Sherman Day Thacher in 1922 by artist H.R. Butler

Sherman Day Thacher in 1922 by artist H.R. Butler

Tribalism & Community

By Bret Bradigan

Sherman Day had one of young America’s most exemplary backgrounds, graduating from Yale University, where his father also went, and where his grandfather, Roger Sherman, was among our founding fathers. He was known for his assertive Yankee curiosity, always wanting to see what was the around the next bend. Among his many achievements was the first survey of wagon roads across the Sierra Nevada.

His legacy began to take shape when he joined a group of New England lawyers and clergymen to found the College of California, called “the Yale of the West,” in 1868. It is now known as California University at Berkeley.

His nephew, Sherman Day Thacher, also had his own distinguished career, attending Yale in his family tradition and founding, in 1889, when he realized how hard it would be to make a living on his 160 acres of orange groves, The Thacher School. As if founding one of the country’s leading preparatory academies wasn’t enough, he was also a trustee for San Antonio and Nordhoff schools, a key supporter of ‘The Ojai’ tennis tournament founded by his brother William and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also joined with Edward Drummond Libbey on the Ojai Civic Association to build the framework for Ojai as we know it – St. Thomas Aquinas Church, the Post Office Tower and Libbey Park.

It was that civic spirit of New England – communal, driven by the faith-based advocacy of good works, of education, of the pursuit of the “greater good,” that informed most deeply Ojai’s founding. Now many other cultural influences run through our local culture, but Ojai was an intentional community with Yankee ideals.

Colin Woodard’s 2010 book, “American Nations,” has been a widely influential and highly useful prism to view America’s current clashes and divisions. He says to forget about red states and blue states, about geographic regions, and instead look at the intrinsic cultures that came together during the past 300-plus years to found on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, as Lincoln so memorably said.

Quickly, those 11 nations are Yankeedom, New Netherlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, the Deep South, First Nation, the Midlands, New France, El Norte, the Left Coast and the Far West. There’s no space to go into all the distinctions here, so I encourage you to read the book. You won’t be disappointed. Besides being so insightful, it’s also a fun read.

Ojai is a meeting ground for many of these nations, especially the Left Coast (itself founded in large part by Yankeedom) Far West and El Norte. You can see this clearly when it comes to election time. Typically, the Democratic presidential candidate gets 70 to 75 percent of Ojai’s vote – and the Democratic coalition is now a blend of Yankeedom, New Netherlands, Left Coast and El Norte. The Republican candidates usually get 25 percent from their coalition of Greater Appalachia, Far West and Deep South. Democratic analysts should be aware, though, that President Trump got 28.5 percent of Ojai’s vote, a significantly larger share than either Mitt Romney or either presidents named Bush.

If you move further down the valley, those cultural characteristics are also evident, as Oak View gave Donald Trump 44.5 percent of its vote, and Casitas Springs’ 43.6 percent. Those percentages more closely align with Ventura County as a whole.

Interestingly, though with a statistically insignificant numbers barely busting a dozen each, the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson basically canceled out each other.

Who we favor at the ballot box does not define us, however. There is much common ground among America as a whole, as we learn during every natural disaster like the Thomas Fire, every terrorist attack, every tragedy, through every outpouring of goodwill that makes us stronger. But it’s helpful to realize that Ojai was essentially organized around education, and that our incredible schools – both public and private – are key to our identity. We can celebrate that, while still loathing the New England Patriots and the Red Sox (and let’s throw in the New York Yankees for good measure). Go Dodgers!

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