According to Barack Obama, “there are no blue states, no red states, only the United States of America”. That is the rhetoric one should expect from a president-elect, intent on overcoming the inevitable polarisation of an election campaign. Given the oppositional nature of politics in a democracy, however, it seems likely that a divide between Obamaland and McCain Country will continue to exist. But where exactly are these two political entities?
In 2004, a satirical map of Jesusland and the United States of Canada made the rounds of the internet, showing a red-state heartland bounded by a few coastal and northern blue states, joined up with the US’s northern neighbour Canada. That country’s perceived liberal political culture is seen by some as more in line with the ‘leftist’ leanings of the Democratic party, which dominates the blue states.
This year around, Jesusland has taken a beating, and the victorious blue states no longer feel as if they need northern comfort. Nine states have switched from red to blue: Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado in the west; Florida, North Carolina and Virginia in the south, and Indiana, Ohio and Iowa in the midwest. As a result, Obamaland consists of four separate chunks of territory, with West Virginia awkwardly poking its two panhandles into the largest of those four areas.
Interestingly, McCain Country still consists of one contiguous territory, but if the freshly defeated senator from Arizona would want to visit the outgoing president Bush on his Texas ranch, he would need to drive all the way north to Cheney Territory (i.e. Wyoming) and then south again through Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to avoid ‘blue’ country. East of the Mississippi, and with the exception of Florida, redness is a southern thing. The northernmost ‘red’ point on the map, east of the Mississippi, is the aforementioned northern panhandle of West Virginia.
Obamaland fragments into a thousand little pieces when the map’s focus shifts to victories at the county rather than the state level. Obama tends to win in densely populated urban centres, that look isolated amidst all the rural red, which now reaches its northern zenith east of the Mississippi in upstate Maine. That little red island in a blue sea is the reverse of most of the rest of the map.
Obamaland’s terra firma is fragmented into a few large chunks: in the Northeast, west of the Great Lakes, a cluster in the southwest, and clinging to the West Coast.The rest are smaller archipelagoes and islands in an ocean of red.
These two cartograms and many others analysing the outcome of the 2008 US presidential election can be found on this excellent page at the University of Michigan, maintained by Mark Newman of the Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems. Many thanks all those who provided me with a link to this page.