Colin Woodard: The GOPís Yankee Problem [View all]
A remarkable thing happened last Tuesday. The Republican Party was virtually extinguished from the land of its birth.
Iím speaking of Yankeedom, a great swath of the country from Maine to Minnesota that was effectively colonized by New England Puritans and their descendants. This cultural region - one of eleven that make up our continent ó includes upstate New York, the Western Reserve of Ohio, Upper Great Lakes states, the northern tier of Illinois, and part of Iowa. The birthplace of the G.O.P and the center of its support for the first century of its existence, today it is home to 54 million people, few of them genetically related to the early settlers of the Bay Colony, but all of them effected by the cultural DNA they left behind.
Itís a region that since its founding in the early 17th century has embraced the notion of the common good, even to the point of encumbering individual liberty to ensure its achievement. Itís a culture that actually considers self-denial virtuous (how strangely un-American that) and has greater faith in the possibility of improving society through public institutions than its peers. More utopian and communitarian than the other major cultural regions of the country, it has long been a challenge for Dixie conservatives seeking to weaken government, privatize services, and roll back taxes, regulations, and consumer safety protections.
A year ago in the magazine, I showed how the underlying political geography of the U.S. would doom Tea Party conservatism to regional, rather than national, relevance. The policy prescriptions embraced by the movement - a carbon copy of those said Dixie conservatives have been fighting for for a couple of centuries - run contrary to the values of Yankeedom and other regional cultures which together form a formidable block in the Electoral College, U.S. Senate, and Congress. I showed how the Tea Party had had difficulty electing its supporters to federal office in these regions, and how those they had were standing on cultural quicksand.