I keep returning again

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I keep returning again and again to this issue of the comical overstatement of the Republican victory last Tuesday. But let me just hit at least once on two of the silliest talking points of those pushing this argument.

First is the argument, voiced by Mr Cheney and others, that President Bush won with more popular votes than any president in history. A truly silly point. Yes, the president got more popular votes than any other candidate in history. He is followed by John Kerry. And Kerry is followed by Ronald Reagan and Al Gore, in that order.

The fact that the president got more popular votes than anybody in the past isn’t a measure of the margin of his victory. It’s a measure of population growth, which (unless he’s more of a bounder than we know) he is not responsible for, and a high-turnout election, for which his unpopularity is as responsible as his popularity.

And please, no more of this nonsense about how the president’s crushing victory is plainly shown by just how much red there is on the map.

As in this flourish from Robert J. Caldwell in the San Diego Union-Tribune

From California’s border to the Atlantic coast and from Canada to Mexico, the political map of the United States is awash in Republican red. A once dominant Democratic Party is now largely confined to three enclaves: the Northeast, a thin fringe along the Pacific coast and the upper Midwest (where shrinking majorities put the Democrats’ hold there increasingly at risk). Almost everything else is Republican.

I’m tempted to say that this hearkens back to that age-old debate between ‘one man, one vote’ and ‘one acre, one vote’, but I’ll spare us all the agony because, as it happens, there actually was such a debate. Presumably it does not require mentioning that the relative absence of blue on the electoral maps for an election in which the blue-state candidate won 48% of the vote points to the fact that the blue areas are so heavily populated.

(Here is a map, for instance, in which geography is weighted to population size.)

Pointing out the foolishness of this mandate talk is important and has a purpose, just as those advancing it do so with a very specific goal.

I’ve been making the point mainly with derision and humor. But if you’d like to read a more serious-minded take on the subject, check out this instructive new piece on this topic by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson in The New Republic.

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