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 every one 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 judgement 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.
Australia's closest alliances both militarily and culturally are with four countries: New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK.
Rising multiculturalism and a desire to think more broadly mean that influence is growing from other regions as well primarily around Asia and Europe.
But if you converted the populations of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the US into 10 people, seven of them would be in America.
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.
American statesmen love to say that "there's more that unites than divides us", but it's reaching the stage where that is becoming less and less true.
The life lived by a wealthy Wall Street trader or California socialite almost couldn't be more different from the life lived by a minimum wage hospitality worker in West Virginia.
Growing income inequality means more people are living in poverty in the United States than the entire population of Australia and New Zealand combined.
With numbers like these, comparing the United States to the most high-functioning democracies is perhaps unfair.
When you look at the state of American politics in comparison with Western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand it does not come off well at all. But more people live in the United States than all of those countries combined.
Rather than the largest of the developed countries it may be more helpful to look at them as the most developed of the large countries.
The most populous countries are, in order, China, India, the US, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia and Mexico, and when you compare American politics to those, it comes off rather well.
According to last year'sEconomist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index, two of them China and Russia, are full-blown authoritarian regimes.
Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh are "hybrid regimes" in that while they have not slipped fully into authoritarianism, their governments are going to serious efforts to quash opposition and dissent.
The Index rates the US as a "flawed democracy", alongside India, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico.
The problems facing these five are significantly different, though.
In India, Narendra Modi, the fiscal conservative the people elected in 2014, has morphed into a hardline Hindu nationalist bringing in discriminatory policies against the country's 200 million Muslims and stirring up tension with neighbours China and Pakistan to increase nationalist fervour.
In Indonesia, the popular moderate Joko Widodo has successfully held anti-democratic hardliners at bay, though there is significant concern that at the end of his term in 2024, they may take control of national politics.
In Brazil, widespread corruption in national politics led to the rise of far-right culture warrior Jair Bolsonaro, who has led a dangerous assault on the country's public institutions and denied the effects of climate change even as the Amazon burns.
In Mexico, the incredible influence of organised crime and corruption of political institutions has meant the population has lost almost all confidence in its public officials and institutions.
This is the group the Economist has placed the United States in, though it does look on it more favourably than the others.
The researchers are less concerned about rule-of-law and the legitimacy of elections than they are by the hyper-partisan nature of American politics.
They say "Republicans and Democrats are increasingly seen as being focused on blocking each other's agenda, to the detriment of policy-making", a trend that has led to a decade-long stalemate in Congress.
So essentially, the institutions of the country its legal system, its elections, its military and its business community are functioning normally and effectively.
But Bill's "15 Americas" are so resentful of each other's view of how the one country they all belong to should operate that they have become paralysed.
Well, look at the United States in a historical context.
In 1900, the US had a population three times present-day Australia's, and three distinct identities. A prosperous industrial north-east. A south in the midst of recovering from the Civil War, still maintaining a fiercely segregated society, and a booming resource-rich west coast.
But as three Americas became five in 1930, a succession of unifying national projects rolled through.
The New Deal reconstruction from the Great Depression, followed by World War II, a four-decade fight against communists and then a war on terror gave Americans a common cause.
But when a new enemy emerged in the form of the coronavirus, instead of uniting against it, the 15 Americas turned on each other.
Now with the virus raging through the country, eight Americas managed to unite behind a new president.
It's difficult to see how he will be able to bring the other seven on board with him to defeat the virus and heal divisions.
The long-term threat of climate change will require Biden and his successors to convince some of the Americas to make sacrifices and change their lifestyle to save others, when they couldn't even convince them to wear a paper mask.
It's a conundrum almost impossible to understand from our smaller, vastly more united country on the other side of the world.