In fact Woodard pulls it off. He compellingly lays out his vision of why it makes sense to throw state boundaries out the window for the most part and think instead of 11 nations, each defined by its history, by a common culture and set of assumptions about government and life. I always hated the term “Left Coast,” the way any self-respecting San Franciscan hates the term “Frisco,” since it seemed to carry the hint that even someone like me, fourth-generation Californian on both sides, was somehow not part of America. Yes, Woodard explains, that is exactly right: “Left Coast” culture, running in a coastal strip from around just north of San Luis Obispo, California, up to British Columbia, does in key respects stand apart from “the Far West,” “El Norte,” “First Nation,” “New France,” “the Midlands,” “Greater Appalachia,” “the Deep South,” “Tidewater,” “the New Netherlands,” and “Yankeedom.”

“America’s most essential and abiding divisions are not between red states and blue states, conservatives and liberals, capital and labor, blacks and whites, the faithful and the secular,” Woodard writes in his introduction. “Rather, our divisions stem from this fact: the United States is a federation comprised of the whole or part of 11 regional nations, some of which truly do not see eye to eye with one another … Few have shown any indication that they are melting into some sort of unified American culture. On the contrary, since 1960 the fault lines between these nations have been growing wider, fueling culture wars, constitutional struggles, and ever more frequent pleas for unity.”