16 November 2012

ELECTORAL COLUMNS - a map display

At the end of the thread over Mitt Romney's current % of the NPV, in reference to our time-period in history and the "Gilded Age", I wrote:

"How has this played out on the electoral map over the last ten cycles will be the subject of the next report, called ELECTORAL COLUMNS, 1980-2012."

This is going to be fun. Take time to look at each one of these maps. The maps are screenshots from RealClearPolitics (thanks!) and reflect the current EV allocation, based on the 2010 census data. Each state is hyperlinked to its current bio, from 2011, so the end stats for 2012 are not yet in the bios - but that will change. These links will still be good when the bios have been updated.

Map I: the "12ers" (1968-2012)

These states are the so-called "12ers". They have gone for their respective party for 12 cycles in a row:

Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South DakotaUtah and Wyoming for the GOP. DC for the Democratic Party. 10 states total. These above states have gone every time since 1968 for their respective party. Indiana used to be on this list in 2004 as one of the then "10er"s, but that streak was broken in 2008, making Indiana now a 12-for-13 GOP state. These ten states represent a virtually impenetrable core of their parties which cannot be broken even in the event of a pretty solid landslide for the other side.

Map II: the "9ers" (1980-2012)

In addition to the "12ers" from Map I, 5 states were added as of 1980 as the so-called "9ers", having gone for their respective party every time since 1980. That would be the ten states from the first map, plus Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas for the GOP, plus Minnesota for the Democratic Party. Actually, Minnesota is a 10er, having gone for the Democratic candidate every time since 1976, and not just since 1980. You can see that all four of the states added to the GOP column are Southern states, which were added with the "Reagan Revolution that began in 1980 and was solidified by George W. Bush, Jr, in 2000. Some key Southern states are not on this map as they went for Bill Clinton (D) in 1992 and 1996. Like the 12ers, the 15 states that are the "9ers" are unconsidered pretty much unbreakable territory for their respective parties.

Map III: the "7ers" (1988-2012)

In spite suffering a biting defeat to George H.W. Bush in 1988, Michael Dukakis added 9 states to the Democratic column in that year, 7 of which have been faithful to the Democratic party ever since then. So, on top of the 15 states from Map II, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington State and Wisconsin. This brings us to 22 states.

Map IV-A: the "6ers" (1992-2012)

Just as the Reagan Revolution of 1980 transformed the South, the Clinton Revolution of 1992 transformed the NE and the rest of the West Coast, and so, on top of the 22 states from the above maps, 10 states, all Democratic states, join the columns as "6ers": California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont. This brings us to 32 states.

Naturally, as we move forward and time and reduce the overall-time window for states with such perfect records, then the EV maps starts to look more and more as we are accustomed to seeing it.  

One thing is for sure: since a Republican was elected twice, in 2000-2004, and two Democrats were elected twice, in 1992-1996 and 2008-2012, then none of these above states can be "bellwethers", for all of the Democratic states above therefore missed the winner of the Electoral College in 2000 and 2004, and all of the GOP states missed the winner 4 times: in 1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012. So, when you look at the above map, you automatically know which states have no chance at all of being considered "bellwethers" of the nation.

What happens if we add the states that are 5-of-6 states to this map, meaning, of the 6 cycles from 1992-2012, they went for one party at least 5 of 6 times?

Then take a look at map IV-B (those 5-of-6 states are marked in a lighter color for their respective party):

Map IV-B: the "6ers" and the 5-of-6 states (1992-2012)

If you add the 5-of-6 states to this map, then 8 states join the 32 states in the  "6er" columns: 5 for the GOP (Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Montana and North Carolina) and 3 for the Democratic Party (Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico), bringing us to 40 states.

Now, let's consider this map for a second: It spans a period of 20 years, which means that any child born as of the beginning of November 1994 (the first Clinton mid-term elections) and who therefore was of voting age as of 2012 will have only known his or her respective state -if it is representied on this map - as being either staunch Democratic or staunch Republican. Further, children, apart from the unbelievably preococious type, will not have even registered the meaning of an election until their 8th or 9th year, meaning that pretty much every person born from 1984 on will also perceive his or her state - if it is one of the above - as either staunch Democratic or staunch Republican. 

Imagine this: a 22 year old Vermonter, born in 1990, who only knows the Granite State as a rock-solid Democratic state and may not even realize that, up until 1964, Vermont had and still has the longest continuous REPUBLICAN voting record of any state in the Union (27 times in a row) and through 1988 was a 33-of-34 GOP state! 

Imagine this: a 26 year old from Georgia, who assumes that his state is just a bastion of Conservatism, who may not realize that Georgia, a mirror-image of Vermont, went for the Democratic Party in one form or another 26 times in a row, from 1856-1960! People who are born into a state with one strong ideological majority (WY, RI, for instance) tend to take on that ideology. So, this map, now spanning 20 years, or one generation, is a very, very telling map.

And it is interesting that for both of these states, GA and VT, which still hold superlative records for their respective parties, both had their record "snapped" in 1964, with Vermont going for LBJ, the first Democrat ever to win the state, and Georgia going for Barry Goldwater, the first Republican ever to win that state. But at least one generation, or one and one-half generations, will not even realize or "feel" this in those states.

This is the kind of ideological rigidity that leads to a landlocked electorate. God knows we saw it in the deep South for almost 100 years for the Democratic Party.

If we also extend this map to include the states that are 4-of-6 states, then it looks like this:

Map IV-B: the "6ers" and the 5-of-6 and 4-of-six states (1992-2012)

This adds the rest states of the Union to the map, except for Florida and Colorado, which were both 3 and 3 state between 1992-2012, bringing us up to 49 "states", including ArkansasKentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio,  Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Now, this map really, really starts to look like the map we are used to. But those six southern "Clinton" states that absolutely wanted nothing to do with Obama (AK, KY, LA, MO, TN, WV) are really a much stronger red on this map since 2000, so let's reduce the time-frame one last time, to the last 4 cycles, and backtrack just a bit.

Map V-A: the "4ers"

These are the states that have gone for their respective party 4 times in a row. And it comes as no surprise that it looks very much like the 6er map with the 5 and 4 of 6 states in the mix. When we add the 3-of-4 states to the mix, then:

Map V-B: the "4ers" and the 3-of-4 states

No surprise here: the four states that are still grey are the four states that went evenly 2-2 for each party. And they were four of the five most competitive states of 2012.

So, going back 6 cycles, which states were absolute perfect bellwethers?

Ohio and Nevada: in each case, those two states went with the winner in the Electoral College.

Going back 9 cycles, to 1980, which states were absolute perfect bellwethers?

Again, Ohio and Nevada.

But before 1980, going back to 1964, there is only one perfect bellwether in the Union:

Ohio. Nevada went for Gerald Ford in 1976, and is therefore no longer a perfect bellwether when we go this far back in time.  But if you go back 64 years, to 1948, then both Ohio and Nevada will have missed the winner in the EC only once apiece, making them bellwethers of equal strength.

So, on the whole, it is true: the two bellwethers to watch are :  Ohio and Nevada.


Now, let's go back 138 years in time, to the year 1876, the year of our Union's centennial, and the beginning of the "Gilded Age".

Here is the map of the states that went six cycles in a row for their respective party:

Map VI-A: the Gilded Age "6ers" (1876-1892)

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. 

From 1876-1892, the South was very, very "Blue" and the North was (for the most part) very, very "Red" - a complete reversal of the electoral map we are accustomed to seeing today. You may ask why LA, FL and SC are not on this map (yet): this is because in the electoral backfire of 1876, where Democrat James Tildon won in the NPV by +3.00%, the GOP called the electors from four states into question by saying that voter fraud had occured. Those states were: OR, LA, FL and SC! And because of this,  a special electoral commission comprised of 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats voted strictly on party lines (8 to 7) to allow the Republican slate of electors in those 4 states to be seated instead the Democratic slate of Electors, which allowed Rutherford B. Hayes (R-OH) to win in the EC, 185-184, the closest electoral vote in our history.  But those states, and a number of others can be clearly seen in the next map.

Map VI-B: the Gilded Age "6ers" plus 5-of-6 states (1876-1892)

Now this map really, really starts to look like our current electoral map, simply in reverse colors: the entire South voted overwhelmingly Democratic from 1876-1896, whereas the North was truly Republican territory. Notice that CT, NY and IN are not yet colored in. This gets interesting, especially for people who would like to know what the swing states of the past were. Hint: in the Gilded Age, OH was not a swing state and it was not a bellwether.

This is what the situation looks like when we add the states that were 4-for-6 to the mix:

Map VI-C: the Gilded Age "6ers" plus 5-and-4-of-6 states (1876-1892)

We see that CA and KS enter the mix as 4-of-6 Republican states and CT enters the mix as a 4-of-6 Democratic state. It is a falsehood to say that the post-Civil War Democratic Party was locked only into the Deep South. It was not. It found enough people in Maryland, New Jersey and Connecticut to make it competitive, but without the biggest state in the mix, New York, was absolutely unable to get to an electoral majority. But it is true that most of the time from 1872-1928, the Democrats had a terrible time being competitive outside of the South and this is why they won the White House only three times between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Notice please that New York is still not colored in. It and Indiana (yes, Indiana) were the "swing" states of the Gilded Age, as shown in the final map:

Map VI-D: the Gilded Age "6ers" plus 5,4-and-3-of-6 states (1876-1892)

Pink = 3 of 6 state, possibly "swing" state.
Green = state first admitted to the Electoral College in 1892 or later.

We can see from this map that the key swing states were New York and Indiana and went as a pair for the Democratic Party in 1876, 1884 and 1892, all three cycles where the Democrat won in the PV and in two cycles where the Democrat also won in the electoral college.

Colorado is also a 3 for 6 state, but in a different way: it was first admitted to the Electoral College in 1880 and went three times in a row for the Republican party (1880, 1884 and 1888) and then once for the Populist (Silver Standard) 3rd party in 1892 and astoundingly, in the face of a large McKinley (R) landslide in 1896, went for favorite son William Jennings Bryan by the largest margin in the state's history. So, though it was a 3-for-6 state during this time, it was in no way a swing state or a bellwether.

Similar story for Nevada, which was already in the Electoral College in 1876: it went for Hayes over Tilden despite a good Tilden national margin, but four years later, it went against Republican  Garfield and for Winfield Hancock, but in 1884 and 1888, it stuck with the Republicans by double digit margins. As of 1892, its history is parallel to that of Colorado's: it went for James Weaver of the Populist (Silver Standard) 3rd party, and in the face of a McKinley (R) landslide in 1896, went for favorite son William Jennings Bryan by the largest margin in the state's history. So, its record in this time was 3R, 2D and 1I, in no way a bellwether, in no way a swing state.

But you would be amazed to know that all of those "green" states, all of which (excepting Washington State) are now absolute GOP firewall territory, went Democratic in 1896 by landslide margins.

It is even more telling when you see the two maps from these two time-periods next to each other:

Map VII: the Gilded Age (1876-1892) vs. 1992-2012

Some take-aways:

1.) "Electoral Columns" is not a new phenomenon. They had electoral columns back then as well, and it is precisely the practical reversal of colors in the eastern half of the USA over 136 years time that proves the theory of Electoral Shift.

2.) In both eras, the South has played an important role - that of locking one party into dominance in the South, but unfortunately, dominance nowhere else in the USA.

3.) Both eras have easily identifyable swing states.

Hope you enjoyed this walk into our Union's past.

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