Trumpism and Greater Appalachia

Here is the first paragraph of Colin Woodard’s examination of the “American nation” he calls Greater Appalachia. [1]  “Nation” is a cultural reference in Woodard’s usage and Greater Appalachia is the culture where I was born and raised.  (See the darker green area on the map below.)  That may be why this thumbnail summary affected me so much.

The last of the nations to be founded in the colonial period, Greater Appalachia was the most immediately disruptive.  A clan-based warrior culture from the Borderlands of the British Empire, it arrived on the backcountry frontier of the Midlands, Tidewater, and Deep South [2] and shattered those nations’ monopoly control over colonial governments, the use of force, and relations with Native Americans.  Proud, independent, and disturbingly violent, the Borderlanders of Greater Appalachia have remained a volatile insurgent force within American society to the present day.

Reading this again today, after the assault of the U. S Capitol on January 6, my mind isdrawn to “proud, independent, and disturbingly violent.”  That’s what I thought I was seeing on TV

And that brought my attention to the relationship between the people I saw storming the Capitol and the Greater Appalachian culture in which I was raised.  How does the one affect the other?

There is an obvious and difficult way to calculate that.  It would be to take the Greater Appalachia territory marked out on the map and look at a county by county breakdown of partisan predominance in 2020.  I didn’t want to work at it that hard, so I devised a cheap and easy substitute.  I counted as part of Greater Appalachia, any state that has at least some Greater Appalachian territory in it.  That means that Pennsylvania, which is mostly the Midlands culture, gets counted in the Greater Appalachia total for electoral purposes.  That’s unfortunate, but tolerable for the present purposes.

Here is what I found out.  If you add up the electoral votes of all the states that are at least partially in Greater Appalachia, you find that they produce 216 electoral votes.  That’s 80% of the 270 votes needed to win the presidency.  And of those 216, Trump won 153, or 70.8%  [3]

There are other ways to account for the affiliation between the Greater Appalachian culture and the Trump appeal, but I am drawn, in the light of recent events, to the features Woodard emphasized. “proud, independent, and disturbingly violent.”  This is the picture that keeps coming to my mind.

[1] SeeAmerican Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, published by Viking in 2011.

[2]  The names of three of the other “nations” in Woodard’s scheme.

[3]  The rest of the Trump vote comes from the Deep South and the Far West and each has its own reasons for attaching itself to Republicanism, even the erratic kind represented by the Trump administration.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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