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America is just too big and the system is struggling to hold everyone together

 On the day of the US election, the ABC audience had an interesting conversation.

ABC Radio's James Valentine had asked whether his listeners felt differently about the United States than they had in the past.

Bill rang in. He splits his time living between both countries, and his call stuck with me.

"We've got 25 million people in Australia, they've got roughly 350 million," he said.

"There's 15 Americas for everyone Australia. You can all find an America that you like."

I was listening at the time from the studio — I had been speaking to James about the results coming from across the country, which was essentially a judgment of the performance of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

They had engaged in a complex dance across Bill's 15 Americas. Biden had won seven of them — Trump seven others. They were fighting over the final one.

I was struck by the spectacular complexity of this country that is so central to our culture in Australia — and how despite the enormous amount of time we all spend watching, doing business with, visiting, loving, and hating America, how fundamentally impossible it is to understand it.

If Australia were to become part of the US — with each of our states and territories added as a new state of America, here's where each would rank in terms of population:

New South Wales — 13th, between Virginia and Washington. Victoria — 19th, between Indiana and Missouri. Queensland — 25th, between Minnesota and South Carolina. Western Australia — 39th, between Kansas and New Mexico. South Australia — 44th, between Idaho and Hawaii.

Tasmania, the ACT and Northern Territory would become the three smallest states in the Union, behind Wyoming.

Think about how much attention you pay to what's happening in Pennsylvania, outside of election season. I'm guessing it's very little. Now let me tell you that Pennsylvania has more people living in it than Queensland, WA, SA, Tasmania, the ACT, and Northern Territory combined.

The United States is — by the scale of modern nations — an ancient behemoth. Virtually unchanged constitutionally in 230 years, it has grown to an unwieldy size.

It is so large that holding together a sense of national identity has become almost impossible.

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