November 05, 2004

Hicks and City Slickers

It is wrong, both ethically and scientifically, to blame all Americans for the "re-election" of George W. Bush. A brief look at the following maps can tell us a lot about what happened on November 2, why it happened, and who is to blame for it.

The first one is a map of US population density.

The second one is a county-by-county map that colours Democratic and Republican counties in the usual way.

And this map, which is again a population density map, but made to look like a nighttime satellite picture

The similarity, nay the correspondence, between election results and population density maps is unmistakable. It is fairly clear that one factor that played in the election was that, generally speaking, most people living in densely populated areas voted Democratic, and most of the ones living in sparsely populated areas voted Republican.

What brought this up was that I have heard people say that they could forgive Americans for getting Dubya into office the first time, but not twice. Americans could be forgiven the first time, the argument goes, because they didn't know any better. Now that they have seen the Dubya gang in action for nearly four years, they can't plead ignorance. Therefore, the argument continues, the "American people" deliberately and consciously elected this gang of thugs and criminals to high public office. This argument ignores the fact that millions of Americans both times voted against Dubya, and hence cannot be called to account for his election. More importantly, the above argument ignores the fact that the social groupings who voted him in the second time were the same social groupings who voted for him the first time. The "hicks" love him, and the "city slickers" hate him. Is it then reasonable to blame all Americans for his rise to the most powerful political office in the world?

But now that we suspect the city vs country divide is the driving engine of politics in the US, we have to ask for the reason. How is it that the mere fact of where one lives tends to determine one's political outlook? It is undeniable that people who live in rural regions and small towns live in smaller worlds than do those who live in cities and bigger towns. What is probably less obvious is that this "rural idiocy," to borrow Lenin's phrase, affects every aspect of their worldview or Weltanschauung. The phrase "Love thy neighbour" means something completely different to one group than it does to the other one. To the rural person, who lives far from his/her neighbour, and sees them only when he/she wants to, it probably means things like helping out during harvest, and keeping one's livestock from trampling adjoining properties. To the city dweller, who lives right next door to his/her neighbour, and sees them on a regular basis, and has little choice but to see them regularly, loving one's neighbour means consciousness of the common interests that bind them together. To put it a bit simplistically, the fence around a property defines the rural person's sphere of interest, while the whole of society is the city person's sphere of interest.


Patrick M Brennan said...

Can you give a URL for the original images you posted here? I would like to see if I can get them in higher resolution, and a discussion of methodology, if possible. Thanks!

Al S. E. said...

Thanks for your message, Patrick. If you click on the images, they'll open in higher resolution. I found them through Google by searching for "election 2004 maps" and so on, but I don't have the sources. As to methodology, if you are referring to the methodology of inserting pictures, there is more info available at If you are referring to sociological methodology, I am not a professional social scientist, but just a layman who is very interested in how power relations evolve in society. Hence I would be glad to discuss any related issue.