It’s subtle, but there is a huge difference between saying “the United States” and “these United States”.
In the first case, one seems to be referring to a single nation that has the odd characteristic of being made up of theoretically semi-autonomous internal divisions, but that is really a homogenized whole. In the second case, one seems to be referring to something more along the lines of a cooperative confederation of essentially independent units that present a united front on certain issues but otherwise mind their own affairs.
The distinction between these two ways of thinking has never been more present than in the days since Arizona passed its current immigration law. On one hand, we have the reactions of the social liberal elements of American society who consider themselves citizens of the United States and appear to be universally appalled by Arizona’s choice of internal decision making. These American citizens are united in their condemnation of Arizona and in their growing boycott of that state in an effort to force it to behave in the way they think all Americans should behave. Further, they are crying loudly that the federal government should do something to force Arizona to stop its anti-social(ist) behavior.
On the other hand, we have the reactions of the citizens of these United States who are actively supporting Arizona’s choice to regulate its own affairs free of the interference of other states, those states’ citizens, and the federal government so long as Arizona is not violating the federal constitution in doing so. These citizens note that no one from, say, California or New York has to live on Arizona or deal with its law, so why do they care what Arizona does unless it somehow affects things being done in California or New York as well.
Whether or not I agree with Arizona’s choice on immigration enforcement, I agree with the latter sentiment with every fiber of my being. There is a reason that I live in Ohio and not in New York or California, and I really wish people from those sorts of places would concentrate on their own business instead of mine. The idea that each state has the right to make the kinds of decisions that make it independent and unique from the other states lies at the heart of everything the Founders built these United States upon. Take away the autonomy and internal regulation of the individual states, within the bounds established by the Constitution, and we are neither united nor states anymore.