My recent book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, argues that there's never been on America, but rather several Americas, each with their own founding ideals and takes on the great American policy questions: what is the correct balance between individual liberty and communal freedom?; what is the right relationship between church and state?; what does it mean to be American?
It also argues that the political differences between these regional cultures can still be seen on today's political maps, including the "blue county / red county" maps of most every closely contested presidential contest of the past two centuries.
Skeptical? You may find the results of the recently completed 2012 presidential primaries sobering. It's the subject of my essay in the new issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, now available online for your reading pleasure. (Hint for academics: a brilliant core text to adopt for your 2012-2013 courses.) Regionalism played an overwhelming role in the G.O.P. contest, and revealed continued weaknesses for President Obama in Greater Appalachia.
This paradigm - and this all-revealing map of the "nations" [pdf] - has been getting renewed attention of late. Last week on Slate's "Political Gabfest" podcast, the magazine's chief political correspondent, John Dickerson, recommended American Nations.to Obama and Governor Romney as they prepare themselves for the general election. Steve Kornacki at Salon weighed in further on what is now being called "Obama's Greater Appalachia Problem," perhaps pivoting off earlier discussions from Alec MacGillis at The New Republic, Politico's Charles Mahtesian, and Andrew Sullivan's "The Dish" at The Daily Beast.
Regionalism: ignore it at your peril.