The Political Culture of the New West
Jeff Roche, ed.
From wildcatting Texas oilmen to Colorado rock climbers, from hipster capitalists to populist moralizers, westerners have proven themselves to be a highly individualistic breed of American—as much in their politics as in their vocations or lifestyles. This first book on the landscape of the American West's politics looks beyond red state/blue state assumptions to explore how westerners have expanded the boundaries of the political and emerged as a harbinger of America's electoral future.
Representing a wide range of specialties—popular culture, business history, the environment, ethnic history, agriculture, and more—these authors portray a politically heterogeneous region and show how its multiple traditions have strongly shaped the nation's body politic. Viewing politics as more than cyclical electioneering, they draw on historical evidence to portray westerners imaginatively rethinking democratic practice and constantly forging new political publics.
“This book helps us better understand the terrain—shifting as it is every day—upon which the histories of both the once and future West will be written.”
—Reviews in American History
“An important collection of recent western political history. . . . The book compellingly argues that claims to western authenticity reflect a regional political culture deeply influential in both western and national politics.”
—Western Historical QuarterlySee all reviews...
“Roche has effectively harmonized apparently disparate specialties—business, popular culture, environment, ethnicity, and agriculture, to name a few—into an edgy collection of “New Wests” relentlessly reinventing themselves.”
—Journal of Arizona History
“The thoroughly researched essays in this volume speak to many of the components of South Dakota political culture and will provide an invaluable guide to historians seeking to develop these themes in their research on the state’s role in the story of the American West.”
—South Dakota History
“Most collections of essays are a mish-mash, uneven in quality and thematically disjointed. But the pieces gathered in [this book] are original, thoughtful, well written, and suggestive. . . . The compilation is addressed as much to issues of the modern west as to issues of the past, and it should win applause from all students of the American West, not just historians. Although the book focuses on how regionalism has helped to define American politics, it is not a book about elections, parties, or even policies as much as it is about the changing social and economic contexts of politics. This book provides novel and persuasive answers to the old question of why the concept of a separate ‘American West’ has such enduring value.”
“A very interesting volume . . . brings together twelve essays. . . . Roche and the assembled authors are all engaged in an effort to look behind the voting returns at the basic values and social patterns that underlie electoral politics. . . . Reflective readers can use this book to help think about the cultural values and changes that will underlie election day decisions.”
—Oregon Historical Quarterly
“A signature compendium. Taken together the chapters elucidate the variety and vitality of political cultures and show how they have shaped the American West and the American nation in familiar and surprising ways over the last three-quarters of a century.”
—Stephen Aron, executive director, Institute for the Study of the American West, Autry National Center
“A fine collection of well-written essays that address important topics in western political history.”
—Brian Cannon, author of Remaking the Agrarian Dream: The New Deals Rural Resettlement Program in the Mountain WestSee fewer reviews...
These twelve essays move western political history beyond the usual discussions of elections and parties and the standard issues of water, progressivism, and states' rights. Some explore claims to western authenticity among those associated with western conservatism-not just regional heroes like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, but farmers and evangelicals as well. Others examine the transformation of the West's minority communities to reveal a liberalism that celebrates diversity and articulates claims for social justice. The final chapters reveal the complexity of contemporary western political culture, challenging longstanding assumptions about such notions as space, nature, and the liberal-conservative divide.
Here then is the paradox of western politics in all its enigmatic glory, with frontier individualism going head-to-head with multiethnic diversity in debates over divergent views of "western authenticity," and wild cards put into play by counterculturists, cyber-libertarians, fiscally conservative gun-toting Democrats, and environmentalists. The Political Culture of the New West shows how westerners have expressed themselves within a complex, often contradictory, and constantly changing political culture—and helps explain why no electoral outcome in this part of America can be predicted for certain.