The geography of the Occupy movement

With demonstrations all over the country, it’s obvious that Occupy Wall Street has inspired activism that reaches far beyond Lower Manhattan. It’s not too soon to note, however, that the movement has more influence in some parts of the country than others.

Colin Woodard argues in his new book, American Nations, that the continent can effectively be divided into 11 distinct regional cultures or nations, and for the Tea Party, that poses a real problem. But for “Occupiers,” Woodard argues this week, there are real opportunities when geography is considered.

The Guardian newspaper has assembled a database of Occupy protests worldwide, with estimates of maximum crowd sizes drawn from media accounts. It documents hundreds of demonstrations in communities across North America, from Fairbanks to Miami and everywhere in between. Like the Tea Party, Occupy is everywhere. But filter the database for communities where demonstrations achieved a maximum reported size of at least 1000 people and the list narrows to just 32 towns and cities. These “big occupation” sites are clustered in four of my American nations – and rare or non-existent in others.

The largest concentration of major protests has been on the Left Coast…. The region has eight cities that have seen major protests, from San Francisco and Oakland to Vancouver, the home of AdBusters, the magazine that issued the call that first got OWS rolling. The Left Coast’s two closest allies — the Dutch-settled Big Apple and the sprawling Greater New England region I call Yankeedom — account for six more. It is conspicuous that the two regions that have offered the least political support to the Tea Party – the Left Coast and New Netherland — are the intellectual and spiritual birthplaces of the Occupy movement.

By contrast, the region where the Tea Party has experienced the greatest support — the Deep South –has seen just one large Occupy protest, in the uncharacteristic city of Orlando.

Given the significance the West is likely to play in 2012 elections, this is no small observation.

Woodard’s piece is pretty interesting; it’s worth a look.