Lincoln’s modern-day successor, President Obama, famously proclaimed after winning the Iowa caucuses in 2008, “We are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America.” But like so much of what the president has said these past five years, no matter how well-intended, that simply isn’t true. Rather than being united, the states and the people seem more divided than ever.
On a micro level, of course, all states are purple because voters still (nominally) vote individually, and even in the most lopsided inner-city voting precincts or wards no one party ever gets 100 percent of the vote (although in Milwaukee and Chicago they come close). But on a macro level most states fall into one category or the other, with very few “swing” states left in national elections, as the last two elections have proved.
I have long thought about this and would like to go one step farther and note the following: President Obama in 2012 won just 22 percent of the nation’s counties, a record-low percentage. Another way to put it is majorities in 78 percent of the country opposed America’s current president.
Here in Illinois, where The Heartland Institute is headquartered, we have 102 counties and a Democrat governor named Pat Quinn. He lost 98 of the state’s 102 counties. The article I’ve linked says he lost 99 of them. One county’s totals were so close it was only weeks after the election that a recount shifted a handful of votes, giving him a razor-thin victory in the fourth county. So he ended up losing the counties by a 98 to 4 margin yet is our governor because he won overwhelmingly in Cook County, which includes the City of Chicago and by itself accounts for more than 5.2 million of the state’s 12.8 million persons.
We see similar results in other states where one or two metropolitan areas have enough population to dominate the entire state. Look at this University of Michigan map of the 2012 presidential election (also illustrating this post) showing counties that voted for Romney (in red) and counties that voted for Obama (in blue). It’s a sea of red surrounding islands of blue.
David is correct when he writes:
It’s fair to say that American voters are largely in one of two camps: those who want more government and those who want less.
My question: Why have so many of those who want more government apparently concentrated in major cities and in counties dominated by college towns? Why have so many of those who apparently want less government concentrated in smaller towns and rural areas?
And another question: How representative is government when a governor can lose 98 of 102 counties, and when the President of the United States can lose 2,388 counties and win only 689 of them?
David ended with this:
On a whole host of issues – of which health care is but one – it remains to be seen how the continuing battle between government control and individual liberty will be resolved. But as Lincoln observed in his Gettysburg Address, a nation cannot long endure half slave and half free.
Is it too much of a stretch to argue that people occupying 20 percent of the country want to enslave people in the remaining 80 percent? How about if we remove the word “enslave” and insert “impose their will on.” Would that be accurate?