He wrote a book called American Nations, which I just read for the first time. He offers a model of America as having a culture that can be thought of as eleven different nations, each dominant in particular geographic regions. It seems to me that it is a book that someone should have pressed me to read before. I will be recommending it often in the future, I am sure.
Woodard sees a centuries-long struggle for power between the nation he calls Yankeedom (New England) and the two nations that he calls Tidewater and Deep South. His antipathy toward the latter shows through, especially in the final chapters of the book.
More recently, he has some essays that I am checking out. In this essay, he claims that the urban-rural divide is simplistic and wrong, and that his 11-nations model works better.
In five of the regional cultures that together comprise about 51 percent of the U.S. population, rural and urban counties always voted for the same presidential candidate, be it the “blue wave” election of 2008, the Trumpist storm of 2016, or the more ambiguous contest in between. In Greater Appalachia, the Deep South, Far West, and New France, rural and urban voters in aggregate supported Republican candidates in all three elections, whether they lived in the mountain hollers, wealthy suburbs, or big urban centers. In El Norte, both types of counties always voted Democratic, be they composed principally of empty desert or booming cityscapes.
…The stark urban-rural divide in the country is to be found almost exclusively in the Midlands, where it has a disproportionate effect on the Electoral College, as that region straddles several historic swing states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, and Missouri among them.
I am curious to delve into his 11-nations model and to consider each nation in economic terms. Are there likely differences in what they import and export? Differences in wealth? etc. Here is a first pass, using nine of his nations (omitting New France, which is mostly in Canada, and First Nation, which is locations with a lot of Native Americans). The table offers my impressions of the leading industries in the various regions.
|Nation (Woodard’s name)||Typical Cities||Major industries|
|Yankeedom||Boston, Madison||Higher education, high tech, health care|
|New Netherland||New York City, Greenwich Ct.||Financial services, entertainment, international trade|
|Midlands||Philadelphia, Peoria||Agriculture, manufacturing|
|Tidewater||McLean, Newport News||Federal government, military|
|Greater Appalachia||Wheeling, Muskogee||Extractive (mining, forestry, etc.)|
|Deep South||Charleston, Mobile||Agriculture, manufacturing|
|El Norte||El Paso, Tijuana||Extractive, retirement services|
|Left Coast||San Francisco, Portland, Ore.||High tech, international trade|
|Far West||Bozeman, Rapid City||Extractive, tourism|
I am wildly guessing about the industries for El Norte. I think he wants to limit it to the southwestern U.S. (plus northern Mexico), and he wants to exclude southern Florida.
I am not sure where Los Angeles fits in his scheme. It must be an amalgam of some sort. Some of New Netherland, with its ethnic diversity, ambition, and glamour. Some of El Norte, with its Hispanic population. Perhaps an element that is Far West, where there is dependence on government investment combined with resentment of government.
Any other criticisms or suggested modifications to my industry guesses are welcome.