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Personal views on american character and what it means to be american

America at war with itself By David M. Oshinsky April 22, 2016 David M. One could disagree with much of what Woodard presented but still come away admiring the boldness of his themes. Woodard, an award-winning journalist for the Portland Press Herald in Maine, is a terrific writer, and his range is impressive. The problem is with the larger thesis of the book. Despite some truly original insights, the result, too often, is a disjointed narrative, lurching from era to era, crisis to crisis, with the leading actors scrutinized by their places of origin — Yankeedom, Tidewater, Far West — as if personal geography was the determining factor in most everything they did.

America works best, Woodard insists, when the anti-government culture of radical libertarianism and laissez-faire conservatism think Deep South as leader, with Greater Appalachia, Far West and Tidewater sometimes on board is in balance with the pro-government culture of collective action for the common good think Yankeedom and Left Coast as primary actors, with sprinklings from other regions.

American Culture

The problem, Woodard says, is that these competing forces are rarely equal — or willing to compromise. A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good" by Colin Woodard Viking In the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, laissez-faire and libertarianism created the industrial behemoth that is modern America, during a time of extraordinary excess, inequality of wealth, political corruption and working-class misery.

In response, the pendulum swung back hard the other way, giving the United States a Progressive Era of needed economic and social reform, but also a time of political overreach in terms of what many Americans expected their government to do. With a few exceptions — the demands of a world war, an economic catastrophe — the competing regional cultures have kept the nation from reaching the sort of consensus that allows fundamental problems to be solved.

Woodard includes Franklin D. Yet, as Woodard notes, Roosevelt took the reins of power at a time when the nation was on its knees.

America at war with itself

He fought off attempts by the political left to bring socialism to Washington — his goal was to enact reforms needed to preserve capitalism — and steered a moderately liberal course that offended zealots at both ends of the political spectrum. The problem, of course, is that two of the three Republican presidents who preceded FDR — Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge — also came from Yankeedom, as did many of the laissez-faire, libertarian business types who plundered their way through the 1920s.

Woodard admires George H. America works best when its leaders find a middle ground between unfettered individualism and unrealistic communalism. But his money is on the Democrats.

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What Americans yearn for, he believes, is a government that ensures fairness in an aggressively competitive country. The story must be told. Your subscription supports journalism that matters.