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American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union 
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 American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union
American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union

Please use this thread to discuss the above chapter.



Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:35 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union
If Woodard were to handicap the current presidential race, I think he would rule out Sanders and Warren as too collectivist to pass muster with enough voters to win. He stresses that the U.S. is too fragmented by regional identities to have anything near the political agreement that makes possible northern European democratic socialism. Directing animus against the wealthy in order to have more thorough redistribution, a la Sweden, won''t work here, because at base Americans want a society which is able to generate billionaires. We don't want to sacrifice the freedoms we feel make it possible for others to rise so high, even if we know we'll never get there ourselves. (The last bit is more my comment than his.)

Woodard restates his thesis that our politics can be described broadly as individual economic freedom vs. the freedom of the community. I felt the latter term was a little awkward and confusing when he introduced it. Now, I see how he gets there, by showing how extreme laissez-faire ends up restricting opportunity for the majority. By using this opposition, Woodward is able to claim that he's not suggesting limits on freedom, only trying to cast freedom in a different light. My preference would still be to state that valuing the interests of the community does mean sacrificing some individual freedom. A parallel here would be that valuing the environment entails sacrificing some of what we've viewed as our freedom to abuse it.

How would Woodard counsel the Democratic candidates for president? By all indications, he would tell them to run on platforms emphasizing equality of opportunity rather than equality of results. That position would shift them far enough toward the mainstream to have a chance of persuading the on-the-fence regions to vote Democratic. They might accept that higher, though not exorbitant, taxes need to be paid by the wealthy. Americans have strong enough feelings about a level playing field to make that ethos attractive. Regarding the proper role of government, the guideline should be that proposed by Lincoln: government should do that which the people cannot do as well by themselves.

The obstacle to such an understanding is the Deep South, in Woodard's view. He is absolutely scathing toward that region on 247-48, implying that the shadow of the slave society still falls heavily on the region. Southern affinities aren't unknown in Appalachia, Midlands, and the Far west, so it might not be easy to isolate the South before forging ahead with a national program of restoring the common good.

The damage the anti-government acts of the Trump administration has so far done may become evident to enough voters that a shift toward the right balance can happen with a change of party control. That assumes that the other party will know how to play its hand. Right now, that's not so certain.



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geo, Harry Marks
Sun Nov 03, 2019 3:19 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union
One of the takeaways I get from “A Lasting Union” is Woodard emphasizing the isolation of the Deep South. Knowing that there is little hope of changing the regions Libertarian politics, he suggests chipping away at the outer edges of entrenched southern roots, particularly in the regions of crossover to those areas of Appalachia that are persuadable in the new deal sense. Particularly the areas that have benefited from things like TVA etc.

I think the key point for opposition politicians (Dems) is recognizing the degree to which libertarian ideology’ Within themselves has turned off the crossover voter and that highlighting the self harm from the broad appeal of these libertarian ideals in the electorate/population of the regions of the south particularly, may not be successful but is necessary.

I think Woodard rightly points out the need to pushback on the Social Darwinism inherent in the Libertarian South. So far I have not seen this as a national issue publicly but in my opinion it should be.

American Character is a prescient book, that clearly displays the domestic struggle of our generation.



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Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:15 am
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union
Taylor, I didn't know what to think about Woodard's denunciation of the Deep south's backward politics. I live in a red part of Virginia, but still fairly close to the liberal stronghold of the DC area, so I don't see such a strong regressive element operating in the wider area. I know geo lives in N. Carolina, but in more progressive Asheville, so he also may not sense so much old-South reactionism. I was thinking of Birmingham, AL electing an African-American mayor and wondering if Woodard as a Northerner is too harsh against a region with which he may not have much first-hand experience. And I'm guessing that even though Florida is as south geographically as it can be, it isn't really Deep South, either (went narrowly for Obama twice and favored Trump only by a bit). Beto O'Rourke thinks Texas could turn blue. So that doesn't leave all that many electoral votes firmly in Trump lockstep. This is hopeful if you agree with Woodard that we need to return to a wider vision of the common good (I do).



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Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:43 am
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union
DWill, I can totally understand your POV. It’s of great value to me for reasons that I am not quite sophisticated enough to explain. I’ll try.

Though I oftentimes think that I am in an ocean of red, that is merely an impression. You’re right, Florida is not some deep red waste land, (my description) but I am here and it feels like it. I try to gauge people I talk to on whether or not they actually vote, and I really dismiss those who I think don’t, (but I still tell them my thoughts) I live in a diverse area, young locals working and retirees, Yankies, left coasters, midlanders, El Norte, there’r all here, each of the eleven nations, but they don’t all vote. For me the voting is what counts.

Each of the eleven nations can be clustered, that is why Texas can turn blue, it is why a black man can get elected mayor of Birmingham, why Obama can win a squeaker in my adopted home state. Clustering explains the Tidewaters. I guess what I’m driving at is agreement with you.

The problem that I want most dramatically to deal with is Libertarianism. At this point in my life, if, there is a thing I hate, it is just that. I have grown to dislike the very concept, I agree completely with Colin Woodard, It is Social Darwinism at its finest. There are better ways to to ensure individual freedom and the freedom of the community. They have been very well documented in this book.

Admitting to myself that it may put me in a particular tribe, I do think that it is a small element. ( I think that there are not many like me in this part of the country) I agree that the clusters we live in, are not permanent and are subject to change. Like you I want to see “a return to a wider vision of the common good .

I’m considering the national debt, What is the greater cause, social program free riders or 40 years of lost revenue due to libertarian tax policies? A 22 trillion dollar debt can not be blamed on some persons unknown collecting disability or primary education or subsidized lunches, healthcare, etc. , I mean, its possible to go on for an extended list. In the end, it is that lost revenue from the wealthy and corporations that has hurt this country the most. That is what I am sick of. It should be no bother for labor to pay taxes but it is, why?. That 22 trillion, who’s to blame?. Woodard is correct when he tells us that the burden is covered by the middle class and the poor.

Anyway, I hope I haven’t beaten a dead horse.

I will stop here with this thought; When I searched Woodard on YouTube there are surprising little interviews/lectures with him and this particular book. That’s telling in and of itself. For example, (not claiming to be a big Bill Maher fan) but Maher has not had Woodard on his show. Bill Moyers likely would have. Interesting to think about.



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Tue Nov 05, 2019 6:49 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union
Double post.



Tue Nov 05, 2019 6:56 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 9: A Lasting Union
:clap: Taylor, as you might have heard, Virginia has turned blue, with major statewide offices and both houses now being held by Democrats. Although I've always called myself an independent, and occasionally voted for a Republican, I think what happened in VA is a good thing. Virginians have traditionally been moderates, so I hope we can get the two parties actually working together. Even though the election results were favorable, I still feel a little unsettled looking at the red/blue map of the state. Geographically, the state is at least 90% red; you'd have to say that Trump territory is still vast compared to the urban blue areas.

I could still vote for a Republican, but the office would probably have to be a governor, mayor, or board of supervisors candidate. Party seems to matter less for those offices. I heard on NPR that the three most popular governors in the country are Republicans, and they govern liberal states. I know one of them is Maryland with Larry Hogan. I also saw Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma talking about his massive release of drug offenders and programs to re-integrate them--great stuff from a Republican.



Thu Nov 07, 2019 1:44 pm
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