The historical basis for vote distribution in this year’s election goes back farther than I thought… by several million years

I’ve been examining maps on my own and also reading commentary on voting patterns in the southern United States this year, most of which reaffirmed some not-too-surprising facts:

  • African-Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama
  • White voters voted substantially less for Obama than did African-American voters
  • Racism played a role in some voters’ decision, at least to the extent that some white McCain voters would not support Obama due to his race

As a result of these and other facts, some correlated, some not, some distinctive maps of voting patterns have emerged. One I found interesting (which I will add to this page if I can locate it) showed that while almost the entire country voted more Democratic than in 2004, there was a band through the Middle South stretching from West Virginia to Oklahoma that moved towards the Republicans.

But within the mostly “red” region of the South, there also was a smaller “Blue” band that went for Obama. And here we’re referring to actual percentages, not changes with respect to 2004 voting patterns.

Again, not a terribly big surprise. Population distribution of African-Americans is not even throughout the South; blacks tend to live predominantly in areas where cotton plantations existed during the pre-Civil War era. So, looking back into history a few hundred years, we can see that patterns of plantation distribution and the profoundly regrettable history of slavery contributed directly to the distribution of voting patterns in the 2008 election.

But it goes back a lot farther than that. Why were plantations distributed as they were? Well, that comes back to the soil — a “fertile crescent” of deep black soil through that region. And why does that soil exist as it does, in that particular configuration? This question takes us all the way back to the location of the Atlantic coastline during the Cretaceous Period, 85 million years ago. For a deeper explanation, read on.

The Obama-Biden Transition Project

This is something that I think is big news, but so far I’ve heard nothing about it in the “News.”

In the words of Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, from an email I received today:

The Obama-Biden Transition Project is a nonpartisan entity whose purpose is to facilitate the transition to a new government and prepare for the next administration.

In the past, efforts like these have often been very secretive and funded by the D.C. lobbying and corporate community.

But, like in the campaign, we’ve decided to do things differently.

For the first time, transition efforts won’t be financed with donations from Washington lobbyists and PACs — which means we’ll need to keep asking for your help. Your generosity during the campaign helped get us here, but building a more transparent and open government means continuing to rely on a broader group of people to do this the right way.

That’s cool, I think, and also significant. I made several donations to the campaign over the course of the year, and I’ve made a donation to the transition project, too. Donating money is the lazy way to get involved, of course, but at least it’s something. I really believe Barack Obama is committed to doing politics differently, and I believe he has the brains and the vision to make it happen. If you agree with me, here’s how you can help.

(P.S. Yes, they got Copeland to play drums.)

Sometimes, distortion is truth

I talked on election night about how the electoral college is skewed* towards the less populous states, and I’ve also been talking about how the red state/blue state map doesn’t accurately reflect the will of the people, both because of the winner-takes-all nature of the state-by-state distribution of the electoral votes, and also because most of the population of the country lives in concentrated areas.

Well there’s a great site that takes this a step further and actually proves it with some fancy-pants technology that can distort the map so that area corresponds to population. Here, then, is the site’s ultimate modified red-and-blue map, giving a better sense of just how “blue” or “red” or “purple” the country really is, overall…

*You may notice discrepancies between my numbers and the New York Times. I certainly defer to the “newspaper of record” on this. They are using the number of eligible voters in each state; I was using the total state population. Different numbers, and not in a trivial way, but the point, and the relative state-to-state variations, remain the same.

Bobby Kennedy saw this day 40 years ago

It’s easy to make too much of the coincidence here, but it’s still pretty cool, I think, especially since I was just mentioning RFK earlier today.

Although these days we avoid the antiquated (but, at the time, courteous) term “Negro,” Bobby Kennedy couldn’t have been more spot-on in this quote from May 1968 about what America witnessed — no, made happen — last night:

A Negro could be president in 40 years. There’s no question about it. In the next 40 years a Negro can achieve the same position that my brother has.