Colin Woodard: Regional cultures distorted by federal government’s treatment

by Ben Rodgers, managing editor

The idea of red states and blue states, or even one singular United States of America is non-existent, Colin Woodard explained at the Iowa History Center lecture at Simpson.

As he laid out in his most recent book, American Nations: A History of Eleven Rival Regional Cultures, there are 11 distinct regions each with differences which help to understand our nations history, national identity and the current political climate, which he claims is ideological as much as it is geographical.

“We all know regionalism is important,” Woodard said. “Even in this Tea Party era a place like Maine or Mississippi might as well be on separate planets in terms of religious values, political priorities, ideas about the role of government, the balance between church and state and even the meaning of important words in the American lexicon as freedom.”

In his lecture Woodard argues that America is just as divided as Europe, saying the cultural regions in the country are more diverse and share fewer values in common than any two countries in the European Union.

Woodard said the issue with the ideas we have of regions come from those set by the federal government such as the Midwest or the Northeast.

“This approach distorts and dilutes the true role of these regional cultures because it misses the true cultural fissures which have been historically based, consistent through the centuries and rarely respect state or international boundaries,” Woodard says.

In his lecture Woodard laid the elven different regions of America as: Yankeedom, New Netherland, The Midland, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, The Deep South, El Norte, The Left Coast, The Far West, New France and the First Nation.

Woodard points out that the original settlers were all from distinct parts of England as well as other European countries, making each colony different when it comes to their own outlook on religious freedom, politics and societal characteristics.

In the map Woodard used to show the separation of these cultural nations, Iowa lands mostly in the Midlands with the northern most counties falling into Yankeedom.

Woodard said culturally, Yankeedom prides education, intellectual achievement and community over individualism. Varying from Yankeedom, the Midlands prides itself as America’s great swing region who believe in peoples inherent goodness.

Woodard said the effects of these cultural nations on America’s history have been extremely profound playing roles in major historical events such as the Revolutionary War, the Constitutional Convention, the Civil War, the culture and civil rights wars of the 1960s and any hotly contested presidential elections.

“The point is there has never been one America, there have been several of them and today there are eleven,” Woodard said.