Over the years we've been told that ours is a nation divided. People ask whether Barack can unite the nation, which implies that it is now divided. John Edwards told us in 2004 that there's two America's (which I think he's right about, but nobody wants to hear that, so I don't think he'll use that again, and anyway that has nothing to do with this post).
Ever since 2000 and 2004 they've told us about red states and blue states. I think in 2000 it was something like half the nation was republican and the other half was democrat, and Florida was half and half. Here's the map they used to explain it to us:
So as we saw in 2000, American states were either burning hot or freezing cold. 2004 looked even more divided:
Now this one really freaked me out, man. At least in 2000 we were kind of integrated, with New Mexico a blue among reds, and New Hampshire a red among blues. At least back then red states and blue states could get along with one another and live among one another. In 2004 it was pretty clearly geographically divided, as if we're divided into two countries. I considered secession for a moment but then I remembered that George Clooney was from Kentucky, and him being my fellow countryman was always one of the things that kept me going in this world. I was still freaked out though. I don't want America to be two countries, what the crap? In the last year I have been to Florida, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona, and all of those places are freaking awesome. But it's these freaky maps that make me fear that I'm venturing into a foreign country when I go down south, and not just any foreign country but one of those hostile, anti-American foreign countries where they'll hear my Yankee accent and see my Yankee black t-shirts and think I'm some kind of Yankee douchebag. By the way it's a good thing I'm not a Red Sox fan because then I would really be offended by this. Now if the red and blue electoral maps weren't enough to spread this "divided America" theme around, along came this:
So there you have it. Red states and blue states, democrats and republicans. Or at least this is what the politicians would have us believe as they try to energize their base, and this is what the media and the pundits would have us believe as they try to get people interested in their drivel. The problem is that we see these electoral maps and most of us are like "geez, we're pretty divided," without thinking about it much more. The media and the politicians do the same. I guess it's more interesting that way, but to me it is dangerous, counterproductive, and just plain stupid to act like every single person in the red states vote republican and every single person in the blue states vote democrat.
First of all, in 2004, only 55% of eligible voters even voted! So much for this coloring scheme that's only based on half of the country. Furthermore, the winner-take all voting style completely distorts the picture, which colors in an entire state either red or blue. Of those that actually voted, 37 of our 50 states were split between 50-60% for one candidate, and 50-40% for the other. Only 13 states plus DC were real landslide contests in which such a large majority (of half of the eligible voters) voted for one of the parties.
The low voter turnout and the relatively even 60-50% - 50-40 split% suggest that there are 37 swing states, and that our country is not as divided as everyone says. In fact, some are even saying that America is not red and blue, but purple.
Here is a map that portrays things more accurately, showing % of vote by county:
And here is one of the 2006 elections:
Now of course we have our differences, and we should recognize them and celebrate them. But we shouldn't necessarily exaggerate them and think that people from the north can't get along with people from the south, or republicans can't get along with democrats, because the north and south is full of both, and we do live together and we do get along.