Is North Carolina a Countrypolitan State in a Metropolitan Nation?

Pope McCorkle, Duke University

My paper will examine the increasingly prominent use of the "metropolitan" concept in analyses of American politics. The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has established an influential economically-based geographic definition of metropolitan (and non-metropolitan) counties. And the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Program has been aggressive in using the OMB's framework to promote a progressive political understanding of "metropolitanism." The Brookings metropolitanism view largely dovetails and reinforces the "emerging Democratic majority" thesis developed by progressive analysts Ruy Teixeira and John Judis. The use of metropolitanism as a political concept represents a clear advance over the standard conception regarding an "urban-rural divide" in American politics. Nevertheless the weaknesses in metropolitanism as a political concept underline that attempts to apply geographic distinctions in the political realm can invite more confusion than clarity. The paper's main case study will be the state of North Carolina. My analysis will show that key "swing" metropolitan counties in North Carolina and the state as a whole have exhibited in political and cultural terms more of a mixed, hybrid "countrypolitan" flavor. It will also show that this alternative "countrypolitan" concept points to larger problems in conceiving of America as a metropolitan nation.

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 Presented in Session 122. Perspectives on Regional Development in the U.S. South