So why doesn’t the United States fly apart at the seams?

Nation Builders
Simon Winchester’s ‘Men Who United the States’
By Stephen Mihm
The New York Times

“So why doesn’t the United States fly apart at the seams? James Madison may have had it right when he argued that a large, decentralized republic spread over a vast territory was more likely to survive than one confined to a much smaller landmass. A sprawling, diverse nation like the United States would necessarily encompass so vast a variety of people that no single group could consistently impose its will on the others. In Madison’s pragmatic if paradoxical vision, our very differences would keep us together. The nation would remain united because no bloc or faction can command sufficient political power to divide it and destroy the union.

“Of course, Madison couldn’t foresee the conflict over slavery, when two distinct sections of the country went to war over their differences. But this has been the exception, not the rule. Today, the nation is rarely, if ever, united on any single political issue. Our loyalties are too divided, too fractured and too unpredictable. Our diversity divides us, but in the process, guarantees that the larger union endures.”

21 thoughts on “So why doesn’t the United States fly apart at the seams?

  1. America was held together by the WASP domination until the 1960s. Since then it has been falling apart. California is leading the way with it’s extreme diversity, failing economy and exodus of White middle class. You’ll probably see something similar to Italy where has gained increased economic autonomy. Tyroleans don’t won’t to pay for Sicilians because they have nothing in common. I imagine that is how people in Wyoming or North Dakota feel about California or Alabama.

    • Hello, Staffan! What a coincidence that you stopped by. I was reading you post about Openness to Experience. Personality research is a favorite topic of mine.

      It seems to me America has always been in a constant state of “falling apart”. It is what has made the country dynamic since colonial times. Before the American Revolution, the Deep South had a black majority and the Midlands had a German majority. Large areas of the Southwest have had and still have a Hispanic majority for longer than they’ve been part of the US. Also, New Netherlands had a Dutch majority, New Sweden had a Swedish majority, and New Orleans along with Northern sections of present US had a French majority. French and German are still spoken in areas of the US North.

      The United States at no point in its history has ever been an English majority. It has always been a multicultural country, especially the Mid-Atlantic states and the Midwest but also including the rural South with its non-Anglo-Saxon Scots-Irish, Irish and Scottish. That is nothing new. Even the urban South has its centuries-old traditions of multiculturalism. I spent part of my life growing up in South Carolina which has always been a cosmopolitan place because of the particular aristocracy who settled there. There was an influential French Huguenot population in Charleston.

      As for the 1960s, that was a highly unusual and very brief moment in American history.

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/midlands-mestizo-pluralism-and-social-democracy/

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/7473/

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/southern-multicultural-traditions/

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/generational-change-and-conflict-immigration-media-tech-etc/

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/centerville-ia-meeting-point-of-diversity-conflict/

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/generations-at-the-age-of-twelve/

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/ku-klux-klan-and-the-lost-generation/

    • People have been predicting America will fall apart for as long as the country has existed. Some predicted, during the revolutionary era, that America never would find a way to unify all the diversity.

      I sometimes think America would be better off if it did fall apart, but it has so far proven unlikely. America has seen far worse diversity and divisiveness than what we see now. In early America, many people didn’t even speak the same language, much less share the same culture. We have become a country that has learned how to assimilate immigrants.

      That said, any state or region that has a majority that wants to secede is free to try as far as I’m concerned. I have my libertarian leanings and I’ve always wondered what America would’ve been like if the South had successfully seceded.

      • Well, people may have predicted the demise of America for a long time but I haven’t : )

        While it’s true that there hasn’t been a time of English majority I don’t think that is what matters. It’s a question of dominance. One measure of this is major film actors over the years: Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Gary Cooper, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, James Stewart etc etc.They all had English sounding names. And if those who weren’t one of them, like Issur Danielovitch Demsky or Emmanuel Goldenberg, changed their names to Kirk Douglas or Edward G Robinson.

        They weren’t the majority but they were in charge, politically and culturally. Then in the 1960s they were challenged and their influence has been declining ever since. As soon as that dominance was broken you got that “anomie” sociologists speak of. And the normlessness quickly turned into violence which has only subsided as the population has become older in the 1990s.

        Another way of looking at it is this: are there any peaceful countries with no dominant tribe? Look at what happened in Eastern Europe when the Russian stopped ruling over other countries. They fell apart along ethnic lines to form stable independent nations. Even Serbia has a lower murder rate than America now. Much lower.

        You also have the fact that Republicans and Democrats are moving to states that have those majorities. It’s been going on since the 1970s. People want to live in “their” America – and there is more than one version.

        Can you think of a country that has been peaceful and prosperous without a dominant tribe?

        • “It’s a question of dominance.”

          I just don’t see American culture as being that simple. Sure, there are dominant elements. But the US isn’t a traditional ethnic nation-state. It is a federal government, a federation of states each with its own history, ethnic groups and cultural traditions. What holds the country together is less culture and more politics.

          There is a dominant culture. It’s called being American. We’ve created a semblance of shared culture that has less to do with foreign countries of origin and more to do with a shared history or rather intertwining histories placed into a national meta-narrative.

          If the English had tried to dominate America, the country probably would have fallen apart long ago. That is the only thing that keeps secession from so far being successful.

          The English and British Southerners wanted to secede because they didn’t feel the national culture was theirs. They wanted to be able to force their culture and their politics onto everyone else (expand slavery and make slave laws enforceable in non-slave states), but that just led to division and resistance. Oddly, it was the non-English and non-British immigrants who in their large numbers helped win the Civil War for the Union. It was the multiculturalist North that fought for the federal vision of unity. The monoculturalists, however, fought for the South and lost. The North won for the very reason that it allowed diversity without enforcing English culture onto non-English immigrants.

          “One measure of this is major film actors over the years”

          There are lots of measures. Many popular American foods and words are, for example, German in origin.

          “They weren’t the majority but they were in charge, politically and culturally. Then in the 1960s they were challenged and their influence has been declining ever since.”

          You are once again taking a short period and treating it as being representative. America had a long, diverse history prior to mainstream media. America isn’t Europe. There never has been a single dominant ethnic culture here and so there is no single dominant ethnic culture with which to clash. What you say might be true for traditional ethnic nation-states.

          “You also have the fact that Republicans and Democrats are moving to states that have those majorities. It’s been going on since the 1970s. People want to live in “their” America – and there is more than one version.”

          Actually, I don’t see any evidence of that happening on the state-level. People do segregate according to other divisions such as urban vs rural or sometimes by neighborhoods. At the state level, movement of people has to do more with job opportunity and housing costs, not politics. If every eligible in the South voted, it would solidly go to Democrats. How red and blue states are portrayed in the media is a bit simplistic and deceiving.

          “Can you think of a country that has been peaceful and prosperous without a dominant tribe?”

          That seems like such a vague question. The term ‘tribe’ could be defined in so many ways. If people call themselves Americans, then that is their tribe. So, to use that word, America does have a dominant tribe, but it just so happens to be a tribe of unity within diversity.

          Yes, this might fail and lead to separate states. Then again, many countries and empires have tried to force conformity and failed. There is no country or empire in history that didn’t eventually fail. Peace and prosperity never lasts, no matter what is done. It is all an experiment. So, far no single societal experiment in all the world has proven to have succeeded in terms of avoiding war, economic troubles and ethno-cultural change.

          The borders between England and Scotland, between France and Germany were created by the Roman Empires failed attempt to unify Europeans. Conformity always fails with diverse populations across large territories. All the other empires, including the British Empire, who tried to force conformity also failed. America is an empire that decided to try a new method in order to avoid the failure of past empires.

          Everything fails in the sense that everything eventually comes to end. This is as true for countries and empires as for human lives. Everything changes and nothing lasts. You have to learn to, as the Taoists say, bend with the wind or else break. But even things that bend with the wind eventually break, even if they extend themselves a little longer. Life is fleeting. If you’re seeking salvation in permanence, you should put your faith in religion or something and not political entities like governments and national cultures.

          Like an individual, a country goes on until it can’t. There is nothing wrong about that. Who cares? If the US fails and breaks up into separate smaller countries, that is fine. It was fun while it lasted. There is nothing wrong with experimenting to see what is possible. At least it is better than simply repeating the same old mistakes from the past. We might as well seek out novelty. Who knows we might discover something new.

          All of civilization is the process of societies trying new things. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. But if no society ever tried anything new, we’d all still be hairless apes roaming around in small groups. Heck, even tribes were a massive leap of cultural innovation.

          Anyway, I’m not sure many Americans want to copy the examples of Europe. Besides, those most open to the examples of Europe actually are those on the left side of politics.

        • The history of Europe is that of endless warfare. The European mainland and the British Isles have been politically divided in so many ways these past centuries. It has only been semi-stable in that region since WWII which wasn’t that long ago. So Europe is able to maintain stability for a little over a half century. I’m not impressed.

          There is a problem with having a single ‘tribe’ that dominates and tries to force conformity on everyone else. When that tribe loses power, everything goes into chaos. American has chosen to solve this problem by ensuring no single ‘tribe’ gains too much power… or at least that is the theory, although a ‘tribe’ of elites have been gaining power in recent history.

          I don’t know that the American experiment will prove successful, but American-style multiculturalism has been going strong for more than a couple of centuries now with only one intervening civil war. Not bad compared to the record of European countries with their greater ‘tribal’ conformity.

          But if Europe ever gets its act together and stops being so politically violent and internationally tumultuous, that is fine by me. I’m not for forcing a one-size-all solution onto all societies. If tribal conformity works for a society, then prove that it works by being a successful society and other societies will follow your good example. First, though, you have to prove it can be done.

          The same goes for America. We have kept it going for a couple of centuries with less continental violence and warfare than Europe. So, we aren’t doing too bad, but I wouldn’t say we’ve proven ourselves. Let us have a competition. Everyone try out their separate systems and the last one standing wins. Or if several remain standing, all the better. Diversity of experiments is good for survival of the species or at least survival of civilization.

          I know the American experiment seems crazy to some people. Every new social experiment has seemed crazy. The first leader to propose building a city-state probably was considered crazy. The first person to plant some crops instead of foraging was probably considered crazy. I can’t convince anyone else who isn’t American to want to be a part of our American experiment. I can’t even convince myself that it will necessarily succeed even on its own terms. I just think it is interesting. It seems like a shame to end a several centuries old experiment before it has concluded. Let us play it out and see what happens.

          • The migration of Republicans to red states and vice versa is mentioned in Jonathan Haidts book “The Righteous Mind”.

            Me earlier, “Can you think of a country that has been peaceful and prosperous without a dominant tribe?”

            “That seems like such a vague question. The term ‘tribe’ could be defined in so many ways. If people call themselves Americans, then that is their tribe. So, to use that word, America does have a dominant tribe, but it just so happens to be a tribe of unity within diversity.”

            Tribe means ethnic group. Its blood and history. Look around the world and tell me where are the countries with no dominant ethnic group that are peaceful and prosperous.

            “There is a dominant culture. It’s called being American. We’ve created a semblance of shared culture that has less to do with foreign countries of origin and more to do with a shared history or rather intertwining histories placed into a national meta-narrative.”

            “There never has been a single dominant ethnic culture here and so there is no single dominant ethnic culture with which to clash. What you say might be true for traditional ethnic nation-states.”

            “There are lots of measures. Many popular American foods and words are, for example, German in origin.”

            And yet every hero in every movie, the most popular of art forms, especially in America, just had to have an English name and look like a European.

            “It was the multiculturalist North that fought for the federal vision of unity. The monoculturalists, however, fought for the South and lost. The North won for the very reason that it allowed diversity without enforcing English culture onto non-English immigrants.”

            If you look at the leaders of the North, they all have English names, except for Carlos Buell. And a list of presidents by ethnicity will show a similar dominance. At least 33 of 43 presiden have been of English ancestry and 38 have ancestry from the British Isles. Of the remaining five, three have been Dutch, one German and then Obama, who is long past the 1960s. That is not much diversity.

            “You are once again taking a short period and treating it as being representative. America had a long, diverse history prior to mainstream media. America isn’t Europe. There never has been a single dominant ethnic culture here and so there is no single dominant ethnic culture with which to clash. What you say might be true for traditional ethnic nation-states.”

            No, I treat the 1960s as exceptionell since that was the breaking point. And food is not a much compared to film. Films reflect the values and ideals of the audience. And the hero was never Mexican, Swedish, Jewish, Polish, French etc. He was always English or Anglo. And in 95 percent of the time, so was the president. That is the mark of a dominant tribe.

  2. Let me start a new comment thread.

    “The migration of Republicans to red states and vice versa is mentioned in Jonathan Haidts book “The Righteous Mind””

    I don’t doubt some people move because of politics, but my point is that it is insignificantly small in most cases. The impact of self-segregation would be felt more on the smaller scale of cities, suburbs,counties. I live in a farming state that almost always votes for Democratic presidents, but it the rural Western part of the state is strongly Republican. Many states have mixed populations like this and elections often teeter on small numbers of voters.

    Maybe the South has slightly more Republicans than before. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it does remain true that the majority of eligible voters in the South are Democrat-leaning. Republicans (and before them the former racist Democrats) have maintained power only by disenfranchising most of the population for its entire history. Besides, whole states switch between red and blue across the generations. The South switched party loyalties not long ago. Most states and regions are mixed populations.

    My point was that most of the demographic shifts in the US have been about employment (along with immigration), not politics. Right now, there is a big shift of the American population moving South, many of them Blacks. Most of these people moving South aren’t doing so because of the politics. It is because the Industrial Belt has been hit hard and they need work. States like Texas have more employment in recent years, but even Republican states like Texas have a long history of progressivism. A shift in the population as we are seeing could switch Texas to Democrat victories (or even make much of the rest of the South turn Blue).

    The political divisiveness in America is small compared to previous eras. The early 1920s, for example, when the largest wave of immigration happened in US history and when the KKK asserted its power. Also, there was the era of Reconstruction and Populism in the late 1800s which involved mass social, political and economic transformation. Before that, there was the decades prior to the Civil War, there was the Jacksonian Era, and there was the election of 1800. All of those eras threatened national survival more than our present political situation.

    If you’re interested, here is an interactive map that shows the breakdown of every national election back to 1789.

    http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/

    I noticed some divisive elections. In 1824, the country was divided by 4 major candidates. In 1836, divided by 3 major candidates. In 1860, divided by 4 major candidates.

    It is important to remember that people self-segregating in America for various reasons (political, economic, cultural, etc) is nothing new. That is the entire history of the United States. That is how the separate colonies developed their separate identities that later came to inform the separate identities of the regions. The North/South political divide we see today has its origins from early America. The specific Republican/Democrat divide goes back to 1856 and has existed continuously since.

    “Tribe means ethnic group. Its blood and history. Look around the world and tell me where are the countries with no dominant ethnic group that are peaceful and prosperous.”

    I know what you meant by ethnic group, but what you don’t seem to understand is ethnic groups are invented. If you look at the history of any people, they are a mix of many other former ethnicities.

    Even the British are a mix of Irish (who have some Basque origins), Scottish, Welsh, other Celtic tribes, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Romans, Normans, etc. The British ethnicity is an invented ethnicity as are all ethnicities. Even the English ethnicity was a mix of those Celtic, German, and French ancestries with each enforcing its dominance for a time. The language is German in origin, its common law is a mix of Celtic and German, its imperial politics and nationalist tendencies has its origins with the Normans.

    Any mix of people that interbreeds together for several centuries begins to develop into a single ethnicity. The Germanic tribes were complex and quite diverse. Some stayed in Germany and others went elsewhere in Europe. Different German tribes with separate ethnic cultures have at various times sought to dominate other German tribes, indigenous British, Romans, French, etc. Eventually, they became mixed up with the local populations creating entirely new hybrid ethnicities.

    “And yet every hero in every movie, the most popular of art forms, especially in America, just had to have an English name and look like a European.”

    Once again, to repeat myself, you are looking at a brief period of history and projecting it back onto all of American history. After the world wars, especially after the second, there was a window of oppressive conformity and the lowest immigration rates in our history. That did show up in the MSM, but it wasn’t representative of most of American history. Even into the 20th century, German majority cities were still teaching in the German language in their public schools. So, what you are arguing for is that the destruction of traditional American culture was a good thing.

    Even so, it was only destroyed outwardly. German culture still plays a dominant role in America. What you perceive as English culture is actually a hybrid mostly between English and German. You may not like this fact, but it is still a fact. Anyway, Germans look European. Hundreds of different ethnicities look European.

    “If you look at the leaders of the North, they all have English names, except for Carlos Buell. And a list of presidents by ethnicity will show a similar dominance. At least 33 of 43 presiden have been of English ancestry and 38 have ancestry from the British Isles. Of the remaining five, three have been Dutch, one German and then Obama, who is long past the 1960s. That is not much diversity.”

    You make the mistake made by many non-Americans who don’t understand American ethno-cultural history. Presidents don’t define regional cultures that are built on diverse ethnicities. The Germans for most of American history did their own thing. Sure, they voted for a president with an English-sounding name and then they went back to celebrating their own culture and teaching their children in German. Likewise with the Hispanics in their majority position in the Southwest, most of whom always have maintained their own separate culture and language.

    The point is that, even among those English-sounding presidents, they were all ethnic hybrids and American mutts. They had diverse ancestries, were raised in diverse regional cultures, and had very different even polar opposite visions of America. None of them were trying to re-create England in North America.

    “No, I treat the 1960s as exceptionell since that was the breaking point. And food is not a much compared to film. Films reflect the values and ideals of the audience. And the hero was never Mexican, Swedish, Jewish, Polish, French etc. He was always English or Anglo. And in 95 percent of the time, so was the president. That is the mark of a dominant tribe.”

    It was a time of oppression. It was the Cold War Era. It was probably the most nationally oppressive period in American history. As I’ve said, it was highly unusual. It was a breaking point of America’s long history of multiculturalism. If you don’t understand that long complex history, you understand absolutely nothing about America.

  3. I know this is hard for a non-American to understand. It is hard for many Americans to understand. This is such a large country with a diverse history.

    Europe is entirely different. Most European countries are small with native populations that have been living there with a continuous culture, in many cases, for thousands of years. Forcing conformity onto smalller non-diverse population is rather easy or relatively easier, although even then it doesn’t always work.

    Many people have sought to force conformity on all Americans. Many tried and failed during the 19th century which led to the Civil War. The KKK tried and failed. Some of these people were more successful during the Cold War, but even then not particularly successful compared to European countries.

    What you don’t understand is America doesn’t even have a single English or British culture.

    The Deep South has a culture originally built on English and Scottish aristocrats. One of my ancestors was an early Scottish aristocrat who settled in Virginia in the 1600s. The Upper South, where my mom’s family comes from, is largely Scots-Irish who hated the English, especially the English aristocrats. There has been an internal battle in the South over who culturally dominates the region, but there has been sort of a truce if not entirely a unity since the Civil War.

    You understand all of this, I’m sure. The Yankees have their culture. The Midlanders has their culture.

    I’m a Midlander, the region along with New Netherlands/New York City that is the region of American multiculturalism. Now, that is what you don’t understand. The culture of multiculturalism is partly an English culture, specifically the Quaker culture. So, the multiculturalism that dominates American society is an English culture. As for New Netherlands/New York City, that is a culture that has always had a close connection to English culture. John Locke lived in Netherlands for a while which is also where Spinoza lived at the same time, the two big giants of the Enlightenment.

    My principle in life is that I don’t want to oppress others nor be oppressed by others. I don’t want Southerners or New Englanders or West Coasters to force their respective cultures onto me and my region. At the same time, I don’t want to force Midlands and New Netherlands culture onto the rest of the country.

    The odd thing about WWI and the Cold War that confuses the best of us is that it was an era of a strange kind of conformity. The US was trying to create national unity and patriotism at the same time it was trying to distinguish its society from that of the oppressive conformity of the Nazis and later the USSR. Maybe this is why Midlands and New Netherlands multiculturalism became the dominant culture in America. Also, because this was the region of most of the country’s population and most of the country’s economic wealth.

    If you look back at the origins of this kind of multiculturalism, you’ll understand that it isn’t opposed to cultural dominance of a sort.

    In New Netherlands, you were free to do or be almost anything. All that the ruling elite cared about was a classical liberal ethos, not so much democratic in politics although socially democratic. It was live and let live. New York City still isn’t a strongly democratic place and still is run by a ruling elite with their dominant culture, just a dominant culture that couldn’t care less about your ethnicity or religion.

    Likewise, in the Midlands, the Quakers were the original ruling elite. That allowed a lot of diversity, even encouraged it. It apparently didn’t bother them that they were a minority. The majority Germans who supported them didn’t seem to mind being ruled over by a minority because that minority allowed them the freedom to maintain their German culture.

    You can have multiculturalism with a dominant culture at the same time. All empires have done this and America simply modernized the imperialist model. If you want to rule over diverse people and avoid endless warfare, you have to learn to be very tolerant. The Romans had to learn this. As long as you gave your loyalty to the emperor and the empire, Jews could be Jews, Greeks could be Greeks, and no one was forced to assimilate. The Roman Empire lasted longer than most European countries have existed in their present form.

    The Germans who conquered part of the Roman Empire formed the Roman-style Norman Empire. The Normans imported this imperialism to the British Isles where it created the foundation of the national culture of England. And then England imported it to America where it became modernized into an expansionist federalism.

    Empires have always been multicultural. It is the inevitable result of conquering diverse peoples over vast territories. That is what America did with its expansionism across North America and to the island territories in the Pacific and Caribbean (a total of 9 territories outside the mainland, five populated and four not).

    Such large empires like the US fail in two ways. They often eventually overreach their grasp. They have more territory than they can control. This isn’t just about military control. You are correct that there is a ruling tribe of sorts, although the identity of that tribe is more muddled in America. Multiculturalism and cultural dominance must balance one another. In overreaching, they might fail not from a lack of control but from trying to force to much control. The latter is what happened the British Empire with its American colonies.

    The US is in the situation of trying to not repeat the mistakes of past empires. I’m personally not a fan of empires. So I wouldn’t mind seeing American imperialism fail and fall apart. The failure of the British Empire created the United States. Maybe the failure of the United States would create another new and interesting societal experiment.

    I’m all for the multiculturalism of my region of the Midlands. I like that it has come to ‘dominate’ American society. However, if some Americans don’t like this multiculturalism and if they can get a majority of people to support secession in their state or region, then I will wish them all the best. I don’t see that happening, though. It seems to me that, despite the griping of a minority, most Americans continue to support American multiculturalism as the dominant and unifying culture of our country.

    • “The migration of Republicans to red states and vice versa is mentioned in Jonathan Haidts book “The Righteous Mind””

      “I don’t doubt some people move because of politics, but my point is that it is insignificantly small in most cases. The impact of self-segregation would be felt more on the smaller scale of cities, suburbs,counties. I live in a farming state that almost always votes for Democratic presidents, but it the rural Western part of the state is strongly Republican. Many states have mixed populations like this and elections often teeter on small numbers of voters.”

      My bad, he was talking of counties, but my point is that people only like their version of America, not the diversity. And this effect is striking: in 1976 some 27 percent lived in landslide counties and in 2008 it was 48 percent. This to me looks like a build-up towards secession.

      “Most states and regions are mixed populations.”

      Yes but their long-term migration pattern suggests that they want to minimize the mixing.

      “My point was that most of the demographic shifts in the US have been about employment (along with immigration), not politics. Right now, there is a big shift of the American population moving South, many of them Blacks. Most of these people moving South aren’t doing so because of the politics. It is because the Industrial Belt has been hit hard and they need work. States like Texas have more employment in recent years, but even Republican states like Texas have a long history of progressivism. A shift in the population as we are seeing could switch Texas to Democrat victories (or even make much of the rest of the South turn Blue).”

      We can always speculate but this migration fits pretty well into the overall pattern of segregation – with the one exception of Texas. But I’m not saying that segregation and tribalism is the only reason for migration.

      “The political divisiveness in America is small compared to previous eras. The early 1920s, for example, when the largest wave of immigration happened in US history and when the KKK asserted its power. Also, there was the era of Reconstruction and Populism in the late 1800s which involved mass social, political and economic transformation. Before that, there was the decades prior to the Civil War, there was the Jacksonian Era, and there was the election of 1800. All of those eras threatened national survival more than our present political situation.

      It is important to remember that people self-segregating in America for various reasons (political, economic, cultural, etc) is nothing new. That is the entire history of the United States. That is how the separate colonies developed their separate identities that later came to inform the separate identities of the regions. The North/South political divide we see today has its origins from early America. The specific Republican/Democrat divide goes back to 1856 and has existed continuously since.”

      America is an unstable construction, yes, but that’s my argument. Having had this problem throughout its history doesn’t somehow make it better.

      “I know what you meant by ethnic group, but what you don’t seem to understand is ethnic groups are invented. If you look at the history of any people, they are a mix of many other former ethnicities.
      Even the British are a mix of Irish (who have some Basque origins), Scottish, Welsh, other Celtic tribes, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Romans, Normans, etc. The British ethnicity is an invented ethnicity as are all ethnicities. Even the English ethnicity was a mix of those Celtic, German, and French ancestries with each enforcing its dominance for a time. The language is German in origin, its common law is a mix of Celtic and German, its imperial politics and nationalist tendencies has its origins with the Normans.
      Any mix of people that interbreeds together for several centuries begins to develop into a single ethnicity. The Germanic tribes were complex and quite diverse. Some stayed in Germany and others went elsewhere in Europe. Different German tribes with separate ethnic cultures have at various times sought to dominate other German tribes, indigenous British, Romans, French, etc. Eventually, they became mixed up with the local populations creating entirely new hybrid ethnicities.”

      Yes, people mix. How does that refute my definition of ethnic group? These groups aren’t invented. It’s people who share blood and history. The blood may come from whatever mix of earlier tribes – that doesn’t change the fact that they share it.

      “And yet every hero in every movie, the most popular of art forms, especially in America, just had to have an English name and look like a European.”

      “Once again, to repeat myself, you are looking at a brief period of history and projecting it back onto all of American history. After the world wars, especially after the second, there was a window of oppressive conformity and the lowest immigration rates in our history. That did show up in the MSM, but it wasn’t representative of most of American history. Even into the 20th century, German majority cities were still teaching in the German language in their public schools. So, what you are arguing for is that the destruction of traditional American culture was a good thing.”

      Eh? I’m arguing that nations without a dominant tribe tend to be in various trouble and often fall apart. Nothing more and nothing less.

      “You make the mistake made by many non-Americans who don’t understand American ethno-cultural history. Presidents don’t define regional cultures that are built on diverse ethnicities. The Germans for most of American history did their own thing. Sure, they voted for a president with an English-sounding name and then they went back to celebrating their own culture and teaching their children in German. Likewise with the Hispanics in their majority position in the Southwest, most of whom always have maintained their own separate culture and language.”

      Sure, they did their own thing back home but their leaders were always anglo, and they didn’t keep their language. So how exactly were they dominant?

      “The point is that, even among those English-sounding presidents, they were all ethnic hybrids and American mutts. They had diverse ancestries, were raised in diverse regional cultures, and had very different even polar opposite visions of America. None of them were trying to re-create England in North America.”

      Like I said earlier, there is always going to be a few drops of blood from here and there but it doesn’t really change anything. If the English weren’t the dominant tribe you’d see presidents who were mainly of other ancestries too. But there is no such diversity.

      “It was a time of oppression. It was the Cold War Era. It was probably the most nationally oppressive period in American history. As I’ve said, it was highly unusual. It was a breaking point of America’s long history of multiculturalism. If you don’t understand that long complex history, you understand absolutely nothing about America.”

      First off, the film history I refer to is roughly from 1920-1960. And America’s entire history up to that point is a 177 years. So that’s 20 percent of the time, not some brief period.

      As for the 1960s, you say it wasn’t representative – which is what I already said, I called it “the breaking point” a phrase you are now using seemingly to object to what I said.

      “I know this is hard for a non-American to understand. It is hard for many Americans to understand. This is such a large country with a diverse history.”

      Well, I would maintain that it is basically like the rest of the world. It used to be a English nation and now there is no leading tribe so it’s falling apart. This is how all nations work.

      “Europe is entirely different. Most European countries are small with native populations that have been living there with a continuous culture, in many cases, for thousands of years. Forcing conformity onto smaller non-diverse population is rather easy or relatively easier, although even then it doesn’t always work.”

      “What you don’t understand is America doesn’t even have a single English or British culture.”

      It doesn’t have to. It only has to have a dominant tribe and that tribe was people of English and more generally British ancestry.

      “I’m a Midlander, the region along with New Netherlands/New York City that is the region of American multiculturalism. Now, that is what you don’t understand. The culture of multiculturalism is partly an English culture, specifically the Quaker culture. So, the multiculturalism that dominates American society is an English culture. As for New Netherlands/New York City, that is a culture that has always had a close connection to English culture. John Locke lived in Netherlands for a while which is also where Spinoza lived at the same time, the two big giants of the Enlightenment.”

      There are regional differences, sure. But I go back to my point: who was dominating? I would say those who were in charge politically and who were depicted as heroes in the stories that were popular. People came to America from all over the world, but these individuals all came from the British Isles. I’m sorry, there is just no way around that.

      “You can have multiculturalism with a dominant culture at the same time. All empires have done this and America simply modernized the imperialist model. If you want to rule over diverse people and avoid endless warfare, you have to learn to be very tolerant. The Romans had to learn this. As long as you gave your loyalty to the emperor and the empire, Jews could be Jews, Greeks could be Greeks, and no one was forced to assimilate. The Roman Empire lasted longer than most European countries have existed in their present form.”

      Yes, to a point. And around the 1960s you passed the point where, to use Yeat’s poem, “things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” This is how empires tend to fall.

      “Such large empires like the US fail in two ways. They often eventually overreach their grasp. They have more territory than they can control. This isn’t just about military control. You are correct that there is a ruling tribe of sorts, although the identity of that tribe is more muddled in America. Multiculturalism and cultural dominance must balance one another. In overreaching, they might fail not from a lack of control but from trying to force to much control. The latter is what happened the British Empire with its American colonies.”

      It’s not much about military at all but of cultural dominance. We have this too; young Muslims patrolling “their” areas and making sure women dress properly. As soon as our culture loses its dominance you see the break-up. You probably have similar areas in the US.

      “I’m all for the multiculturalism of my region of the Midlands. I like that it has come to ‘dominate’ American society. However, if some Americans don’t like this multiculturalism and if they can get a majority of people to support secession in their state or region, then I will wish them all the best. I don’t see that happening, though. It seems to me that, despite the griping of a minority, most Americans continue to support American multiculturalism as the dominant and unifying culture of our country.”

      If Haidt is correct, people have been moving to their versions of America for decades now. Oh well, time will tell.

      • “in 1976 some 27 percent lived in landslide counties and in 2008 it was 48 percent. This to me looks like a build-up towards secession.”

        It is striking, but I suspect this is the type of thing that goes in cycles or phases. There have been particular periods of history when people were moving a lot and so self-segregating. This happened during each major immigration wave. It also happened after the Civil War when many Southerners went North or West. It happened with a vengeance during the industrialization of the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

        The present situation is more like industrialization. Ever since that time, there has been a shrinking population in rural areas. This has concentrated certain demographics.

        This is seen in Western Iowa. Part of the demographics that is getting isolated there are older people who remember how the world used to be when an average person could buy some land and raise a family farming. These old people are very conservative-minded, feeling reactionary and voting Republican. But old people aren’t likely to start a Civil War or attempt secession, especially considering these old people live in sparsely populated counties with few young people to fight a war or be a new generation of politicians.

        “Yes but their long-term migration pattern suggests that they want to minimize the mixing.”

        That is only true in the sparsely populated rural areas and to a lesser degree some suburbs. The vast majority of the population lives in densely populated and highly diverse urban areas. So, there is only a small minority that is isolating itself. Yes, minorities can cause problems, but the problems they can cause tend to be relatively smaller.

        “We can always speculate but this migration fits pretty well into the overall pattern of segregation – with the one exception of Texas. But I’m not saying that segregation and tribalism is the only reason for migration.”

        America has had many periods of internal mass migration. Following the Civil War and up to the mid 20th century, there were approximately three major movements of Southerners to other parts of the country. It was millions of people being relocated and for at least some of them, blacks in particular, there was a political component to it. Some self-segregation and forced segregation did happen. It was far worse than anything we see now, but no secession was caused by it. There was a civil rights movement which was long overdue and that is about it.

        “America is an unstable construction, yes, but that’s my argument. Having had this problem throughout its history doesn’t somehow make it better.”

        One person’s unstable construction is another person’s dynamic construction. I’m not actually favoring either on ideological grounds. I see benefits from both the stable and the dynamic. I tend to be a moderate who seeks compromise, seeking the best in all things while avoiding the worst.

        The defense I would point to is that the US with its dynamic structure has proven itself more long-term stable than many European countries that have had less dynamic social orders. There hasn’t been a civil war in the United States for a century and a half. Also, there has never been a world war started by the United States. By these measures, we Americans seem rock solid stable compared to Europe.

        “Yes, people mix. How does that refute my definition of ethnic group? These groups aren’t invented. It’s people who share blood and history. The blood may come from whatever mix of earlier tribes – that doesn’t change the fact that they share it.”

        Americans share blood as well. African-Americans are on average 20-30% European with 1 in 10 being more European than African. The same type of percentages are found with Hispanics. We Americans are mutts. It is through mongrelization (i.e., the sharing of blood) that new ethnicities are made. That is what America is in the process of doing. We are just doing the same thing European countries did in centuries and millennia past. If you are arguing America should follow Europe’s example, I would point out that is exactly what Americans are doing in forming their own unique ethnicity.

        “Eh? I’m arguing that nations without a dominant tribe tend to be in various trouble and often fall apart. Nothing more and nothing less.”

        Eh? I’m arguing that America has a dominant tribe called Americans in the way that Britain has the British, Spain the Spanish, France the French, and Germany the Germans. In interbreeding, diverse populations in all these countries formed national ethnic identities that didn’t exist prior to that. That is what I’m arguing. Nothing more and nothing less.

        “Like I said earlier, there is always going to be a few drops of blood from here and there but it doesn’t really change anything. If the English weren’t the dominant tribe you’d see presidents who were mainly of other ancestries too. But there is no such diversity.”

        There are way more than a few drops of blood here and there. Rather, there are whole buckets of blood here and there. The presidents were genetically diverse people. Other than the earliest presidents, they were mutts like the rest of us Americans.

        Yes, many of their families at one point or another anglicized their names. I’m not against people assimilating of their own free will. That is a major component of Midlands multiculturalism. It is by allowing people the freedom to be different that you encourage them or the following generation to assimilate to the culture that gave them such freedom. It is attempts of forced assimilation that leads to civil wars and revolutions or even just secessions.

        “First off, the film history I refer to is roughly from 1920-1960. And America’s entire history up to that point is a 177 years. So that’s 20 percent of the time, not some brief period.”

        Yes, it is brief. Our history isn’t just the founding. The colonies have been here since the 1600s which is the origin of our culture(s). Plus, it took a while for the national mass media to take hold. Much of America’s population was oblivious to the national mass media until the mid 20th century. The films you are talking about only became a large part of a shared sense of culture following WWII.

        “As for the 1960s, you say it wasn’t representative – which is what I already said, I called it “the breaking point” a phrase you are now using seemingly to object to what I said.”

        What I’m arguing is that what you see as the norm of conformity was actually a highly unusual moment in history in the years directly before the 1960s. That abnormal conformity was part of the breaking point. America had never before been pushed to such an extreme degree of cultural conformity. Many Americans resisted this unAmerican oppressive conformity which then erupted in cultural revolt.

        “Well, I would maintain that it is basically like the rest of the world. It used to be a English nation and now there is no leading tribe so it’s falling apart. This is how all nations work.”

        I’m not doubting that there used to be an Anglo-American ruling elite. Yes, they are losing their power, although I would add because of their own actions.

        The problem is that many of the colonial founders and national founders had no desire to create much less maintain an ethnocentric society. Even among those who did, they acted in ways that undermined their own agenda. If they wanted to remain an ethnocentric nation, they should have become isolationist instead of an expansionist empire. They should have refused all non-British immigrants from the start. They should have allowed the Native Americans the freedom to to have their own separate nations. They shouldn’t have sought to take over the French and Spanish territories in North America with their already distinct established ethnic populations and cultures.

        The Anglo-American ruling elite wasn’t destroyed in the 1960s. They’ve been undermining their own power since the beginning of the colonies. The issue here is that you are projecting what you wish America would be or should be, but many of the founders didn’t and many Americans still don’t want your vision of America. How would you respond if I told you how you should run your country?

        Maybe Americans have been wrong for centuries in disagreeing with people like you who have argued America should just become yet another European nation. But we Americans have always maintained the right to be wrong in our own way. It is what makes us unique, our fierce sense of striving to be an example of what never before was attempted. If American colonists were primarily worried about failure, they would never have started their own country in the first place. Instead, we’d still be part of the ethnocentric British Empire. Why would we choose to recreate what we sought to escape?

        “It doesn’t have to. It only has to have a dominant tribe and that tribe was people of English and more generally British ancestry.”

        Yes, it does. A dominant tribe that is a minority can’t maintain power unless they maintain a unified and unifying culture that all or most of the citizens can identify with. That is one of those important differences. European countries have ruling elites who have shared an established ethnic culture with those they rule over. In America, our ruling elite haven’t had that luxury. They’ve been forced to create a new unified and unifying ethnic culture from the scraps of diversity. This was modeled by the Quakers and New Netherlanders who showed how it could be done. Slowly but surely, a new American identity has formed.

        Give it another century or two of assimilation and we’ll likely be no different than any other ethnic nation-state. It is the process every people have gone through in building a national identity. There is absolutely nothing natural about national identities. They are only created by sublimating tribalism and redirecting the tribal urge toward patriotism.

        For Americans, the only other choice was to let North America be split further up into the separate regions with their respective dominant ethnic cultures: a Spanish nation-state in the Southwest, some Native-American nation-states mostly in the Great Plains and the far North, a German nation-state in the Upper Midwest, a French/Accadian nation-state in New Orleans, a Cuban-Hispanic nation-state in Florida, a Scots-Irish nation-state in Greater Appalachia, and several separate English nation-states along the Atlantic Coast. However, this is the European-style balkanization that Lincoln wished to avoid. So, to maintain a united country, multiculturalism was made as a truce, not just between ethnic groups but also between regions. If not for this compromise, America would quite possibly have ended in secession long before the 1960s.

        That is essentially what happened in Europe. Romans, Germans and others at various times sought to unite Europe in a large continental empire in the way the US has accomplished, but unlike the US Europeans have so far failed in this endeavor, although they are attempting to do it in a more roundabout way with the European Union. When you Europeans successfully unite Europe under a single ethno-tribal culture, you’ll have a leg to stand on in criticizing Americans for not doing the same. The diversity in America is as great as the diversity in Europe.

        Why do you think Americans can succeed at doing or even want to try to do what you Europeans have failed to do?

        “There are regional differences, sure. But I go back to my point: who was dominating? I would say those who were in charge politically and who were depicted as heroes in the stories that were popular. People came to America from all over the world, but these individuals all came from the British Isles. I’m sorry, there is just no way around that.”

        American mutts have been dominating America. I’m sorry, there is just no way around that. America is a federal government, a federation. The US government is a closer equivalent to the European Union than to a European national government. Does the European Union demand that all European countries submit to a single ethno-tribal culture? If they tried to do that, how long do you think the European Union would last? Why do you think the US federal government can accomplish what no government has yet succeeded in doing or at least in maintaining for very long?

        A federal government of separate states ruling over a vast territory with vast cultural diversity is extremely different than an ethnocentric nation-state ruling over a small territory.with very little cultural diversity. There is no way to compare the two.

        This is part of your confusion. American politics mostly happens on the local level of states, cities and counties. Our government isn’t as centralized as most European governments, although we are moving in that direction. The ruling elite and their cultural dominance has had a greater representation at the local level in the US. This is why going into the 1960s the Germans of Milwaukee could run their city as a socialist society while other ethnic groups in other areas of the country sought completely opposite politics.

        “Yes, to a point. And around the 1960s you passed the point where, to use Yeat’s poem, “things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” This is how empires tend to fall.”

        We are still in the process of building a shared ethnic culture. We are trying to avoid failures of both European nation-states and European empires, and such failures are many. We are trying to find a way to not go down the same road of failure that Europe has repeated endlessly. We would rather not have a couple of world wars in North America as you Europeans had in Europe.

        Beginning with the colonies, we are four centuries old. Still, that is relatively young. It took longer than that and a lot more violence for European countries to create their respective unified ethnicities through interbreeding/mongrelization. Every European nation in their first four centuries was doing far worse than the US is doing. It seems that so far we have managed to avoid repeating European’s most major mistakes.

        “It’s not much about military at all but of cultural dominance. We have this too; young Muslims patrolling “their” areas and making sure women dress properly. As soon as our culture loses its dominance you see the break-up. You probably have similar areas in the US.”

        The problem with moderns is that our industrialized and technologized society has made us impatient and short-sighted. Assimilation is a slow process. It takes at least centuries for assimilation to happen.

        National governments even with ruling elites can’t force assimilation. It is a natural process that must take its course. Trying to force it just creates civil wars, revolutions, terrorism and/or secession. Assimilation is difficult to do, but in a globalized world the only other choice is genocide… which would likely just lead you back to civil wars, revolutions, terrorism and/or seccession, maybe even another world war.

        Assimilation still takes centuries even if you choose the path of force and violence. There is no getting around that.

        Human culture can’t simply be changed over night. This is what makes a ‘liberal’ like me more conservative than most conservatives. Many on the right have this utopian vision of the power of governments to force change and control every aspect of society. I have no such faith in government. All that government can do is soften the rough edges and moderate change to keep it from being too traumatic. What government can’t do is stop change or reverse society toward some idealized past.

        “If Haidt is correct, people have been moving to their versions of America for decades now. Oh well, time will tell.”

        If many David Hackett Fischer and Colin Woodard are correct, people have been moving to their versions of America for centuries now. Indeed, time will tell. More importantly, time will only tell over centuries. It took centuries for us to get to this point and it will take us centuries to move forward to whatever is next. History has taught me that no fundamental change ever happened quickly, especially not in a generation or two.

        Ruling elites come and go. In the formation of England, they had a number of completely separate ruling elites, from Romans to Germans to French to Dutch. What makes England isn’t who happens to be the ruling elite at any given moment (a moment in history is measured in centuries), but who the people are and who they are becoming. The English were still the English when the Normans were ruling them. In fact, the English wouldn’t be the English we know today if such foreigners hadn’t ruled them and interbred with them. Countries like England are able to survive because they regularly redefine themselves every century or so.

        Likewise, Americans have regularly redefined themselves and yet we remain Americans. The America of the colonies wasn’t the America of the Revolution which wasn’t the America of the Articles of Confederation which wasn’t the America of the early federal government which wasn’t the America of the Jacksonian era which wasn’t the America of the Civil War which wasn’t the America of Reconstruction which wasn’t the America of the Populist Era which wasn’t the America of the Roaring Twenties which wasn’t the America of the Great Depression which wasn’t the America of WWII which wasn’t the America of the 1960s. The difference between those eras was as great or greater than the changes since the 1960s.

        None of us ever knows where anything is going. That is why I advise against trying to force change, whether assimilation or whatever else. I go by the precautionary principle. Steady as she goes. If America comes to a time equal to that of the Revolution or the Civil War, then we’ll deal with it. But until then worrying about unknowns is pointless and tiresome. Such worrying just leads to fear and paranoia, certainly not to assimilation and unity.

  4. “This is seen in Western Iowa. Part of the demographics that is getting isolated there are older people who remember how the world used to be when an average person could buy some land and raise a family farming. These old people are very conservative-minded, feeling reactionary and voting Republican. But old people aren’t likely to start a Civil War or attempt secession, especially considering these old people live in sparsely populated counties with few young people to fight a war or be a new generation of politicians.”

    That may be true for Iowa but the part of the population that lives in urban areas has only risen by two percent for the years 2000-2010. And some of the most liberal metropolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Fransisco have seen their population decreas in recent time.

    Old people may attempt secession. Old people in Northern Italy have achieved economic autonomy. If Italy can then so can America. Don’t put yourself down ; )

    “That is only true in the sparsely populated rural areas and to a lesser degree some suburbs. The vast majority of the population lives in densely populated and highly diverse urban areas. So, there is only a small minority that is isolating itself. Yes, minorities can cause problems, but the problems they can cause tend to be relatively smaller.”

    48 percent live in landslide counties but only a small minority is isolating itself? Besides, you can isolate yourself in a big multi-ethnic city. Chinatowns and other enclaves are common.

    “The defense I would point to is that the US with its dynamic structure has proven itself more long-term stable than many European countries that have had less dynamic social orders. There hasn’t been a civil war in the United States for a century and a half. Also, there has never been a world war started by the United States. By these measures, we Americans seem rock solid stable compared to Europe.”

    America has no powerful neighbors with which a conflict could escalate to a world war. And back then you also enjoyed the stability that a dominant tribe offers. It wasn’t until the 1960s that this changed. You can’t use stability prior to that decade as an argument.

    “Yes, people mix. How does that refute my definition of ethnic group? These groups aren’t invented. It’s people who share blood and history. The blood may come from whatever mix of earlier tribes – that doesn’t change the fact that they share it.”

    “If you are arguing America should follow Europe’s example, I would point out that is exactly what Americans are doing in forming their own unique ethnicity.”

    Perhaps, but ethnic groups are persistent even if the mix a little. Sweden took Northern Denmark some 350 years ago. That province remains Danish in culture and many want to go back to Denmark even to this day. It seems humans are not into blending together but into living in groups and distinguishing themselves from other groups. Europe’s example has been to form national states, not mix together.

    “Eh? I’m arguing that America has a dominant tribe called Americans in the way that Britain has the British, Spain the Spanish, France the French, and Germany the Germans. In interbreeding, diverse populations in all these countries formed national ethnic identities that didn’t exist prior to that. That is what I’m arguing. Nothing more and nothing less.”

    Ask the nearest Black person if you are brothers of the same tribe. If you dare : ) When there is no Black or White, only then is there a tribe called Americans. We haven’t fully assimilated our Danes yet and they are culturally similar to us, from a country that virtually has the same language and to a great extent a shared history. And they still resist after over 300 years. Compare your race relations with that and perhaps you see how I doubt the concept of an American tribe.

    “There are way more than a few drops of blood here and there. Rather, there are whole buckets of blood here and there. The presidents were genetically diverse people. Other than the earliest presidents, they were mutts like the rest of us Americans.”

    A mutt would be someone you can’t recognize as a European. That only holds for Obama.

    “Yes, it is brief. Our history isn’t just the founding. The colonies have been here since the 1600s which is the origin of our culture(s). Plus, it took a while for the national mass media to take hold. Much of America’s population was oblivious to the national mass media until the mid 20th century. The films you are talking about only became a large part of a shared sense of culture following WWII.”

    A few films that were not after WW2 – The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, It Happened One Night, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon etc. All huge hits.

    “What I’m arguing is that what you see as the norm of conformity was actually a highly unusual moment in history in the years directly before the 1960s. That abnormal conformity was part of the breaking point. America had never before been pushed to such an extreme degree of cultural conformity. Many Americans resisted this unAmerican oppressive conformity which then erupted in cultural revolt.”

    Ok, we both agree that it’s a breaking point then. But for different reasons.

    “The Anglo-American ruling elite wasn’t destroyed in the 1960s. They’ve been undermining their own power since the beginning of the colonies. The issue here is that you are projecting what you wish America would be or should be, but many of the founders didn’t and many Americans still don’t want your vision of America. How would you respond if I told you how you should run your country?”

    I would look at the quality of your argument of course. Maybe you have some good advice. But no, I’m don’t have a vision for America. I merely pointed out that nations without a dominant tribe tend to fail and that’s where America is headed. That’s a far cry from a vision. When I have a vision I say so.

    “It is what makes us unique, our fierce sense of striving to be an example of what never before was attempted. If American colonists were primarily worried about failure, they would never have started their own country in the first place. Instead, we’d still be part of the ethnocentric British Empire. Why would we choose to recreate what we sought to escape?”

    I’m not sure what you read into my, very simple, statement that nations need a dominant tribe. It certainly doesn’t follow that you must recreate England in America.

    Me earlier,
    It doesn’t have to. It only has to have a dominant tribe and that tribe was people of English and more generally British ancestry.

    “Yes, it does. A dominant tribe that is a minority can’t maintain power unless they maintain a unified and unifying culture that all or most of the citizens can identify with. That is one of those important differences. European countries have ruling elites who have shared an established ethnic culture with those they rule over. In America, our ruling elite haven’t had that luxury. They’ve been forced to create a new unified and unifying ethnic culture from the scraps of diversity. This was modeled by the Quakers and New Netherlanders who showed how it could be done. Slowly but surely, a new American identity has formed.”

    No real contradiction here since I’m sticking to the dominant tribe statement. The fact that the dominance was lost due to demographics is something I’m prone to agree with. That and liberal dreams of the blessings of diversity.

    “Give it another century or two of assimilation and we’ll likely be no different than any other ethnic nation-state. It is the process every people have gone through in building a national identity. There is absolutely nothing natural about national identities. They are only created by sublimating tribalism and redirecting the tribal urge toward patriotism.”

    I would say it’s about tribalism period. We have an innate tendency to team up with people we share blood and history with. If we give it a century or two this tendency will assert itself in forming different nations more likely. Remember those Danes. Europe is full of conflicts between ethnic groups within countries. Yugoslavia didn’t blend together, Czechoslovakia didn’t. Scotland has a large support for independence in some form. Northern Ireland, the Basque and Catalan regions of Spain, Sardinia, Belgium – the centuries drag by and the ethnic identities are not melting into one. And we have been playing this game for a lot longer than you.

    “If not for this compromise, America would quite possibly have ended in secession long before the 1960s.”

    Agreed.

    “That is essentially what happened in Europe. Romans, Germans and others at various times sought to unite Europe in a large continental empire in the way the US has accomplished, but unlike the US Europeans have so far failed in this endeavor, although they are attempting to do it in a more roundabout way with the European Union. When you Europeans successfully unite Europe under a single ethno-tribal culture, you’ll have a leg to stand on in criticizing Americans for not doing the same. The diversity in America is as great as the diversity in Europe.”

    Lots of strawmen here tonight. I’m not criticizing anyone. I’m merely stating that…you know the rest. But I think your analysis is wrong in that America never accomplished a multicultural nation. That may have been the fantasy, but it coincided with having a dominant tribe. Now that is gone and we will see what happens. California is probably a good indication of what the future brings.

    “American mutts have been dominating America. I’m sorry, there is just no way around that. America is a federal government, a federation. The US government is a closer equivalent to the European Union than to a European national government. Does the European Union demand that all European countries submit to a single ethno-tribal culture? If they tried to do that, how long do you think the European Union would last? Why do you think the US federal government can accomplish what no government has yet succeeded in doing or at least in maintaining for very long?”

    If no one wonders what breed the mutt is, it’s not really a mutt.

    The EU is not working for the exact reason that it has no dominant tribe. It’s falling apart right now. I think the US government has been successful because there has been a dominant tribe.

    “A federal government of separate states ruling over a vast territory with vast cultural diversity is extremely different than an ethnocentric nation-state ruling over a small territory.with very little cultural diversity. There is no way to compare the two.”

    They can be compared in that my statement predicts that one will fail and the other has a chance of lasting for a very long time.

    “We are still in the process of building a shared ethnic culture. We are trying to avoid failures of both European nation-states and European empires, and such failures are many. We are trying to find a way to not go down the same road of failure that Europe has repeated endlessly. We would rather not have a couple of world wars in North America as you Europeans had in Europe.”

    You’re starting wars all the time, but your size and geographical location protects you.

    “The problem with moderns is that our industrialized and technologized society has made us impatient and short-sighted. Assimilation is a slow process. It takes at least centuries for assimilation to happen.”

    As I said, this assimilation process is not happening in Europe in many places. But when it does you will have one dominant tribe and not diversity.

    “Assimilation still takes centuries even if you choose the path of force and violence. There is no getting around that.”

    A great argument for the ethnic nation rather than diversity.

    “If Haidt is correct, people have been moving to their versions of America for decades now. Oh well, time will tell.”

    “If many David Hackett Fischer and Colin Woodard are correct, people have been moving to their versions of America for centuries now. Indeed, time will tell. More importantly, time will only tell over centuries. It took centuries for us to get to this point and it will take us centuries to move forward to whatever is next. History has taught me that no fundamental change ever happened quickly, especially not in a generation or two.”

    True, but if you do split up there is no compelling reason why you should come back together again. Then the new parts will have more unity and stability and have nothing to gain from teaming up with someone else. This is why ethnic nations persist and empires fall.

    “Countries like England are able to survive because they regularly redefine themselves every century or so.”

    No, they can assimilate peoples who are similar to themselves (with great bloodshed) but do they need it? The Swedes and Finns have existed for thousands of years with no particular need for reinvention.

    “None of us ever knows where anything is going. That is why I advise against trying to force change, whether assimilation or whatever else. I go by the precautionary principle. Steady as she goes. If America comes to a time equal to that of the Revolution or the Civil War, then we’ll deal with it. But until then worrying about unknowns is pointless and tiresome. Such worrying just leads to fear and paranoia, certainly not to assimilation and unity.”

    For me, it’s not about worrying; it’s about understanding. And as I see it you can’t use the precaution of “steady as she goes” if you head to a situation which history shows lead to failure and demise. But enough of this. I think we both said our piece. I can’t think of anything more to say without repeating myself or digressing. We will just have to agree to disagree and see what the future holds.

    • “That may be true for Iowa but the part of the population that lives in urban areas has only risen by two percent for the years 2000-2010. And some of the most liberal metropolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Fransisco have seen their population decreas in recent time.”

      The vast majority of Americans live in urban areas. And the vast majority of Americans in urban areas live in metropolitan areas. A small shift in size for a big population is still far different than a minor increase for a small population. There isn’t likely ever to be a return to a large rural population.

      “Old people may attempt secession. Old people in Northern Italy have achieved economic autonomy. If Italy can then so can America. Don’t put yourself down ; )”

      Northern Italy is an entire region of a country. Rural areas in the US cut across regions and most of rural US is sparsely populated or entirely unpopulated. There is no equivalent in the US to Northern Italy.

      “48 percent live in landslide counties but only a small minority is isolating itself?”

      Landslide counties don’t necessarily equate to landslide districts or states. US voting is complex and doesn’t usually depend on such things. Iowa is filled with Republican landslide counties, but it still makes little difference because most of the population isn’t in those counties. Only county elections are determined by county votes. State and federal elections are determined by state-level voting. Landslide counties are only significant if they are all landslide in the same direction and all concentrated together in the same districts and states.

      Also, you have to keep in mind that studies and polls show that the majority of Americans agree about most things. It is only a minority of political elites and activists who are polarized. The polarization seen in the MSM isn’t the reality on the ground.

      “America has no powerful neighbors with which a conflict could escalate to a world war. And back then you also enjoyed the stability that a dominant tribe offers. It wasn’t until the 1960s that this changed. You can’t use stability prior to that decade as an argument.”

      As I pointed out, the US is a federal government and hence more equivalent to the European Union. States like California, Texas and New York are as large and powerful as (or larger and more powerful than) many European countries. The politics and cultures of these three states alone is very different.

      Plus, the US has a powerful country above it with Canada which is itself split into three major cultures: Indigenous, French and English. Also, only the Bering Strait separates Alaska from Russia. The Bering Strait is only 55 miles wide at its narrowest point and so one literally can see Russia from the United States.

      At the southern border, there is Mexico which connects to all of Central and South America. That is a hotbed of political instability and there is plenty of capacity for war in many of those countries. This is a major issue, considering that a large section of US territory and the population therein has been Hispanic. The issues that effect Latin America have a direct connection to the US and they always have ever since the Spanish Empire ruled more than half of the present US territory.

      What keeps the American states from fighting each other as happened more than a hundred and fifty years ago? Our Civil War wasn’t unlike the world wars in Europe. Why are Americans more able to keep greater peace on the North American continent than Europeans are on the European continent (along with the British Isles)? Even with a Cold War, the US still avoided an actual world war, despite our close proximity to Russian territory. These are serious questions that Europeans should give deep thought to.

      “Perhaps, but ethnic groups are persistent even if the mix a little. Sweden took Northern Denmark some 350 years ago. That province remains Danish in culture and many want to go back to Denmark even to this day. It seems humans are not into blending together but into living in groups and distinguishing themselves from other groups.”

      People aren’t much for mixing in many ways. This is especially true for populations with millennia-old established cultures and with ancestral roots in the same land that goes equally far back. That isn’t America. Americans are a rootless people. For most Americans, the North American continent isn’t our ancestral land. Our attachment to this country has more to do with other things besides the traditional ethnic attachments common in Europe.

      “Europe’s example has been to form national states, not mix together.”

      Europe’s history has been that of millennia of mixing together. There are few if any pure ethnic people left in Europe. All of the invasions, imperial expansions and warfare has led to genetically and culturally mixed up populations all across Europe. Just read some of the recent genetic research on Europe and this becomes obvious.

      “Ask the nearest Black person if you are brothers of the same tribe. If you dare : )”

      I went to public schools in the South. It wouldn’t bother me to ask a black that question any more than it would bother me to ask a white the same thing. However, any American I asked would find that an odd question. Most Americans don’t think in tribalistic terms. If I asked an American if we were brothers of the same tribe, they would look at me very oddly. Americans aren’t a tribe, not even white Americans. We are just Americans.

      “When there is no Black or White, only then is there a tribe called Americans. We haven’t fully assimilated our Danes yet and they are culturally similar to us, from a country that virtually has the same language and to a great extent a shared history. And they still resist after over 300 years. Compare your race relations with that and perhaps you see how I doubt the concept of an American tribe.”

      It isn’t whether or not Americans see distinctions among Americans. It is that in America such distinctions are relatively fluid compared to Europe.

      “A mutt would be someone you can’t recognize as a European. That only holds for Obama.”

      No, that isn’t true. Many people with non-European ancestry still look stereotypically European. Most genetics we inherit don’t determine our appearances. Many white Americans have non-European genetics, be it African, Polynesian, Native American, Hispanic or whatever.

      That is what about every American finds out who does genealogy work. In America, there is this ever-present uncertainty about who were one’s ancestors, at least among Americans who have had ancestors here going back to the 19th century or earlier. Part of having the sense of being an American mutt isn’t knowing what mix one might be but not knowing. American history has been about forgetting one’s ancestry.

      “A few films that were not after WW2 – The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, It Happened One Night, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon etc. All huge hits.”

      They were huge hits relative for the time. That isn’t to say that most people at the time went to a theater and watched them. Regional media was still very powerful prior to WWII. Actually, regional media still is very powerful. When I travel, I sometimes come across entirely different tv and radio programs that offer very regional perspectives, sometimes even completely different cultural perspectives. Different regions of the US can feel like separate countries.

      “Ok, we both agree that it’s a breaking point then. But for different reasons.”

      Well, I just see it as being complex. Change is always happening. Change, often radical or even violent, is the entire history of the US. My larger point is that the changes of the 1960s were rooted in the changes of the decade(s) before that which were rooted in the changes of the decade(s) before that and on and on and on for several centuries. The US has seen an almost endless march of what were or what were perceived by some as breaking points.

      The 1960s pale in comparison to the the Great Depression, the Roaring Twenties, the Populist Era, Reconstruction, the Civil War, the Jacksonian Era, the 1800’s election and the Revolutionary Era. It is all about perspective.

      “I would look at the quality of your argument of course. Maybe you have some good advice. But no, I’m don’t have a vision for America. I merely pointed out that nations without a dominant tribe tend to fail and that’s where America is headed. That’s a far cry from a vision. When I have a vision I say so.”

      If you were correct, I’d argue that America would have failed long ago. This country used to be even more divided than it is now. From colonial times until the early 20th century, states and regions were relatively autonomous political structures. During that time, entire regions were dominated politically and culturally by non-English, sometimes to the point of not even using English as the main language of education and commerce in major cities and rural areas. So, America has been defying your prediction of failure for several centuries now.

      “I’m not sure what you read into my, very simple, statement that nations need a dominant tribe. It certainly doesn’t follow that you must recreate England in America.”

      But if the English culture and politics were to dominate in America, then that is precisely what it would mean. It would be no different than when the English culture and politics dominated in India or any other colony. As most Americans aren’t English or even British, the only way to dominate with English or British culture and politics would be to treat the US as a colony ruled by a foreign elite. Large sections of the country would fight back against such imposed rule and the secession you predict would then become near inevitable.

      “No real contradiction here since I’m sticking to the dominant tribe statement. The fact that the dominance was lost due to demographics is something I’m prone to agree with. That and liberal dreams of the blessings of diversity.”

      There is a hard thing to understand about America. There has never been a single dominant tribe that has ruled over all of America. Regions, states and local communties have had more cultural power than the federal government throughout US history.

      The reason we have survived as a country despite not having your national ethnic ruling elite is because the ethnic ruling elites were localized. So, there is no failure. The German ethnic ruling elites have dominated in German majority areas throughout US history. The Hispanic ethnic ruling elites have dominated in Hispanic majority areas throughout US history. This kind of dviersity has existed in America for longer than the country has existed. It is a very stable system of governance.

      It isn’t really all that different than Europe. The German ethnic ruling elites have dominated in German majority areas (i.e., Germany), etc. You have to think of American states and regions as being more like separate countries in the European sense. Why would anyone advocate imposing a single ethnicity across North America any more than they’d try to impose the same across all of Europe? Those who have tried to do this in Europe have failed. Why would anyone think a proven failed idea would work in North America?

      “I would say it’s about tribalism period. We have an innate tendency to team up with people we share blood and history with. If we give it a century or two this tendency will assert itself in forming different nations more likely. Remember those Danes. Europe is full of conflicts between ethnic groups within countries. Yugoslavia didn’t blend together, Czechoslovakia didn’t. Scotland has a large support for independence in some form. Northern Ireland, the Basque and Catalan regions of Spain, Sardinia, Belgium – the centuries drag by and the ethnic identities are not melting into one. And we have been playing this game for a lot longer than you.”

      The problem is that is evidence contrary to your proposal. If anything, that is reason to not try to force conformity on diverse people. The English majority areas of America should be a separate country with their own dominant ethnic ruling elite. The same should be applied to German majority areas, Hispanic majority areas, Scots-Irish majority areas, and Native American majority areas.

      The corollary to your idea is as follows. Only a common culture among the ruling elite will create order. Only if the majority being ruled over share that culture will they allow that ruling elite to ensure order. When elites try to enforce order against the will of the majority, rarely does anything good come from that. So, according to your assertions, we can only hope for peace in order in the US by dividing the US into separate countries according to the separate ethnic ruling elites existing at the state/regional level. Instead of making Europe into a imperialists/federalist government like the US, your premises would suggest the US should separate into smaller countries like Europe.

      “Lots of strawmen here tonight.”

      Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

      “I’m not criticizing anyone. I’m merely stating that…you know the rest. But I think your analysis is wrong in that America never accomplished a multicultural nation. That may have been the fantasy, but it coincided with having a dominant tribe. Now that is gone and we will see what happens. California is probably a good indication of what the future brings.”

      It wasn’t gone. It just never existed. A Scots-Irish like Jackson was the complete opposite of the Anglo-American vision of the US. Both the Scots-Irish and Anglo-American visions were different than Eisenhower’s Germanic moderation and idealism (his family originated from the early Germans invited to settle in the Quaker colony which is the origin of the English-Midlands/Germanic multiculturalism). If America didn’t accomplish a multicultural nation, it would have died in infancy. The moment that the US extended beyond the Eastern Seaboard, its only hope of survival as a nation was multculturalism. America’s continued existence is proof against your claim.

      “If no one wonders what breed the mutt is, it’s not really a mutt.”

      Few Americans wonder and few Americans care. That is the whole point. You may care, but that is what would make you different than most Americans.

      “The EU is not working for the exact reason that it has no dominant tribe. It’s falling apart right now. I think the US government has been successful because there has been a dominant tribe.”

      But who is going to try to dominate the EU? The Germans tried to dominate Europe before. The rest of Europe didn’t appreciate that attempt. Why would Europeans appreciate any other tribe trying to take over all over Europe as a ruling elite?

      “They can be compared in that my statement predicts that one will fail and the other has a chance of lasting for a very long time.”

      According to your own logic, trying to enforce conformity onto diversity would fail. Your logic contradicts the entire existence of the US these past centuries.

      One of the things the US government found out during WWII was how little control the federal government ever had at the local level. In order to win the war, they had to work with the ethnic ruling elites at the local level such as the Italian mob. These local ruling elites had near complete power over their local area of control and could defy even the federal government. That is the power of ethnic cultures that had been well established for generations or even centuries at that point. Not an easy thing to simply suppress with a national agenda of conformity.

      “You’re starting wars all the time, but your size and geographical location protects you.”

      That is because two visions have fought for the soul of America. One vision is the federal vision which was originally based on the ideas of the Articles of Confederation. That document, by the way, was written by John Dickinson who came from a Middle Colonies Quaker family. The other vision is the monarchical/imperialist system advocated by the likes of Madison and even John Adams. The latter vision has been winning the war of political power for quite a while now, but the other vision remains a sustaining source of what Americans continue to strive for.

      The imperial power of the US will be its downfall. We have had the opportunity to try something entirely new with the federalist vision, but we haven’t had the political will to follow through on it.

      Many among the ruling elite have sought to do what you recommend. They wanted to force ethnic conformity on the nation. The problem was the nation was too large and the average American had no desire to be forced into conformity. You can’t force against the will of the majority such a conformity over a vast people across such a vast territory. It can’t be done or at least not fully and not for long, but through means of imperialism and a police state some elites sure want to try.

      Sadly, this will just lead us to the same mistakes made by the imperialist elites of Rome, Spain, France, Britain, Germany, etc.

      “As I said, this assimilation process is not happening in Europe in many places. But when it does you will have one dominant tribe and not diversity.”

      It is happening. It is always happening. It is just like trying to watch a tree grow. The wind breaking a branch of said tree is more dramatic and catches our attention, yet the tree goes on growing, slowly but surely. Assimilation is a vast force that is almost impossible for us to comprehend at the level of our individual lives. Assimilation is a natural human tendency, but it isn’t always an easy process.

      Yep, when it does there will be a dominant tribe. But until then there will be diversity and at different points in time different tribes will dominate. And from one set of conditions that create assimilation along with new cultural diversities will arise. It isn’t a one time occurrence. It is an endless process of cultural evolution.

      “A great argument for the ethnic nation rather than diversity.”

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against ethnic nations. I’m just saying that is a different political project than imperialism or federalism. Ethnic nations are where there is a super-majority of one ethnicity that has clear historical dominance. That isn’t what America is or ever has been for its entire history. Given enough time, though, America may come to that after enough assimilation occurs.

      I have a strong libertarian streak. As I see it, democracy only seems to function well at the small scale and the local level. I would say the same thing about ethnic nations. They can be great ways of socially organizing until they grow too large and begin to have imperialist aspirations. That is the eternal failure of ethnic nations. If you want to maintain control of your own nation, then don’t try to control other nations. The reason for this is that when you make foreigners the subjects of your country those foreigners will over time begin to demand rights. You can be an ethnic nation or an empire, but you can’t be both simultaneously for very long. They are inherently in opposition.

      So, Americans have a choice to be made. We can be an empire or we can break up into separate ethnic nations. So far, we’ve chosen imperialism, even if just by default of not fighting back.

      “True, but if you do split up there is no compelling reason why you should come back together again. Then the new parts will have more unity and stability and have nothing to gain from teaming up with someone else. This is why ethnic nations persist and empires fall.”

      I won’t argue against that. I think the federal government is a novel attempt to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, the US elite never gave it a chance to be tried. They almost immediately went back to the imperial model they escaped from. But it was an interesting idea. I hope some people try it out some day. Maybe it could work or maybe not, but the only way to find out is if it is tried.

      “No, they can assimilate peoples who are similar to themselves (with great bloodshed) but do they need it? The Swedes and Finns have existed for thousands of years with no particular need for reinvention.”

      Britain made the mistake of becoming an empire. It is the curse of Hellenism. The Greeks conquered the Egyptians and created the foundations for the modern empire. The Romans built on this model passing it to other nations on mainland Europe and from there, by way of the Normans, the English adopted it. Now, Americans took the British version of imperialism and truly modernized it.

      Yes, endless bloodshed. I don’t know about the Swedes and Finns. The Swedes were once Vikings and helped form many of the cultural nations throughout Europe. So, that was quite a reinvention. Part of the democratic tradition of the English Midlands came from Swedish settlers. You Swedish people no longer go a’Viking. That is a major reinvention.

      “For me, it’s not about worrying; it’s about understanding. And as I see it you can’t use the precaution of “steady as she goes” if you head to a situation which history shows lead to failure and demise. But enough of this. I think we both said our piece. I can’t think of anything more to say without repeating myself or digressing. We will just have to agree to disagree and see what the future holds.”

      Yes and no.

      Part of the problem with the American Revolution is the same as with the French Revolution. It was a radical reformulation of power. In both cases, an elite took control and oppressed the masses. But in both cases, that elite slowly lost power and the people strove to regain some of the original vision that led to revolution in the first place. Radical and rapid change often doesn’t work out very well in the long run. Slow reform tends to lead to more stability, as John Dickinson argued before the American Revolution.

      More radical and rapid change won’t necessarily undo the problems of past radical and rapid change. By “steady as we go”, all that I mean is that we need to be more thoughtful about the implications and consequences of what we advocate. We have no where else to start except where we find ourselves. It would better to find ourselves somewhere else, but that wasn’t our choice.

      We Americans find ourselves living in an empire rather than an ethnic nation. That is the reality, no matter what we may want, and has been that way going back to the early Federalist Era of Jeffersonian expansionism.

      So, what does one do when one is living in an empire? Does one just go along to get along? If one prefers an ethnic nation instead, does one seek secession or if it comes to it civil war or revolution? The only way an ethnic nation could be formed in the US is by dissolving the US in order to form new separate countries, but that wouldn’t happen easily or willingly if those in power have anything to do about it.

      Your advice that Americans seek the condition of an ethnic nation is basically to advise violent insurrection or else wait in the hope that the country will soon collapse under its own weight of failure, although that could be along period of waiting, maybe generations. Violent insurrection doesn’t seem like much fun to me. Waiting for failure doesn’t sound fun either. It is a set of bad choices.

    • Staffan – I wanted to clear something up. It can be hard to communicate in general, but I’m guessing that English is also not your first language.

      Maybe that is why you’re using the word ‘tribe’ in what to me feels like a vague or otherwise idiosyncratic manner, and also not with entire consistency. Certainly, you weren’t using it in any technical sense and so in response I tried to use it in a way that at least partly corresponded to the actual condition of our respective countries. Still, it isn’t a word that actually applies to modern non-tribal societies such as nation-states.

      Few if any sociologists, anthropologists, historians or political scientists would likely refer to modern nation-states as tribes, especially in the way you have been using it here. If an academic did use such a word, they would do so with massive explanation and numerous qualifications; but even then it would be extremely rare.

      I often just go along with the words people are using, even if their usage is imprecise. The way you were using ‘tribe’ could mean all kinds of things. It doesn’t even apply to countries like Sweden and especially not the US.

      I guess what you meant by a tribe is something akin to an inbreeding nepotistic oligarchy (maybe with some paternalism and culture of trust thrown in for good measure), far from the traditional meaning of tribe. To some degrees, the US has a nepotistic oligarchy or I would argue several of them which mostly comes in the form of political dynasties like the Kennedy family and the Bush family, but those two political dynasties have less genetic and cultural commonality than what you mean by a ‘tribe’. Still, even the American political elites tend to be an outbreeding group compared to the political elites in old European countries. Besides, most American politicians don’t come from political dynasties.

      However, you were also using tribe as a way of describing any (geographic?) population that shares some amount of culture and genetics, beyond just the ruling elite. You were sometimes using the word to describe both the general population and the ruling elite but at other times just one or the other. It is hard to argue that either usage applies to the US. It is clear, though, that the two combined doesn’t describe the US.

      The genetic and cultural commonality in the US among either the general population or the ruling elite is quite limited relative to many other countries. What percentage of shared genetics, for example, do a people need to have in order to be a tribe? Many white people don’t share any more genetics than between white people and black people. So, even if race were a meaningful construct, what would make a race a tribe?

      It feels like much of our discussion was trying to undo the confusion created by using a word that wasn’t applicable or was otherwise unclear in its applicability. That is the danger of words. That word apparently is framing your sense of reality. You can’t see how any society could function outside of your preferred reality tunnel. That is general how reality tunnels work. They just seem like reality, inevitable results of conditions as they are. But maybe if you switched frames, you’d see the world differently and you’d realize not all the evidence fits into the frame you were using.

      We all get stuck in our frames. I’m always seeking frames that cross boundaries rather than create boundaries, frames that aid in communication and understanding rather than miscommunication and misunderstanding. I can’t say I’ve been entirely successful. Our realities just make sense to us and it is hard to think beyond the bounds of our assumptions and biases.

      It seems like there should be a more fruitful way of discussing this topic without recourse to words like ‘tribe’.

    • Here is another thing you don’t understand, but it isn’t your fault. Many, maybe most, Americans don’t understand it either.

      Americans aren’t just an ethnic diversity. We are a ideological diversity, in terms of politics, economics and religion. You have to recognize that our elections are based less on who votes than who doesn’t.

      As I pointed out, an entire region such as the South would entirely switch parties if different people voted or rather more people voted. The only reason this hasn’t happened is for some reason the Democratic Party has chosen not to try to fight for the South and encourage the majority that supports them to vote. Why the Democratic Party does this is beyond me, but if the South were to secede today it would secede according to the wishes of the Democratic majority.

      Besides, the parties don’t even have ideologies that are set in stone. As I also pointed out, the North and South reversed party positions. Today, the Democratic Party is a big tent party including an equal mix of liberals, conservatives and moderates while the Republican Party has become increasingly right-wing and has sacrificed its historical left-wing and even, at this point, its moderate conservatives. But all that can switch around again in the coming decades. The Republican Party originally included and had support from radicals such as abolitionists, free-soilers and even socialists. Who knows where the Republican will go after the failure of present radical extremism? It might reverse directions and return to its social reforming roots.

      Another perspective includes nation-wide voter participation and so would have relevance to the South:

      http://prospect.org/article/fifty-shades-purple

      “The real winner, if the parties started competing for votes across the map, wouldn’t be Republicans or Democrats; it would be small-d democracy. Voter turnout would surely rise. When only one party is courting them, voters disconnect. In 2012 battleground states, where both parties poured resources into voter outreach and engagement, turnout was high. In Ohio, 65 percent of the voting-eligible population cast a ballot; in Virginia, 66 percent did; and in Colorado, a whopping 70 percent turned out. But one-party states like Texas (50 percent) and California (55 percent) were both below the national average.

      “Voters can’t hold elected officials accountable if their party affiliation virtually assures their re-election. A weak opposition party can’t serve as an effective watchdog on those in power, either. Politicians in unchallenged parties also tend to move to ideological extremes. When general elections are largely decided in party primaries, as they are in Illinois and Texas, small numbers of highly motivated voters can carry the day; that’s how the Tea Party took over the Republican Party in states like Texas. It’s what elected Ted Cruz and what emboldened him to orchestrate an unpopular government shutdown without having to worry about his own political future. In the strange world that noncompetitive politics has wrought, Cruz is doing precisely what Republican primary voters back home elected him to do.”

      Shifting demographics and growing demands for a functioning democracy could throw everything into the air, even creating an opening for a new party as happened with the creation of the Republican Party. If the parties find themselves having to actually compete, a shift could go in almost any direction. American society is in some ways less stable which means it is more politically dynamic and more capable of dealing with change.

      I do think that there is a tribal impulse in all humans. But it can manifest in an infinite number of ways. The national identity of Americans is slowly becoming something that isn’t entirely unlike an ethnic identity, isn’t entirely unlike how the British ethnic identity formed out of such diversity. The tribal impulse is behind the American identity as it is behind any social identity, but still I don’t think it is ultimately meaningful to apply tribal terminology to non-tribal modern nation-states.

      A collective identity is forming, though, that serves the same basic function as ethnicity in an ethnic nation-state. As long as something is serving that purpose, I’m not sure that it matters what you call it. Put people together long enough and they will mix their genetics and cultural traditions. In the US, we have at least gotten to the point of being unable to clearly distinguish where one group ends and another begins. Some people find that disconcerting, but it is just normal human behavior playing itself out as it has in every place in the world.

      I must admit it does make it hard to know who the ruling elite is.

  5. Short article. Fantastic. It raises a lot of questions.

    I’m left leaning myself with quite a bit of libertarian influences. It’s a rare combination i think but, its describes me well. I’m quite influenced by libertarian in the last few years but i could never fathom how economic freedom like they say is free. I’m all for freedom but, you can’t have true freedom without fairness. Just a veil of freedom.

    Anyway i think the strength of our nation came from its localized power. I think the founders had the right idea. They seemed to share that view. The articles of confederation shows that plain in simple. The federal government was there to hold together 13 different countries for mutual protection. So that they could survive against their former colonial master then go back to doing their own thing.

    I personally believe the commerce clause is abused. It seems all the powers given to congress were just to make a free trade area between the states and limited ability to tax to keep a military. It shows commerce law, weights and measures, and currency. To me it looks like what the European union is at now. I think that’s the best comparison i can come up with. Heck the EU is repeating some of our early issues all over again.

    Localized power also helps the people. They can actually see what is going on and better make informed judgment calls. The political system should be close to the people not far away.

    I’d like to see local power to me state to set environmental regulations, automotive regulations, consumer privacy rights, data rights, internet rights. Heck all of these are inhibited by having a national government who thinks they can make these rules. Then you get free trade agreements that are less about free trade and more about protecting these corporations rights to screw everyone over, and evade taxation.

    I see too much focus these days on national elections. My local election recently was conducted with a fraction of registered voters. These people don’t vote in local elections just national ones, maybe in senate elections, maybe is state elections. It’s a shame. The local government is so badly run you think that people would care. Nope, no ones notices but, they complain of property tax, then sit at home on election day.

    All in all there is still a good degree of local control but, i would like to see a return to the old style local control.

    • “I’m left leaning myself with quite a bit of libertarian influences.”

      That describes me as well. I agree with everything you wrote.

      “It’s a rare combination i think but, its describes me well.”

      I’ve come to suspect that it actually isn’t a rare combination or at least not as rare as most people would think. It’s just that the MSM doesn’t give voice much less ever report on left-leaning people with libertarian influences/tendencies. Because of that, it is hard to know how many of us are out there.

      “I’m all for freedom but, you can’t have true freedom without fairness.”

      Yep. And you can’t have fairness without freedom.

      This mutuality of values is something that is more commonly understood on the left-side of the American political spectrum. Those on the right seem to think everything is a dualistic forced choice, either this or that but never both, either win or lose but never win-win. I think it comes from the hierarchical nature of conservatism and the increasingly authoritarian alliance with movement conservatives (something shown in the research on authoritarianism).

      The problem is that, when you demand one while trying to deny the other, you end up with neither. What these people want isn’t even freedom, but liberty which is a very different concept as explained by David Hackett Fischer in a number of his books such as:

      Fairness and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies: New Zealand and the United States

      Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas

      Here is an interview with Fischer, if you’re interested:

      http://www.npr.org/2012/07/04/156258435/founding-fathers-defined-freedom-differently

      “Anyway i think the strength of our nation came from its localized power. I think the founders had the right idea. They seemed to share that view. The articles of confederation shows that plain in simple. The federal government was there to hold together 13 different countries for mutual protection. So that they could survive against their former colonial master then go back to doing their own thing.”

      You would be a fan of John Dickinson, the Quaker-born author of the Articles of Confederation. I’ve written about him a number of times here in my blog.

      • I need to read that book, i’m going to order a copy. I liked him talking on npr but, this is a guy you can talk to hours. A few minutes only is shame.

        I was doing some searching and this is what i found on Wikipedia:

        Historian Ralph Ketcham comments on the opinions of Patrick Henry, George Mason, and other antifederalists who were not so eager to give up the local autonomy won by the revolution:

        “Antifederalists feared what Patrick Henry termed the “consolidated government” proposed by the new Constitution. They saw in Federalist hopes for commercial growth and international prestige only the lust of ambitious men for a “splendid empire” that, in the time-honored way of empires, would oppress the people with taxes, conscription, and military campaigns. Uncertain that any government over so vast a domain as the United States could be controlled by the people, Antifederalists saw in the enlarged powers of the general government only the familiar threats to the rights and liberties of the people.[39]”

        We don’t ‘have’ conscription these days. But, have in the past, and i would be hard pressed to say the other things aren’t true.

        • The first book I read by Fischer is Albion’s Seed. That probably is his best book, definitely his most popular and I would add popular across a wide spectrum of ideological views. As I recall, he does discuss freedom and liberty in that book, specifically in terms of the founding cultures of each colony.

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