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Is Pittsburgh in the Midlands?, a redux

One of the great American Nations debates is whether Pittsburgh should be in the Midlands (it should!) or in Greater Appalachia (which some argue for.) For the past five years, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff columnist Brian O'Neill has been occasionally revisiting this question, starting in 2013, with a personal lament that I put his city in the Midlands, and again earlier this year, when he conceded the Appalachian label might not be quite right either.

This week he calls in a third party perspective with this delightful conversation with a self-identified Appalachian, Eric Jester, who argues for an Appalachian identity for the city.

"It's an ambitious man who defines the identity of a people who struggle [to] do so for themselves," Jester says. "The Appalachian in me loves the way a ridgeline dips into some tight little holler with a name like Scotia or Calamity; the way an orange stream dances around and under a tight winding road to the Youghiogheny; the way those fading miners' hoses sag a little in the middle."

Hope you enjoy the piece as I did.

For the record: I'm sticking with the Midlands, though I certainly agree that county-level resolution doesn't capture the subtleties of even first order regional cultural geography. But this placement is due to early settlement history, and to revealing events like the 1794 (Appalachian) siege of the city during the Whiskey Rebellion and not, as Jester writes, because of some "assumption that a beautiful city, a center of education and technology, and an historical hotbed of progressivism, could ever be associated with Appalachia." Greater Appalachia has a great many cities with most or all of those attributes -- Cinci, Louisville, Roanoke, Charlotte, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Nashville, Dallas, and Austin, just to name a few -- and the region pretty much gave us the "democracy" part of our liberal democracy, much to the trepidation of most of the Founders.

Now if only we could get Columbus's columnists to weigh in on that city's inverted status: Appalachian in American Nations, with many residents arguing for the Midlands.....

Friday, October 5, 2018

The making of Terry Hayes, independent candidate for Maine governor


Here in Maine, there's a four-way race to replace Governor Paul LePage, and I've been writing in-depth profiles of each of the contenders for the Maine Sunday Telegram -- pieces that ask who they are, where they came from, and what shaped their world view.

The final installment is in this week's Telegram, and is on state treasurer Terry Hayes, one of two independents in the race, who was effectively orphaned at 11, built a career in education, and served in the legislature as a Democrat before becoming state treasurer with largely Republican backing.

The other stories in the series are on Democratic nominee Janet MillsRepublican nominee Shawn Moody; and independent Alan Caron.

Hope you enjoy.

I last wrote detailed profiles of Maine statewide candidates for the Press Herald during the 2012 US Senate race, which was won by Angus King (I), currently Maine's junior senator.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

In Japan

I'm at the end of an enjoyable, whirlwind week in Japan. Unless, that is, the whirling winds of Typhoon Trami close Narita airport this late afternoon.

I came on the invitation of the Tokyo daily, the Asahi Shimbun, to present about the American Nations paradigm and its ramifications for the rise of Trumpism at the keynote panel of their Asahi World Forum 2018. Had the pleasure of hanging around the green room for a couple of hours ahead of time with Princeton University's Jan-Werner Muller, author of What is Populism?,  and Pascal Perrineau of Sciences Po, a leading expert on France's National Front. Muller, it turns out, shares my keen interest in Hungary (where I used to live and where his wife is from) and Perrineau is a regular visitor to New England, on account of a recurring visiting lectureship at Middlebury.

Here's Asahi Shimbun's write-up of our panel, if you read Japanese or can make sense of the Google Translate treatment of it. It ran with this dramatic photo of me making a point, probably about the Puritan conquest of Maine.

In the middle of the week, I spoke to graduate students and faculty at the University of Tokyo's Center for Pacific and American Studies on the kind invitation of Prof. Yasuo Endo, and then travelled to Kyoto where I finally met Prof. Yoshio Higomoto, who led the translation of American Nations into Japanese. I enjoyed speaking to his students and colleagues at Doshisha University which, funny enough, was founded by Yankee Congregational missionaries and has remained a leading institution in the study of the United States here, especially early American history.

I was able to spend a beautiful day visiting the temples, mountains, and river gorges of the Kyoto area before Typhoon Trami's approach compelled my premature departure from western Japan. Last night I wound up in the midst of the deserted, sprawling, and beautiful hillside temple complex in the city of Narita, not far from Japan's international airport where -- fingers crossed -- my flight will be departing just as Trami begins battering the Tokyo region early this evening.



[Update, 10/1/18: Wheels up on my flight home about an hour before Tokyo shut down its entire rail system for the first time in history. Typhoon Trami made a mess of that city of 35 million's Monday commute. Two people died elsewhere in Japan.]