Nationhood Lab director Colin Woodard was the guest on political scientist Yascha Mounk’s The Good Fight, an influential podcast that seeks out ideas, policies and strategies that can defeat authoritarian populism.
Woodard unpacked why the U.S. is particularly vulnerable to authoritarian ethnonationalism and potential collapse, describing both how it always been a contentious and awkward federation of rival regional cultures — the story told in his book, American Nations — and the eternal struggle between civic national and ethno-national versions of the story of United States identity, belonging, and purpose, a story told in Union.
“It all comes down to the fact that we’re actually this balkanized federation of separate nations, if you will, separate regional cultures that don’t really see eye to eye and never did,” Woodard told Mounk, Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University and a Contributing Editor at The Atlantic.
“Right now, we don’t really have a good story of the United States. Why should the red states and blue states stay together? Because the alternatives are scary and potentially disastrous,” Woodard added. “But to do that, we need to really get our act together as to what we stand for, and what the answers to those questions are. And that’s complicated by the fact that we started this country without a story.”
Mounk is one of the most prominent public intellectuals focusing on the threat of authoritarian populism. Woodard reviewed his most recent book, The Great Experiment, last year for Washington Monthly.
Nationhood Lab, a project at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, delivers more effective tools with which to describe and defend the American liberal democratic tradition and better understand the forces undermining it.
[This article was cross-posted from Nationhood Lab.]