Thursday, November 04, 2004


It is depressing to look at an electoral college map, with its stark red-blue division — mostly red, making a passage from Massachusetts to California seem much like a trip from the Shire to Rivendell by way of Mordor.

It gets a little better if you look at a county-by-county breakdown, such as The Boston Globe did, where you can see patches of blue, counties huddled together for strength, even amid the blood red of Texas, Alabama and Mississippi.

Now that the election’s over, though, it may help us noble losers to blur the lines even further. Never mind the binary division of the electoral vote, the brittle lines of the county-by-county chart. Forget razor-wired red and blue entirely and instead blend the colors by percentage, making much of the country a somewhat pleasant purple, albeit one with, state by state, more of a red hue.

In this election, there were many states divided by presidential vote by around 20 percentage points, but less than a fifth of the country was more divided, about nine states ranging from Kansas (a 26 percentage point difference) to Utah (a 44 percentage point difference). (Oh, and the District of Columbia, whose three electoral college votes went Democratic in a striking 81 percentage point split.)

We are more alike, or at least more evenly divided, than a look at the electoral college map suggests. While it’s valuable to acknowledge the divisions, especially county by county, it’s vital that we remember too that we share the same space. The borders aren’t quite so solid.


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