Thursday, June 01, 2006
Electoral College 2
On further consideration, I should confess I have an ulterior, somewhat more "meta" motivation for wanting to see the Electoral College gone. Beside its fundamental betrayal of equal representation ...
I HATE THAT GODDAM MAP.
That winner-take-all electoral map delivers to an incredibly lazy media and pundit class a ready-made narrative. Unfortunately, the Red State/Blue State narrative also happens to be monstrously destructive, culturally. Painting massive swaths of the country one color (be it red or blue), while ignoring the actual number of voters in each state completely distorts the actual political balance in this country -- specifically, how moderate most of the country is.
It empowers fundamentalists of all stripes, because visual cues are enormously powerful and that color dichotomy implants resonances of ideological dichotomy that affect the framework through which the media present information and we to a great degree perceive it, then fix it into our own world-view, our mental operating system.
Mark Newman discusses some more accurate representations here, but there's a problem. While the actual national difference of 3% between the two candidates is public record, I propose, memetically (and I use that word quite precisely) the incredibly distorted original Electoral College map is now the iconograph lodged in most Americans' mind, and is therefore more effective in replicating both itself and other ideas based on the faulty perception it engenders. Newman's maps corrected for population are non-intuitive and therefore memetically useless.
Hell, even setting aside the overall result, just look at how close those state votes were: There was a 5% or less difference in Republican/Democratic Presidential votes in the following states tossed onto that monolithic all or nothing map.
2004 - actual difference vote difference 3%
New Hampshire 1%
New Mexico 1%
Ohio .... okay, 2%
2000 - actual vote difference 1%
New Hampshire 1%
New Mexico 0%
... oh, oh, Ralph. We so owe you a hug.
As we can see, the Republicans ought to be pretty pissed off at the misrepresentation created by the Electoral Map memetic component too -- there are some blue states that ought to read a lot more purple than we assume, the same way that massive swath of red seems to destroy the idea that there are any moderates democrats in the Midwest. Start comparing the populations of those swing states to the smaller states that went hard one way or another, and the lie of perception becomes even more stark.
This is all old, actually ancient ground, of course, but I prefer to tread it before leaping off the cliff. The cliff is this, and it is indeed a little airy-fairy for my usual tone: the Electoral Map on its own is the most destructive memetic component in modern American culture.
Feel free to mock.
The problem is, this:
is not the same as this:
The first is the reality, the second is the perception of reality many people have internalized and are operating under culturally, socially, and politically. It is also a ferociously efficient image, if you get my drift, in the evolution of idea-space. While the Electoral College is simply a bad idea whose time has long passed, weirdly its pictorial representation is a cultural wrecking ball.