How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America

If more proof were needed that the U.S. is two nations in one, it was offered by the recent mid-term elections. Democrats swept the House, but Republicans managed to increase their Senate majority. There is less middle ground, and less appetite for compromise, than ever.

To oversimplify America's electoral divide: Democrats win votes in urban, coastal areas; Republicans gain seats in the rural middle of the country. Those opposing blocs have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' states decades ago.

Occasionally, and often after tight-run presidential elections, that divide is translated into a cartographic meme that reflects the state of the nation.

Jesusland vs. the U.S. of Canada

Canada annexes the entire West Coast and borders Mexico.

Image: Strange Maps

In 2004, this cartoon saw the states that had voted for Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry join America's northern neighbor to form the United States of Canada. The states re-electing George W. Bush were dubbed Jesusland.

Trumpistan vs. Clintonesia

Trumpistan is a perforated continent, Clintonesia is a disjointed archipelago.

Image: The New York Times.

In 2016, these two maps disassembled the U.S. into Trumpistan, a vast, largely empty and severely punctuated land mass; and Clintonesia, a much smaller but more densely populated archipelago whose biggest bits of dry land were at the edges, with a huge, empty sea in the middle.

Soyland vs. the FSA

Following state borders, a line separates 'red' America (in the south) from the 'blue' half of the country.

Image: Jesse Kelly

Writing in The Federalist, Jesse Kelly in April this year likened America to a couple that can't stop fighting and should get a divorce. Literally. His proposal was to split the country into two new ones: a 'red' state and a 'blue' state.

On a map accompanying the article, he proposed a division of the U.S. into the People's Republic of Soyland and the Federalist States of America (no prizes for guessing Mr Kelly's politics).

It's a fairly crude map. For example, it includes Republican-leaning states such as Montana and the Dakotas in the 'blue' state for seemingly no other reason than to provide a corridor between the blue zones in the west and east of the country.

Mr Kelly admitted that his demarcational talents left some room for improvement: "We can and will draw the map and argue over it a million different ways for a million different reasons but draw it we must," he wrote. "I suspect the final draft would look similar (to mine)."

Partition, Palestine-style

A county-level division between red and blue, with contiguous territories for both.

Image: Dicken Schrader.

"No, this map won't do," comments reader Dicken Schrader. "It's too crude and would leave too many members of the 'blue' tribe in the 'red' nation, and too much 'red' in the 'blue' state."

Agreeing with the basic premise behind Mr Kelly's map but not with its crude execution, Mr Schrader took it upon himself to propose a better border between red and blue.

Analyzing election maps from the past 12 years, he devised his own map of America's two nations, "inspired by the original UN partition map for Israel and Palestine from 1947." Some notes on the map:

  • To avoid the distortions of gerrymandering, it is based on electoral majorities in counties, rather than electoral districts.
  • As with the UN partition plan for Israel/Palestine, all territories of both states are contiguous. There are no enclaves. Citizens of either state can travel around their nation without having to cross a border.
  • The intersections between both nations are placed at actual interstate overpasses, so both states have frictionless access to their own territory.
  • In order to avoid enclaves, some 'blue' islands had to be transferred to 'red', and some 'red' zones were granted to the 'blue' nation. "This exchange is fair to both sides, in terms of area and population".
  • Both nations have access to the East, West and Gulf Coasts, and each has a portion of Alaska.

​Red vs. blue

Washington DC would remain part of 'blue' America, and its capital.

Image: Dicken Schrader

Some interesting stats on these two new nations:

Progressive America (blue)

  • Area: 1.44 million sq. mi (3.74 million km2), 38% of the total U.S.
  • Population: 210 million, 64.5% of the total U.S.
  • Pop. Density: 146 inhabitants/sq mi (56/km2), similar to Mexico
  • Capital: Washington DC
  • Ten Largest Cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Jacksonville

Conservative America (red)

  • Area: 2.35 million sq. mi (6.08 million km2), 62% of the total
  • Population: 115.4 million, 35.5% of the total
  • Pop. Density: 49 inhabitants/sq mi (19/km2), similar to Sudan
  • Capital: Dallas
  • Ten Largest Cities: Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, Charlotte, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Louisville, Kansas City, Omaha, Colorado Springs.

What about the nukes?

The partition would not create enclaves, but allow citizens of either nation frictionless access to the entire territory of their state.

Image: Dicken Schrader

'Blue' America would be roughly half the size of 'red' America but have almost double the population.

In terms of area, 'blue' America would be the 13th-largest country in the world, larger than Mexico but smaller than Saudi Arabia. 'Red' America would be the 6th-largest country in the world, larger than India but smaller than Australia.

In terms of population, 'blue' America would now be the 5th-most populous county in the world, with more population than Brazil but less than Indonesia. 'Red' America would be the 12th, with more population than Ethiopia but less than Japan.

For those who think this divorce would end the argument between both tribes, consider that both countries would still have to live next to each other. And then there's the question of the kids. Or, in Mr Schrader's translation to geopolitics: "Who gets the nukes?"

--

Many thanks to Mr Schrader for sending in this map.

Strange Maps #948

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

Image source: Shashank Sahay/unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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