I wasn't pleased with the results of last Tuesday's municipal election in Oriental. That makes three elections in a row that I found disappointing, but I am not discouraged. My adult life has been spent defending democracy, and I still believe in it. But the older I get, the more I understand Winston Churchill's remark that democracy is the worst system of government, except for all the others that have ever been tried.
We need to remember, though, that our form of democracy is not the only possible form.
Can we get better (more democratic) results with a little tweaking, or do we need more fundamental restructuring? Maybe not.
Last week, I received in the mail my copy of the Fall, 2013 alumni magazine from Tufts University. It included an article by a 1991 graduate, Colin Woodard, entitled "Up in Arms." "The battle lines of today's debates over gun control, stand-your-ground laws, and other violence-related issues," the heading declared, "were drawn centuries ago by America's early settlers."
Woodard looks at all of North America, dividing it into eleven identifiable nations: Yankeedom, New Netherlands, The Midlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, Deep South, El Norte, The Left Coast, The Far West, New France, and First Nation. The Washington Post asks, "which of the11 American nations do you live in" and includes a link to the article. It is well worth reading. Building on the work of historian David Hackett Fisher, whose seminal work of cultural history, Albion's Seed, calls attention to four original migrations from the British Isles, Woodard also cites later work by the social psychologist Nisbett, Robert Baller of the University of Iowa, Pauline Grosjean of Australia and others.
The most interesting feature of Woodard's article is a map depicting, county by county, the location of each of the eleven dominant "nations" today. It turns out that I have lived in eight of the eleven nations.
How does this play out in American political life?
Since 1990, I have followed the work of the Times-Mirror Center, now the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press. Following each presidential election for the past twenty-two years, the Center has surveyed the public for opinions on public policy. Each survey results in a "political typology," breaking down the population into anywhere from nine to eleven clusters of opinion.
The most recent typology, published here, breaks the population down into ten groupings. None is likely to correspond to First Nation, but I find it interesting that the number of the Pew Center's clusters is so close to the number of "nations" in Woodard's article. It would be very interesting to see a county by county breakdown of the Pew Center's typology.
People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.