Regional Identity in Electoral Politics

We have made much on this blog of the writing of David Hackett Fischer, especially his masterpiece Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. One of the key lessons of Fischer’s book is the remarkable persistence of regional cultural differences in Britain, and in the areas of the USA settled from different parts of Britain, and the cultural and political repercussions of these regional variations.

Michael Barone, in his political analysis, always gives weight to these factors. He has recently been covering the Mexican elections, from Mexico. In this post he concludes:

The regional differences in Mexico are persistent and at least as distinctive as in the United States, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Brazil. … These differences were not reflected in election outcomes when the process was controlled by PRI and results were well nigh unanimous, from 1929 to 1988. Now we’re seeing them in the results of 2000 and 2006. We norteamericanos tend to think that all Mexicans are pretty much the same, that they all eat Tex-Mex food, and that they all have the left-leaning politics. Well, they aren’t, they don’t, and they don’t.

Apparently, political freedom has allowed these regional variations in Mexico a voice they previously were denied.

Germany and France also could be included in Barone’s list, as could Canada. (For Italy see this book.)

India, the world’s largest democracy, would be, and probably has been, a prime subject for this type of analysis. I would like to know a lot more about India and Indian politics. There is a lot of material out there and I do not know what is and is not reliable. If anyone can recommend good books on the subject, I’d like to hear about it. I would love to see a volume like Barone’s Our Country, which is my favorite book on American politics, for India, going election by election since independence.

And I know virtually nothing about Brazil, but I would like to. So, ditto for books about Brazilian politics, especially regional politics in Brazil.

On a related point, the Coming Anarchy blog has been talking about the extreme version of this: Regional devolution (e.g. Scotland, Northern Italy, Catalonia, Wallonia) or even independence (Montenegro). See e.g. this. Keeping a bunch of disparate regions all in one big national unit — which has certain advantages — takes some work. If, as in Europe, security functions are drifting away from the nation-state level to the Union level, then it becomes “safe” for regions to insist on some degree of autonomy.

(Barone also cites to the book Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler, which I also recently read. Ostler discusses the degree to which the indigenous languages of Central and South America survived the centuries of Spanish rule. I hope to have more on Ostler’s book at some point, but for now I will merely say that it is a unique vantage point from which to look at world history, and that it is very good and worth reading.)

(Cross-posted on Albion’s Seedlings.)

2 thoughts on “Regional Identity in Electoral Politics”

  1. Right, most of the immigrants to Texas have been from the more Texas-like parts of Northern Mexico, which is why Bush-Rove got blindsided by the opposition to their amnesty-guest worker plans. They didn’t understand what other Mexicans were like, or how different were the cultures of farther south parts of Mexico and more sophisticated parts of America.

  2. Generally, most of the immigrants to the US in general have been from the northern third of Mexico until the last 10-20 years. Texas has been different in many ways — a robust state narrative that is actively taught to schoolchildren, Anglo and Mexicano alike. A Texas Revolution that was genuinely bicultural, with heroes like Juan Seguin, so that there was some feeling that Texas was the work of Anglo Texicans and Hispano Tejano alike. And that history of the Republic of Texas as a viable part of the international system of states, and exercising regional power projection — the Texas Navy went down to aid the Yucutan independence movement, albeit unsuccessfully. All this has given Texans a different perspective on Mexico than other Americans have.

    Both Mexico and Brazil have had major secessionist wars. After all, the Texans won theirs. Yucutan has rebelled several times, bllodily. And there have been secessionist attempts in the North, like the Republic of the Rio Grande in the mid-19th Century. Even the Cristero War of the 1920s, usually viewed as a religious war, had a strong regionalist element to it; the northern highlanders at its core were small farmers who opposed the communal ejido system of the revolutionary government — in this the dynamics were similar to the Ukranian resistance to collectivization in the 1930s.

    As for Brazil, the South tried to gain independence in the 1930s and of course lost. An interesting note is that some of the Confederate exile colony in Sao Paulo state were active in the secession forces. They wore lapel pins with the crossed Confederate and Paulista secessionist flags, and the legend “Twice a Rebel”.

    Maybe they were a jinx.

Comments are closed.