Thursday, November 6, 2008

Political Maps

Via The Minnesota Independent by way of Eyeteeth, here's a map of the USA that resizes the states based on population and colors them according to the red-blue scheme.

Naturally, even within the states, many voters voted for that other one, so to speak -- North Carolina and Indiana were exceedingly close in favor of Obama, while Missouri went red by a very slight margin, for example -- so we should revise the old saying to be "there are lies, damn lies, maps, statistics, and GOP talking points."

Maps are maps, and they show what they show, it's just that we have to be careful about what we understand them to mean and how we use them to advance an argument -- much like any other lie, damn lie, statistic, half-truth, or indeed talking point. This page has a number of red-blue maps and cartographs that reshape and colorize the country right down to the county level and so on.

If Democrats look at a map such as the above and conclude that they've achieved an enduring electoral majority, I think they're very mistaken, at least as mistaken as the Republicans who made similar pronouncements after 2000 and 2004. The way to achieve lasting electoral success is to govern well -- I don't think there's any demographic formula or trompe l'oeil that can substitute for that.

1 comment:

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Ah, indeed. Hail the might cartogram. Something that tells us a better story than a mere map does.

Not that a map doesn't, of course. But it explains a lot that just simply looking at a map doesn't.

For instance, if you looked at a map of Oregon colored red for Smith and Blue for The Merk, It looks like Jeff should lose. less than halff the state is colored blue.

But if you alter those areas, assigning relative sizes based on populatons, then the map more resembles reality, even if the shape's distorted.

Cartography's a beautiful thing.