A Map of Voter Subtlety (city folk/country folk faultlines made clear)

In the U.S.A., circa 2004, the Electoral College map looks like this:

All right, so the above image has been circulated ad nauseam to the point where even five-year-olds must know that the red states represent the "moral majority," those interested in being fiscally and socially conservative, the so-called Christian right, the homophobes, and people who find Bush's constant smirk endearing. And the blue states denote the crazy liberals that prefer French cheese to American Velveeta, drink fine wine as often as beer, favor welfare and peace to starvation and war, and think they're better than everybody else because they respect intellectuals and read a bit of philosophy (uppity pricks!).

According to the above map, however, most of the U.S. is entirely Republican... with only a few states in the north and the great swath of California leaning left. Many commentators have pointed out that, in truth, this is incorrect -- the nation is pretty evenly divided 50-50 in most states (or, at worst, around 60-40), with only slight margins determining whether the states votes get dumped into the laps of the Dems or Repubs. Thus, the electoral map paints a red U.S. that in reality is quite purple. It shows an overwhelming Republican victory in a country where a Democratic "mandate" could be achieved by a simple 1 or 2% change-of-mind by the populace.

However, the "50-50" concept implies that everything is equal... everyone probably knows just as many Democrats at their work as Republicans, has just as many friendly conservative neighbors as liberal neighbors, etc. But this, also, is disingenuous.

By ignoring our nation's antiquated and much-abused electoral system, and concentrating instead on the voting habits of the general population, we arrive at a map that more accurately reflects the mentality of the nation:

Yes, the country is no longer bright red or bright blue in giant chunks anymore. And, yes, the blueish and redish patches are mixed together in ways that the simplistic electoral map does not designate. However, the dominant color is still red.... in fact, it actually reveals that, geographically, even MORE of the country is conservatively inclined than indicated by the electoral map. The old blue-blooded liberal stalwart California is even slathered in red.

How can this be, when the popular vote is always so close to being 50-50, yea after year? Simple: Those little blue patches you see above are the densely populated cities.

So the United States is even less hospitable for liberals than most Democrats assume. The left wing gathers together tightly in large metropolitan centers while the conservatives spread out across the land. And the culture wars and political wars find themselves not just battling across old Civil War lines -- not just Founding-Father Yankees versus Confederate Dixie Rebels -- and not just metro-state versus rural-state, but, county-by-county the city folk and country folk are in a heated political battle against each other, whether they know it or not.

The argument could be made that the rural population should belong to the Democratic Party --the Democrats favor farm subsidies and bringing better education to the masses and sticking up for the little guy and the labor class. And the city folk should favor the Republicans -- the Repubs protect big businesses (which are usually based out of the big cities) and cut the taxes of the wealthy (and people living in big cities are usually perceived as making more money than the average rural citizen, so they have more personal income tax to protect).

The fact that the opposite is true seems illogical, except for the skill with which the Republicans have been able to sway rural and Christian voters by championing vague ideas about "moral values, attacking abortion and homosexuality and name-dropping Jesus. The Republicans have convinced half a nation that lower corporate taxes, larger monopoly-like companies, high federal debt, and a lack of federal health-care are all okay (even great!) because, gosh golly, why would the anti-abortion party want to pick your pockets, eh? As long as they keep talking about moral values and continue to fall on the majority side of the wedge issues, they can get away with anything they want -- even war and no-bid contracts to Halliburton.

But what about the city kids? Why are so many metropolis dwellers so liberal? I could present the argument that when people have to live together in close proximity, when they're constantly interacting with dozens of people of varying cultures and ethnicities, when they're surrounded by museums and music and libraries and colleges and diversity, when they know just how ploddingly and boringly evil the corporations are (because they're working right there, in the belly of the beast) -- when all these factors come into play, people's minds simply open up. They no longer feel intimidated by intellectuals or Middle Eastern Men or fey fellows kissing. They know an essential piece of the truth. They know they're not alone.

But if I made that argument, I'm sure I'd be accused of being a stuck-up egocentric namby-pamby. So I won't go there, sister, no sirree.

{Note: The images of the maps above were borrowed from The Stranger article "THE URBAN ARCHIPELAGO: It's the Cities, Stupid."}


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