Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Regarding Maine on the occasion of its 200th anniversary of statehood, in the Boston Globe

Maine turned 200 this year, but the Bicentennial celebrations were cancelled by the pandemic, with Gov. Mills spending the official birthday, March 15, advising Mainers to lockdown to prevent the spread of the then barely understood coronavirus.

I wrote a six-part series for the Maine Sunday Telegram on statehood's meaning that wrapped up just as Covid-19 spread into the state back in March, but I also wanted to present some key points to an external audience, one in Massachusetts in particular for reasons readers of The Lobster Coast will quickly ascertain. So in this week's Boston Sunday Globe Ideas section, I had this essay on Maine's experience as a colony of a colony, how it shaped our culture and people, and the ways in which the pandemic and other global developments may shake up the postcolonial trajectory my native state has long been on. Hope you enjoy.

This is my first byline in the Globe, but in September I spoke to Ideas staff writer David Sharfenberg about the battle for the national "soul" of the U.S., the topic of my most recent book, Union.

Update, 10/30/20: Bloomberg's Boston bureau has a radio show and podcast, Bloomberg Baystate Business, and hosts Tom Moroney and Joe Shortsleeve kindly had me on the show today to talk about the phenomena described in the Globe piece. My portion starts at 0:50:32.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

UNION named a Best Non-fiction Book of 2020 by the Christian Science Monitor

My thanks to the Christian Science Monitor's book reviewers for naming Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood as a Best Non-Fiction Book of 2020.

The Monitor's review of the book can be found here. It concludes: "The stakes are nothing short of determining how a nation thinks about itself, how it teaches posterity about itself. In “Union,” that battle sprawls out of the narrow confines of academia and embroils the entire country – and the fight is ongoing."

Also pleased to share the list with friend Arial Sabar, who also had a book out this year, and a former source when I was focused on the oceans beat, Caro Safina.

For more on Union, start here.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

COVID-19 continues its surge in Maine, stressing hospitals

Maine is fortunate to be doing better than almost any other state in the U.S. when it comes to containing the pandemic, but that isn't saying much. Over the past week Covid-19 has continued to surge here, with hospitals beginning to sound the alarm that their capacity and staff could be overwhelmed if the public doesn't redouble their efforts to slow the spread of the disease.

I have two recent stories in the Portland Press Herald covering the latest developments. 

The first, from Thursday's paper, looks at the state of capacity at the state's hospitals, which said they were holding their own by converting ordinary medical-surgical beds to ICU units to meet demand, though Maine Medical Center and Southern Maine Health Care Medical Center were both beginning to feel stress even then.

The second, from yesterday's print edition, provides an exclusive look at hospital-by-hospital Covid admissions and the trends over time. It shows a steep surge in recent days at MaineMed and record patient levels at most of the state's other major hospitals, including MaineGeneral, SMHC, and CMMC. Details herein.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Covid-19 continues surging in Maine, stressing contact tracing, hospitals

Happy Thanksgiving. Hopefully you're all spending it, as I am, in small gatherings because Covid-19 is exploding across the United States and until late January it doesn't appear there will be any cogent federal response, Hang tight.

Trends aren't good here in Maine, even though we still have the 49th lowest prevalence in the country after Hawaii. As I reported in the past few days for the Portland Press Herald, last week we hit new all time highs in hospitalizations, with medical centers in the eastern and central part of the state bearing the brunt of the burden. Intensive Care Unit capacity is rapidly becoming a front and center concern, two or three weeks ahead of whatever post-Thanksgiving boost the disease receives here. In yesterday's paper I reported on how the Maine CDC is already having to scale back the scope of contact tracing efforts, though they remain much more robust here than in most other states, definitely to include neighboring New Hampshire, which has officially given up on containment. 

As of yesterday, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor had hit 27 inpatients, quadruple their peak during the spring surge. Should have updated hospitalization tallies for you tomorrow, which I'll post here as an update.

As I wrote Nov. 16, models show the trends here in Maine will get worse over the next few weeks.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and wear your masks.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The 2020 Elections and the American Nations

The American Nations boundaries show up in just about every closely contested election, and the 2020 presidential contest was no exception.

With the help of my Portland Press Herald colleague Chad Gilley, I crunched the election results (as of November 10) via the regional cultures as well as breaking out each of those between rural and urban counties and even between each of the six degrees of urban/rural-ness as defined by the federal government's National Center for Health Insurance Standards.

The results can be found in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram and online here. (There's also a brief sidebar on the paradigm for readers unfamiliar with it.)

By comparison, here's the 2016 version of this exercise.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Covid hospitalizations surge to record levels in Maine

I monitor the Covid-19 inpatient trends at Maine's hospitals on a weekly basis and this past week was especially bad. Maine, which has been one of the most Covid-limited states in the U.S., just broke its all-time record for inpatients and, as I report in tomorrow's Portland Press Herald, much of the growth is occurring in places it wasn't present during the spring and early summer surges: eastern Maine, central Maine, and at small hospitals scattered around rural Maine.

Details in the story.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Speaking about Union and how the U.S. survives via Trinity Wall Street, Nov 12

Before the pandemic struck, I was looking forward to traveling to lower Manhattan this week to speak as part of Trinity Wall Street Church's Trinity Commons series. But things are as they are [gestures vaguely around in all directions] and so we'll be doing this event virtually. The good news is all of you can attend, wherever you are.

The event kicks off November 12 at 6:30 pm and you can register here. It's a conversation format with Trinity's Priest-in-charge and Vicar, the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson.

I'll be talking about the vulnerabilities of the U.S. as a nation, federation, and republic, our struggle to forge a story of shared purpose, and what we need to do to survive going forward. These are, of course, the topics of my new book Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, and American Character: The Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good. Together they form a trilogy and, I hope, provide informed paths forward for a beleaguered republic and the "great hope" it has long represented.

So do join us if you can. Stay safe out there and pray, if you do that sort of thing, that better times are ahead for the U.S. and the world.

(An unrelated programing note: if you happen to live in Denmark, I'll be you guest later today (Nov. 7) on Danish national television, talking about our election.)


Friday, November 6, 2020

Fareed Zakaria recommends American Nations for today's political moment in the US

Over at the New York Times Book Review today, Fareed Zakaria -- whose ideas about illiberal democracy were very helpful in my thinking through some of the concepts in American Character -- was asked what four books he recommended for this political moment in America

Here's his answer:

"Ezra Klein’s “Why We’re Polarized,” which gets at the state of our politics. Colin Woodard’s “American Nations,” which gets at the cultural divides. Samuel Huntington’s “American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony,” because it places the current moment in historical context. And Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” because it is still the best book ever written about this country."

That's some company to be in. Thanks much, Fareed! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Talking with CBC-Nova Scotia about the 400-year backstory to the 2020 election

The rest of the world is trying to understand what's going on with the United States and its (currently not quite resolved) election. 

So I very much enjoyed sharing the backstory (via the American Nations - American Character - Union trilogy) with CBC-Nova Scotia this morning for their longform Mainstreet program. It broadcast today, but can also be heard as a podcast here.

Last week I spoke with CBC-New Brunswick  (about Maine's role) and Denmark's Zetland Magasin about the grand American backstory.

Hope you're all getting more sleep than I am. But if you live in the United States, I very much doubt it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

New allegations against a Maine "medical supply" company led by man facing fraud indictments

It's Election Day 2020. Stay safe and, if you pray, do so for the survival of the American Experiment.

In my Maine reporting, I've been focused on the other crisis facing the world, the now-resurgent pandemic, and over the past few days I've been writing follow-ups on a story I broke in March about a Portland, Maine LLC headed by a man with a five-county criminal fraud indictment against him that had suddenly jumped into the medical supply business, trading in the shortage items desperately needed by hospitals and first responders.

Noble Partners, doing business as Noble Medical Supply, was the subject of my Portland Press Herald stories Friday and today, as allegations surfaced against the company and its founder Sean C. Grady. (Its customer-facing face is Diane Russell, former Democratic state legislator for Portland, who spoke at the 2016 DNC.) 

In Friday's story, news of a federal law suit against Noble and Grady in Florida; accusations of unreturned deposits for undelivered orders in Florida and California; a disgruntled sales representative and damaged masks in Texas; and, on the Internet, the company's website having been taken down by its provider and replaced with a demand for more than $15,000 in unpaid debts and a summary of Grady's legal problems in Maine and New Hampshire.

In today's story, the owner of a local Portland distillery lays out a story of a hand sanitizer production deal gone almost immediately bad, leaving his company out more than $150,000.

Separately, I also had this update on an uptick in Covid-19 hospitalizations in Maine and the unusual geography of that uptick. And to round out pandemic-related news coverage, in case you missed it, there is also this in-depth profile of Maine "superspreader wedding" pastor Todd Bell from Sunday's paper.

I last wrote about Noble Partners at the end of March, when they delivered a van load of masks and other supplies to some customers in Massachusetts as promised.

More on politics and the election anon.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Preacher and the Plague: a profile of the Maine pastor at the center of a notorious super spreader event

On August 7th, an obscure independent fundamentalist Baptists pastor presided over a wedding at a church he founded in the northern Maine town of East Millinocket, which was followed by a reception that did not comport to public health guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19. Two months later, he's known far and wide -- by deed if not by name -- featured in news coverage around the world after the wedding has been linked to nearly 200 cases and at least eight deaths in Maine and the pastor has remained defiant.

Who is Rev. Todd Bell, where did he come from, what are the characteristics of the movement he belongs to and which supports him and why do they lead him to continue hosting maskless singers in his Sanford church and attend events featuring maskless youth choirs in other states, as he did this past week? Is he accountable to anyone, secular or otherwise?

I explored Bell's life, movement, and mission for this in-depth profile in today's Maine Sunday Telegram. And thanks to the Press Herald's subscribers for making this kind of time consuming work possible for a state-level news organization.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Talking American Nations and the 2020 election with Denmark's Zetland Magasin

The world is watching as the U.S. staggers towards the highest stakes election since the 1870s Tuesday, and some reporters have been drawn to American Nations, American Character, Union and even The Lobster Coast for an explanation as to what is going on. Two stories came out yesterday.

Denmark's Zetland Magasin has this longform feature on American Nations and how it explains what's going on in this country. I enjoyed speaking with editor Jakob Moll and seeing my work rendered in Danish, the language of an eighth of my ancestors. Ny Holland! Det dybe sud! Great stuff.

Friday's Le Monde carried this feature on the disunited States, with a nice name drop (in excellent company) for my latest book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood. There are some scenes that take place in Paris, so perhaps a few readers there will discover the book.

On Monday, CBC-New Brunswick broadcast their story on Maine's second district, the topic of this post here at World Wide Woodard.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Talking US national identity and Union on America's Public Forum panel Nov 1

This coming Sunday, November 1, I'll be joining a virtual panel to discuss "The Search for a Shared American Narrative," which in its original 19th century guise, is the topic of my latest book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood

Fellow panelists are Damon Linker, columnist at The Week; James White, Chairman of the North Carolina Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission; and David Blankenhorn, President of Braver Angels, a civic non-profit that seeks to depolarize the country.

The panel, which kicks off at 7pm Eastern, is part of the America's Public Forum series on American national identity in the 21st Century and is convened by the Indiana-based Harrison Center, Sagamore Institute, and Braver Angels, as well as the National Institute for Civil Discourse and moderated by Alexandra Hudson, a scholar in residence at Harrison, an arts-as-development organization in Indianapolis.

It's free and open to the public, but as with most virtual events, you need to pre-register.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Talking the Two Maines, Maine-2, and the 2020 election with CBC-New Brunswick

Not surprisingly, the outside world is paying a great deal of attention to our pending election. An additional data point: I did interviews back-to-back Monday with journalists in Denmark and Canada about separate aspects of the cultural and political context for 2020.

The first of those interviews, with CBC-New Brunswick, is included in today's radio/text/television story on Maine's Second District, its politics, its differences with the First District, and its potentially decisive role in Tuesday's vote, as there's a scenario (however unlikely) under which its single electoral vote breaks a 269-269 Electoral College tie. Add in the race between Senator Susan Collins and his Democratic rival, former Maine House speaker Sarah Gideon, and there's a lot at stake.

Also, in a scene out of Cold War Berlin or Vienna, reporter, Jacques Poitras also interviews an American voter live across the closed border on the bridge connecting tiny Forest City, Maine (Population: 5) and Forest City, New Brunswick. It's fitting as Poitras is also the author of Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border, about our federations' shared frontier.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Speaking on Union (virtually) in Brunswick, Maine, Oct. 28

Tomorrow, October 28, I'll be speaking on my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood via the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine. Owing to the pandemic, this will be a virtual event, but the good news is that that means it's free and open to the public, anywhere and everywhere.

The event kicks off at 7pm and you can find the Zoom link and other details at the library's website here.

Signed books are on sale for this virtual event from co-sponsor Gulf of Maine Books, the intrepid independent bookstore that's been on Maine Street in Brunswick since I was in kindergarten. They're old school, so no website -- kind of the anti-Amazon -- so you purchase books tby emailing the store, gulfofmainebooks@gmail.com, or by calling 207-729-5083. You can even arrange to have me personalize them before pickup/shipment, as I live in the area. (I also can offer this service via Portland's Longfellow Books and Print: a Bookstore, which do have websites, if you need that.)

Also thanks to both GrowSmart Maine and the Maine Public Relations Council, each of which had me as a keynote speaker for their annual meetings last week. Enjoyed e-meeting many of you via the events, and speaking about some of the implications of Maine and New England's histories (via Lobster Coast and American Nations for GrowSmart) and the experience of covering 2020, here and away for the Maine PR Council.

My next public virtual event is being hosted out of Indiana: a Nov. 1panel discussion on the U.S. national identity hosted by the National Institute for Civic Discourse, the Sagamore Institute, and others. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Talking with Discover Magazine about causes of regional personality differences

Discover Magazine reported on a recent study on the relationship between topography and personality, and reached out to me for my thoughts on the causes of observed differences between the regions. Needless to say, I argued culture -- not topography -- was the more determinative force at work.

Read on to the article by writer Sophie Putka for the details. And for more on Frederick Jackson Turner's dead end, check out Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Talking UNION with Heartland Politics

Had an enjoyable conversation last week with Monmouth College political scientist Robin Johnson about the story told in Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood for his "Heartland Politics" radio show and podcast. 

The show now airs on WVIK, the NPR affiliate for the Quad Cities on Iowa/Illinois border: Davenport, Moline, Rock Island, and Bettendorf and our conversation can be heard here

The Quad Cities are classic Midlands country, in American Nations terms, and even have a cameo in Union, when the historian George Bancroft, former President Millard Filmore and a crowd of dignitaries arrive in Rock Island in 1854 as part of a junket sponsored by the new Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. They meet a non-descript railroad attorney during a Springfield, Ill. whistle stop on their way home and pay him no mind. They guy's name was Abraham Lincoln.

But I digress. Please: enjoy the show. 

I was last on air in Iowa this summer on Iowa Public Radio's River to River and was on Robin's show back when it was still hosted on KBUR just across the Mississippi -- thus the change from "K" to "W" in call letters -- to talk about what American Nations had to say about the state of US politics.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Chicago Magazine, Alabama Political Reporter on American Nations; Jeff Daniels on Union

As the highest-stakes U.S. election since 1860 fast approaches, various news outlets have been using American Nations to explain how things got so bad. Most interesting for me is when they use the book to analyze their own backyards, especially when those places are far from where I live.

Two cases in point over the past 48 hours:

The editor-in-chief of Alabama Political Reporter, Bill Britt, wrote this OpEd about the state of his state, using the observations I made about the Deep Southern social and political legacy. "Today, Alabama’s governance framework and, to a lesser degree, its society is much like the Deep South characteristics Woodard describes," Britt writes. "One Party rule. A dominant religion. A racial caste system. And a willingness to impose regulations on personal behavior while opposing almost every economic restrictions." 

To the north, Chicago Magazine has this feature using American Nations to explain why Illinois -- or at least it's dominant northern tier -- votes like New England. "In Lincoln’s day, New England-settled northern Illinois was the most anti-slavery part of the state," writer Eric McClellan argues. "Today, it’s the reason that Illinois votes more like a coastal state than most of its Midwestern neighbors."

And, separately, Jeff Daniels gave a shout out to my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood in this interview with AV Club. (He previously touted American Nations too.) Thanks, Jeff!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Coronavirus in Maine: York, Oxford county enter danger zone

Maine and its northern New England neighbors, New Hampshire and Vermont, have been the three healthiest states for almost the entire pandemic to date, with relatively low prevalence, hospitalizations, and per capita deaths. But, owing in no small part to a defiant independent fundamentalist Baptist preacher and his followers, the disease is poised to spin out of control in interior York County. The Rumford area in Oxford county is also raising red flags.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I had a detailed update on these developments and the state of the pandemic in Maine as the cold weather season approaches. 

In the past week and a half I also reported on staff getting infected at Waterville's Inland Hospital, but fortunately that appears to be under control.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Speaking on UNION via the Boston Athenaeum, Sept. 23

It is my great pleasure to be returning to the Boston Athenaeum on this coming Wednesday, September 23, this time to speak on my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood. Owing to the pandemic, this will be a virtual event this time, but the good news is that that means it's free and open to the public, anywhere and everywhere.

The event starts at 6 pm but you do need to register by Tuesday at 5pm. For more information, consult their page for the event herensult their page for the event here. Note that registration is indeed open now (despite the reference to it "opening shortly"), just click the red "Register" button on the right side of the page.

Books are being sold, online, by the Harvard Book Store, where I was scheduled to have an event this summer, before the pandemic put an end to book tours.

I was recently interviewed in the Boston Globe about the themes in the book, an article you can read here.

I last spoke at the Athenaeum in 2016 on American Character: The Epic Battle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Speaking with NPR's "1A" about non-voters in the United States

Nearly 100 million eligible U.S. voters chose not to exercise the franchise. Why not? What can be done to change that? Who would they vote for if they participated? 

These are among the questions I explored for POLITICO earlier this year, when the Knight Foundation released the largest ever study of American non-voters. And yesterday I joined National Public Radio's "1A" program to discuss what I learned and why it matters.

You can hear the full show -- which is produced at WAMU in Washington, DC -- via this link. Guests include Emory University's Bernard Fraga and Kat Calvin of Spread the Vote.

Callers asked about Ranked Choice Voting and I mentioned a bit about the experience here in Maine, which adopted it for federal elections before the 2018 midterms. Here's another POLITICO story I wrote about that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Talking with the Boston Globe about UNION and the war for America's soul

It was a pleasure speaking with the Boston Globe's David Scharfenberg last week about the struggle over the soul of the United States between defining ourselves by our ideals and doing so by way of preferred bloodlines -- the topic of my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood.

The story lead the Ideas section of Sunday's Globe and can be found online here. I hope you'll check it out.

Last week I also spoke to the New Yorker's Robin Wright for this essay.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Talking with The New Yorker about the forces of U.S. disunity

Almost a decade ago I posited, in the epilogue of American Nations, that the United States is vulnerable to dissolution. We're an unwieldy federation of rival regional cultures, many of which disagree on the fundamentals: What does freedom mean? Are we committed to the civic national promises in the Declaration of Independence? What is the correct balance between church and state, between individual liberty and the common good? 

"Faced with a major crisis," I wrote, it was possible "the edition's leaders will betray their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the primary adhesive holding the union together. In the midst of, say, a deadly pandemic or the destruction of several cities by terrorists, a fearful public might condone the suspension of civil rights, the dissolution of Congress, or the incarceration of Supreme Court justices." Some "nations" might be happy with this situation, others opposed. Without the constitution, they break their bonds. Some readers thought this possibility sounded crazy in 2011, even as a long-term proposition. Not so many do now.

Today we enter a presidential election in the midst of a global pandemic with the central question before us being: do we want to live in that civic nationalist republic or in a white supremacist ethno-state? Do we want to live in a western democracy or in under an authoritarian regime? We've been asked this before -- it's the story told in my new book, Union -- and it's this suite of questions that are now being asked every day. 

That's what lead me to be a central source for this Robin Wright New Yorker essay, which posted yesterday, entitled "Is America a myth?" To survive, Wright concludes, America is going to have to move beyond myth.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Coronavirus in Maine: a remarkably successful summer imperiled by defiant pastor's wedding

Maine managed to host a summer tourist season without epidemiological incidents, something of a miracle in and of itself and testimony to the commitment of Mainers and visitors alike to keeping Covid-19 in check. 

But a non-compliant wedding presided over by a defiant independent Baptist pastor is threatening to undo that progress, especially in York County, where it has spared outbreaks and where, perhaps not coincidentally, there's an oubtreak at said pastor's church and bible school. Public health experts I spoke to for this story in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram worry they may not be able to get the coronavirus genie back in the bottle.

Also in Saturday's Portland Press Herald I had this update on Covid hospitalization trends here in Maine.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Speaking on UNION and the creation and future of U.S. nationhood, Sept. 7 via Jesup Memorial Library

On the evening of Labor Day, September 7, I'll be giving a virtual talk and answering questions about Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood and the central issues therein: the ongoing battle for the United States's soul between a white supremacist ethno-national vision for the country and a civic nationalist one centered on the ideals in the federation's founding statement, the Declaration of Independence.

The talk, originally intended to be in-person, is hosted by the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, Maine in conjunction with the League of Women Voters - Downeast, Sherman's Bookstores, and Acadia Senior College and kicks off at 7pm. It's free and open to the public, but you do need to register here.

Signed copies of Union and some of my other books are available for online order, shipping, or pickup from Sherman's in Bar Harbor.

The following night, September 8, I'll be speaking about Maine's backstory (and The Lobster Coast) via the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor, Maine. 

I speak again about Union, virtually and free to the public, via the Boston Athenaeum on September 23.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Speaking on Maine's past and Lobster Coast via the Schoodic Institute, Sept.8

On September 8 at 7pm Eastern, I'll be talking about the backstory of Maine on the occasion of its Bicentennial: a harrowing and little understood saga of war and betrayal, of clashing empires and ethnic cleansing, of civil war and colonial occupation by Massachusetts of what had been a separate province. These events shaped Mainers as a people and explain some of the culture’s most impressive virtues and most frustrating faults, as well as the still fraught relationship between this land’s real natives and the rest of us whose families came “from away” at some point in the past four hundred years.

These are issues discussed in my history of coastal Maine, The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier, as well as my Maine Sunday Telegram series this spring, "Colony."

The talk, via Zoom, is hosted by the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor, Maine. It's free and open to the public, but you do need to register.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Speaking on Union and the battle to define US nationhood with the German Marshall Fund, Sept. 1

On September 1 at 10:30 Eastern (4:30 CET), I'll be speaking with the German Marshall Fund's executive vice president, Derek Chollet about Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood as part of GMF's ongoing (and, now, virtual) author series.

The event is free and open to the public, but you do need to register.

[Update, 9/17/20: Thanks to all who attended -- and there were a lot of you from both sides of the Atlantic! The talk is up on YouTube here.]

Here's the invite from GMF, who I thank for hosting this event:


Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood

A Book Talk with Colin Woodard


Tuesday, September 1, 2020
10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. EDT | 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. CET 


Colin Woodard

State and National Affairs Writer, Portland Press Herald


Derek Chollet

Executive Vice President, GMF 


Register for Event


The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is pleased to invite you to a virtual book talk with bestselling author, historian, and journalist Colin Woodard. His latest book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, describes the 19th century effort to create and propagate a national narrative for the U.S. that could unite its disparate regional cultures, a project that quickly became a battle between civic and ethnic nationalist visions for the young federation. Join Woodard and GMF Executive Vice President Derek Chollet as they discuss how the belief that the United States was or should be an American Anglo-Saxon ethnostate has confounded the country's efforts to achieve its civic ideals and continues to affect its political landscape and fundamental stability today.

If you have any questions, please contact Itai Barsade at ibarsade@gmfus.org.

Please consider supporting independent book sellers by buying a copy at bookshop.org if you are based in the United States.  



The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.



Colin Woodard, a New York Times bestselling author and historian, is the state and national affairs writer at the Portland Press Herald, where he received a 2012 George Polk Award and was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. A longtime foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and the San Francisco Chronicle, he has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and six continents. 


Derek Chollet is executive vice president and senior advisor for security and defense policy at GMF. Before joining GMF, he served as U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and held a number of senior positions at the White House and U.S. State Department. His forthcoming book is The Middle Way: How Three Presidents Shaped America’s Role in the World.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

How Maine won the first rounds against Covid-19

Maine, knock on wood, has weathered the pandemic better than most states, sometimes ranking 50th of the states in key metrics like new infections per capita. The disease can come back in a flash -- an outbreak tied to an illegal indoor wedding reception for 65 in the northern Maine town of Millinocket has infected at least 60 people in three counties and killed one woman who wasn't even there -- but Maine has done something right these past five months. 

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I explored what the factors were behind Maine's successful flattening of the initial surge, the fading away of a second surge in May, and the absence of a summer explosion as the state reopened its economy and tourists came here in large numbers. The conclusions: a combination of good policy, broad citizen compliance, fortunate geography, and some dumb luck early on.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Talking UNION with New Books Network

I recently sat down, virtually, with Diana DePasquale, instructor and doctoral candidate in American Studies at Bowling Green State University, to discuss my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood for, appropriately enough, the New Books Network podcast. 

How do we hold the United States together? How did we do it in the past? Where did our story of national purpose, self-definition, and origins come from? All the answers herein.

The episode is now available over at Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Speaking on Maine's formative history (virtually), August 20 via Biddeford Pool Summer Speaker Series

This Thursday, August 20, I'll be speaking on, well, why Maine and Mainers are they way they are and how events centuries ago shaped our fundamental, postcolonial character.It's the subject of my second book, The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier, as well as this spring's special series "Colony" in the Maine Sunday Telegram

The event is the final installment of the 2020 Summer Speaker Series hosted each year by the Biddeford Pool Union Church here in Maine. Unfortunately the pandemic has made this and so many other events impossible to hold in person, but it's going digital, which means anyone, anywhere can join. Kicks off at 7pm, but you do need to register. 

Details can be found on this poster at the Union Church's website. Here's the key bit: 

"To register for the Series, contact Elaine Robinson, 283-1398, or erobinson4@maine.rr.com. You will receive an email with Zoom call information. Donations gratefully accepted. 100% of proceeds benefit charities such as Seeds of Hope, Stone Soup Food Pantry, Ever After Mustang Rescue, and Saco Meals. Send check made out to “Union Church” with “Speaker Series” in subject line to UC Treasurer, PO Box 344, Biddeford Pool ME 04006." 

Other upcoming virtual events include: 
September 1, German Marshall Fund of the United States (on my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood

September 7, Jesup Library of Bar Harbor, Maine (ditto.) 

September 8, Schoodic Institute, Winter Harbor, Maine (on Maine's past, present, and future) 

September 23, Boston Athenaeum (on Union)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Reviewing Eric Posner's "The Demagogue's Playbook" in the Washington Post

In today's Sunday Washington Post, I review University of Chicago Law School professor Eric Posner's new book on demagogues and the American presidency. For someone who studied international relations -- and, thus, demagogues, at Chicago in the mid-1990s, it's sobering to stop and realize that the same forces we once analyzed in the "backward East" of Europe and now being analyzed again because they are at work undermining democracy and rule of law in our own country, with horrific stakes.

The Demagogue's Playbook: The Battle for American Democracy from The Founders to Trump argues that only two true demagogues have reached the White House in the history of the United States: Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump. What's that mean and why should you care? Read on.

The last book I reviewed for the Post was Donald Kettl's new book on federalism, The Divided States of America.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Talking UNION with Majority Report's Sam Seder

Yesterday I had an enjoyable conversation with Sam Seder of the "Majority Report" podcast about the struggle to create a story of United States nationhood in the 19th century and how the ethnnonationalist option won the day, for a time, in the 1910s. (It's the topic of my new book, Union.) You can hear the interview here.

Thanks especially to Seder and crew for having me on what was the first show since the death of their colleague and co-host, Michael Brooks, just days earlier.

I also recently spoke about the book with WUTC's "Scenic Roots," the long-format interview show at Chatanooga's NPR station, and with Peter B. Collins' podcast about the link between the cultural geography in American Nations and the pandemic response.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Maine pandemic updates: testing delays, low hospitalizations, few non-residents testing positive

A few recent updates on the pandemic situation in Maine:

Major national testing labs have been overwhelmed by the pandemic's surge in the Deep South and El Norte, and that's caused one to two week delays in getting COVID-19 results via many Maine providers who rely on these labs, including CVS, Maine Urgent Care, and Intermed. Fortunately, the state's strategy of increasing in-state capacity has limited the damage. The story is in tomorrow's Press Herald.

As of last Thursday, COVID-19 hospitalizations had hit a record low in Maine. That's great news in a state that has the third lowest per capita prevalence of the disease in the country. This usually lags exposures by two or three weeks and is not effected by how much and how well you do testing, so is a very solid indication that Maine was doing well at the end of June. I'll have a fresh update on this metric tomorrow.

And as of July 18 -- the latest date the Maine CDC could provide data for -- the number of non-residents testing positive remained low, and increasing at a rate of only 0.7 per day since the start of July. This is also welcome news as the most likely way in which the pandemic could turn worse here is via the introduction of infections from high prevalence regions to our south during the summer tourist season,.

Monday, July 20, 2020

An Online Event for UNION for Press Herald Subscribers, July 22

The Portland Press Herald is hosting a special event for subscribers: an online conversation between myself and Pulizter Prize-winning journalist and Press Herald digital editor Katherine Lee about Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood.

Katherine and I will kick off at 7pm. Subscribers can register via the links at this article announcing the event. (Make sure to use the email address your subscription is under.)

Thanks for supporting local journalism. To support local business, consider purchasing Union from one of Maine's many great, likely struggling-with-the-pandemic, independent bookstores. At this writing, you can find signed copies at Sherman's (Portland and Freeport); Gulf of Maine Books (Brunswick); Longfellow Books (Portland); and River Run Books just over the border in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Maine Sunday Telegram reviews UNION

Thanks to Thomas Urquhart for his review of my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, which recognizes the book's position in an informal trilogy with American Nations and American Character. The review ran in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram and is available for online reading here.

The Press Herald is hosting a virtual/live interview event July 22. More on that soon here, but details also via this link.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Talking UNION with KERA's Think

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being the guest on "Think," the long-format interview show produced by KERA, the NPR affiliate for Dallas, and carried on public radio stations across Texas and in fourteen other states. Thanks to Krys Boyd for an enjoyable conversation about Union and the struggle to define United States nationhood, which you can hear online here.

I was last on "Think" four years ago, speaking about American Character, a book about the American conflict between individual liberty and the common good, which is unfortunately extremely relevant in these pandemic times.

Also, tonight at 8 pm Eastern consider joining this virtual book party for Union, where you can also order signed or personalized copies that will then be shipped to your door.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Racist names banned by Maine law decades ago still on official registry

Based on a reader's tip, last week I discovered that Maine's official registry of coastal islands still contained several with names banned by law decades ago, including three with the "N-word."

How this could be remains unclear, as I reported in the Portland Press Herald, but the state has taken the registry offline for a full review. (The owners of two of the islands in question had already asked for a name change for them June 30 when they discovered the official names on their own.) Details in the story.

Thanks to New England Cable News for speaking with me for their follow up.

[Update, 7/22/20: I did a follow-up on the state's response.]

Monday, July 13, 2020

Virtual book event for UNION, July 16

Back before the pandemic hit, my friends Nate Fick and Margaret Angell had very kindly planned to host a book launch party for Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood,  here in Maine. Large in-person events being impossible, we've gone virtual with this one, which means everyone's invited!

So please join us at 8 to 9 pm Eastern on July 16 -- Pacific-friendly for our colleagues on the West Coast -- for virtual cocktails, a bit from me about the book and how I came to write it, and plenty of time for questions from all of you.

With the partnership of our local independent bookstore, Longfellow Books, you can not only order the book, you can have it signed or personalized by yours truly before it's shipped to you. (Or any of my other titles.) Just let us know the details in the "notes" section when you order here:


Here are the Zoom logistics for the evening:

Join at 8pm ET from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://elastic.zoom.us/j/95429485303

Or iPhone one-tap (US Toll): +16465588656,95429485303# or +13017158592,95429485303#

Or Telephone:  +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll) 

Thanks again to Nate (whose own, genuinely riveting, 2006 book about serving in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts has some surprise appearances from (now General) Mattis) and Margaret for hosting this, and to all of you for considering attending.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Reviewing Keane's "New Despotism" in Washington Monthly

Liberal democracies are under siege worldwide and a range of thinkers have been probing the reasons why.

John Keane, a professor of politics at the University of Sydney, has a new book explaining the threat, an allegedly new type of regime, The New Despotism. What are its characteristics? How does it differ from despotisms of the past? How does it threaten to unfold at home?

I explore these themes and offer a bit of my take in this review in the new print edition of the Washington Monthly.

My last review for the Monthly was of Jason DeParle's A Good Provider is One Who Leaves, an intimate portrait of global migration.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

American Nations and the geography of the pandemic

The geography of the U.S. response to the Covid-19 pandemic follows, like so many other things in American life, the fissures of identified in American Nations to a startling degree. I wrote about this briefly back in early April for Washington Monthly, when there was a notable divergence in the public policy response. With the Trump administration abdicating leadership, we're now seeing the case trends following these regional contours.

With the help of my Press Herald colleague Chad Gilley and the New York Times's county-level case data, we crunched and graphed the numbers and presented the results in this article in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram. There are detailed data tables for each of the eleven "nations" in the sidebar if you click through. It follows the individual liberty vs common good divide I discussed in American Character.

If you're not familiar with American Nations, here's the publisher's book description, a New York Times OpEd on how it trumps the rural/urban divide in US politics; a Washington Monthly piece on how it doomed the Tea Party, another piece on his it drives differences in violence and gun policy, and an analysis of the 2016 presidential election.