Monday, March 1, 2021

United States' myth of nationhood is all-important, but it carries a curse

The United States needs its national myth of shared nationhood more than most countries because it's almost the only thing that has held our rival regional cultures together. But, as I revealed in my latest book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, our civic national myth about being bonded together by fealty to shared ideals has always been contested -- and for decades defeated by -- a rival, ethno-nationalist vision.

I unpack all this in the context of the ongoing crisis exemplified by the attempted ethnonationalist coup on January 6th in this essay for Zocalo Public Square and Smithsonian Magazine, including some advice on how to save the federation and the republic. I hope you enjoy.


  1. American ImmigrantMarch 5, 2021 at 11:46 PM

    Colin, I read the "American ..." books. Would you explain why the midwestern states, including Pennsylvania, are now trending purple from reliably blue? And why southern states like North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia are trending purple from reliably red? Is it because the Appalachians / hillbillies are now allying themselves with the southerners unlike in the Civil War? Is it because blacks have migrated back into the southern states?

    1. The rural Midlands have embraced the ethnonationalist movement represented by Trump in a way they never embraced the policies of the Paul Ryan/John Boehner Republicans. That's taken IA, OH, IN, and MO off the map and made PA more competitive.

    2. American Nations argued that the Tidewater was vanishing due to the presence of the federal district and the naval base at Norfolk/Hampton Roads. That's continued apace.

    3. Georgia is an intriguing development. Too early to say if it says anything about the Deep South at large, though it is one of the biggest questions in politics right now.