Telling a Story with Maps

Obama should not be dealing is this kind of deceptive mappery.

Democratic Primary Results after PAThe Obama Campaign has an online map, where campaigners can track the wins and losses of the marathon primary season. Andrew Sullivan replicates it approvingly on the Daily Dish, I assume to demonstrate the popularity of the Illinois senator, who he supports.

But this is childsplay – first, because the states vary in population density, so a large swathe of one colour may be less significant than smaller pockets of another. Second, since the Democratic Primary process is no longer modelled on the winner-takes-all system for delegates, the colour of the state is less relevant. I would like to see a county-by-county map.

Many Democrats and even more internationalists will recall the dismay of seeing the electoral map turn bright red in the 2004 Presidential Election, as George W Bush crawled to re-election. I am reminded of a couple of articles I saw around that time: First, the concept of Purple States reminds us just how diverse public opinion can be, even in ‘safe’ Republican States. Related to that is The Stranger’s editorial on the Urban Archipeligo, which shows how political preferences relate to the town-country divide, and shows a county-by-county breakdown of how people voted in 2004. Its the map I show British people when they enmbark on a lazy whine about “stupid Americans“.

What all these maps highlight is the divisiveness of American politics. How the the country is essentially embroiled in a bitter cultural war which began in the 1960s. That’s fine, and probably an accurate portrayal of the political landscape. However, Barack Obama’s campaign is based on the promise of reconciling the “two Americas” in a post-Bush consensus. So its odd that he, of all people, is dealing in this kind of deceptive mappery.

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