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America’s tribes

The key to American politics is not ideology or class but ethnicity and culture. It all boils down to north v south

By Michael Lind   January 2001

In the aftermath of the US election, the pattern of Democratic blue and Republican red on the electoral map is baffling, unless you know how to read it. Ideology does not help much. “Left” and “right” are irrelevant terms from 19th and 20th-century Europe. Geographic dichotomies-big states versus small states, interior versus coasts-merely supply questions, not answers.

The clue to the US electoral map lies in ethnography. As the historian David Hackett Fischer and the commentator Kevin Phillips (among others) have demonstrated, ideology and region are surrogates for race and ethnicity in the US. American politics is, and always has…

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