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November 18, 2013 9:00 AM American Nations and the Political Evolution of the Far West

By Ryan Cooper

Over the past couple of weeks, frequent Washington Monthly contributor Colin Woodard’s book American Nations has blown up in the media. Most recently, he appeared on Chuck Todd’s show:

This is quite unusual—Colin’s book came out two years ago, and typically new books have gotten all the publicity they’re going to get within a month or two of publication. But as Monthly readers know, this bit of good fortune is well-deserved. Whether it’s analyzing the geographic roots of the Tea Party, or pondering whether the South should split off into its own country, or showing how white supremacy helped doom the Confederacy, or applying his geographic tools to the government shutdown, the Virginia election, or the New Jersey election, Colin has had a unique and valuable perspective on practically every political story.

One area that he hasn’t addressed quite as much is how what he calls the “Far West” is changing, so I was pleased to see the discussion he and Chuck Todd had on the program. That’s where I’m from, and I just finished reporting a piece for the next issue of the magazine about how a small town in Utah is shifting from an economy based around extractive industry to one based around recreation and tourism.

As swing states become rarer and rarer, the Far West is one of the few areas that is becoming more purple overall. Colorado and New Mexico are already swing states, and chances are good that Arizona will be as well in a cycle or two. It’ll be a place to watch.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper

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