Last Night’s Media Low Point

Well, there’s probably a lot of media low points.

But at least twice, John King (URI grad as is, oddly, Christiane Amanpour) tried to delegitimize Obama’s victory by switching from his state map to a county map to show how red huge spaces of this country are. This is a sophisticated, technology-forward way of saying that a victory only counts if you win rural white men. Please tell me what I am supposed to learn by a county map. All of western Nebraska probably has less than 100,000 people. All of Wyoming has less than 500,000 people. New York City has 8 million people. But somehow because those gigantic western counties with 1000 residents take up a big chunk of the map, they have extra legitimacy?

98 comments on this post.
  1. rea:

    Why this lack of respect for Bovine-Americans?

  2. Steve LaBonne:

    Well, duh, you already answered your own question. Those are the counties where Real Americans (TM) live.

  3. Cody:

    Your vote should only be worth as much land as you own.

    I don’t know why we got away from only land-owners being able to vote at all! Explains what ruined America.

  4. Holden Pattern:

    One Acre, One Vote.

  5. Sharculese:

    My mom called me early last night as the results were coming in, and talking to her about coverage one of the things I realized was that I was thankful that because my house doesn’t have cable we weren’t going to be subjected to John King.

    Granted I still had to watch NBC kill time by letting Tom Brokaw meander through the museum of his mind, so you win some, you lose some.

  6. Erik Loomis:

    I did hear that Brokaw was wearing an impressively ridiculous tie, but then I never flipped over to check.

  7. somethingblue:

    This is a sophisticated, technology-forward way of saying that a victory only counts if you win rural white men.

    And sagebrush. And varmints.

    Although I’m surprised Mitt’s share of the varmint vote was so high.

  8. parrot:

    it’s not about the white vote … it’s about those places where a man can look out on the vast horizon and go kill critters when those sexual urges beckon …

  9. patrick II:

    I almost threw up when King had up his mostly red map and told Wolf that this was still a center right nation. He thinks we are voting by area now.

  10. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    Come on, Erik! You can’t have Blut und Boden without the Boden!

  11. Sashaundercover:

    I believe those are Real Muricans (TM)

  12. FLRealist:

    go kill critters when those sexual urges beckon

    Are you sure it’s killin’ that they’re doin’ when those urges hit?

  13. Steve M.:

    In an area of 71 square miles, Brooklyn has 2.5 million people, more than Alaska, Wyoming, and North Dakota combined.

  14. Pee Cee:

    Real American dirt is center-right. Real American people are center-left.

  15. Steve LaBonne:

    No TV on at my house, just Daily Kos. So I was much better informed, much sooner, than the TV audience. As a result I slept at a reasonable hour and well.

  16. Both Sides Do It:

    I think it was a tie between everyone marveling at long lines in Florida and Ohio without mentioning the deliberate and conscious decisions made by those state governments to make those lines longer than they had to be, and Shields and Brooks immediately (like, the clause after saying Obama ran a good campaign) saying how imperative it is that taxes and Social Security be cut in order to avert the fiscal cliff.

    The high point was MT governor Brian Schweitzer’s amazing technicolor dream bolo tie.

  17. dan:

    Long before Ohio was called, it was clear that, regardless of the results of the electoral college, Obama would win the popular vote once the West Coast was counted. Nothing about this on the news, of course, and then once Ohio was called I saw a lot of complaining on Twitter about Obama winning even though he was losing the popular vote at that precise moment. Once people realized that Californians, Wasingtonians and Oregonians are entitled to have their votes counted, those people complaining about the popular vote not matching the electoral vote shut up. Quickly.

  18. Amon:

    This is why the only presidential-election map anyone should consult is the one at Sam Wang’s site. The size of each state has been reconfigured to reflect its share of the electoral vote. The result is a nice portrait of America’s demographic reality.

  19. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    If that’s not an example of vote fraud I don’t know what is. Only rotten buroughs are teh Real Amerika!

  20. Paul Orwin:

    I believe the phrase you are looking for is “f*ing time zones, how do they work?”

  21. Cody:

    But Tom Brokaw is cool! He talked about how we need to have nationwide election officials instead of state level.

    Then Brian Williams had a super awkward conversation about pot heads with the governor of Colorado.

    “Yeah man, when you go to Boulder they’re everywhere!”

    “It’s like that in major college towns in the East Coast too!”

  22. Mudge:

    I have always been a fan of Cherry County, Nebraska. Roughly 6000 square miles (larger than RI or CT) and roughly 6000 people. Occupies a map, but has fewer people than some high schools.

  23. rea:

    Where the vegetables are green and you can pee right in the stream . . .

  24. blowback:

    aka the aristocracy!

  25. Bob Stanley:

    Last time I checked 80% of Americans live in “urban areas” according the census.

  26. Craigo:

    There was a LOT of that. Donald Trump especially.

    Somehow I doubt they were complaining twelve years ago.

  27. blowback:

    Shit, here in the UK we have single HMOs in the agricultural areas around King’s Lynn with a greater population than Cherry County, Nebraska!

  28. Fighting Words:

    Thank you for brining this up. The issue of showing county maps for states was something that really bothered me.

  29. ChesterS:

    I watched CBS which was pleasantly low-key but it was very annoying when their people in the field would often talk about “Governor Romney”, “President Clinton” but then refer to “Mister Obama.”

    Gee, I wonder what the difference could be?

  30. Chatham:

    DC has more people than Wyoming (and soon more than Vermont) yet still lacks any congressional representation.

  31. DrDick:

    You seem to have met some of our Montana Republicans. I have long suspected that the fact that there are more prairie dogs than people in much of eastern Montana is reflected in the voting patterns there.

  32. catclub:

    “But Tom Brokaw is cool! He talked about how we need to have nationwide election officials instead of state level.”

    Did he mention the national ID that every wingnut will fearmonger about if such a thing came to pass? What army does he propose to implement these over the heads of states rights spouting governors and statehouses?

    Maybe a constitutional amendment? ;)

  33. JKTHs:

    And it was even worse that they were all colored the same red so it wouldn’t make a difference if the counties were 51-49 or 85-15

  34. catclub:

    “… the common clay of America. You know, idiots.”

  35. raging red:

    As my brother put it on Facebook last night:

    “I know you’re looking at the map and seeing a lot of red across the country. That’s all just open fields, chicken shacks, and Bob Evans restaurants. If we filled the empty space in with smiley faces where nobody was livin’ you’d see a lot of smiley faces.”

  36. LFC:

    If you think that was last night’s media low point, you can’t have been watching the PBS NewsHour which was (rather uncharacteristically, I must say) bad — they were all acting like drunks a good part of the time, e.g. Brooks joking that Shields was “rain man” b/c of his supposed adding and subtracting ability. Or CBS, which I watched (on computer) for c.10 minutes. Awful.

    I’m not sure there’s anything hugely wrong w showing a county map, as long as you also show a state map and don’t put in silly editorial comments about ‘center-rt nation’. Most people realize that w. Nebraska is much less densely populated than Brooklyn. Of course a demographically-scaled map, as described by one commenter above, is probably best.

  37. JKTHs:

    You gotta kill ‘em first or they’ll get away

  38. Erik Loomis:

    As a historian of the US West, allow me to use my historical expertise to declare that the nation does not need more bolo ties.

  39. JKTHs:

    I think it was more irritating to have Gloria Borger(?) keep bringing up the fiscal cliff on CNN even though she clearly had no idea what the fuck it was, like 90% of people who bring it up on TV

  40. LFC:

    CBS was so “low-key” that Shieffer appeared to be on the point of dozing off, at least for the 10 mins I watched.

  41. parrot:

    whole binders full of Schrödinger critters …

  42. Cody:

    We clearly need more bullet bolo ties in order to demonstrate the true Americans.

  43. Cody:

    I understand what you all are saying.

    It didn’t bother me at all. I guess I didn’t think of how people who didn’t understand population density would view it.

    The maps to me demonstrated exactly what we thought would happen – Obama wins urban areas and Romney rural.

    They would seem to offer some relevant information at least. Especially when talking about counties that haven’t gotten their numbers in yet.

  44. gocart mozart:

    One acre, one vote.

  45. John:

    Absurd. Obviously, your franchise should be based on the amount of property tax you pay.

  46. Wido Incognitus:

    1. Tom Brokaw did the same thing in 2008.
    2. It shows that Obama’s victory and the success of the Democratic Party is winning the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections is geographically polarized.
    2a. The far-right in the US is probably just talk, and if they actually act on their gibberish they will wind up exposed as the sacks of bloated incompetence that the South African far-right was exposed as in the 1990s. However, I would not ASSUME that.
    3. Nationalist mystification is good for you in small doses. There is value in attempting to discover true American-ness in a way that is less influenced by other countries or by diversity itself (although diversity itself may actually be part of the nationalist mystification of the United States).

  47. John:

    Brian Williams was hilarious last night.

  48. John:

    Although “urban areas” as defined by the census include more or less every small town in America that’s a real town and not just a name on a map.

  49. John:

    Me too. I like seeing the county stuff.

  50. John:

    One thing I learned last night, where the TV was on CBS for the first half of the night for some reason, is that someone named Scott Pelley is not the CBS Nightly News anchor. When did that happen? I was watching him for several hours before realizing that I had no idea who he was.

  51. kerry:

    Related: this is what always drives me bonkers about the argument that candidates would just campaign in cities and ignore rural voters if we abolished the electoral college and went to straight popular vote. And the problem with that is? Why are rural voters more important than urban voters? (Yeah, I know: Real, white, etc.) Someone is always going to get ignored – there’s no way presidential candidates can reach everyone. Right now it’s everyone in non-swing states, now matter which side there on. Better to at least structure the system so that candidates’ attention is spread more evenly and can reach the most people.

  52. kerry:

    Ugh, need (more) coffee.

    “no matter which side they’re on”

  53. Holden Pattern:

    My property taxes are very high, but my actual land is very small, as I’m a vile urbanite. How do we work that out?

  54. Bill Murray:

    I think you mean the acre-stocracy

  55. Murc:

    Please tell me what I am supposed to learn by a county map.

    To play devil’s advocate, a county-by-county breakdown can be useful, especially ones that are shown on a per-election basis over time.

    Voting patterns are important; the geographic disparities let you start asking important questions, like ‘Why are all these people dependent on subsidies and a robust regulatory state voting for people who campaign explicitly on kicking the shit out of them? Are they that altruistic, or are there other factors at work? What are the cultural differences between these high-population but geographically small areas and geographically large but low-population areas?’

    There are also informative discussions to be had about cities and the relationships they have with their surrounding geography, and if the people living in both regard each other as friends with common interests whose livelihoods and well-being are regionally intertwined, or as bitter enemies and cultural Others.

    Having said all that, I seriously doubt John King was having those discussions. In any way, shape, or form.

  56. Bill Murray:

    Isn’t bullet the bolo tie an old U2 song?

  57. blondie:

    One of the tv news talking heads (Chuck Todd, maybe?) showed a similar map once. Kind of puts things into a reality perspective.

  58. witless chum:

    Also, this would be different how from the current sitch? I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which has almost 300,000 of the 9.8 million people who live in the state. Michigan has often been in play for presidential elections. Two presidential candidates have visited U.P. in the last 100 years, William Howard Taft in 1912 and Bush II in 2004.

    What difference could that make?

  59. Patrick:

    It’s a cliff! Says so right in the name. Scary. What else do you need to know?

  60. olexicon:

    Shields and Brooks the new Shields and Yarnell

  61. sharculese:

    Every time someone suggested changing it to PBS I was like, “No, I will put up with a lot of shit, but I will not put up with hearing what David Brooks has to say.”

    I feel I made the right call.

  62. Kurzleg:

    I like the way state size is apportioned according to electoral votes and thereby (presumably) by population on this map. Much truer reflection of reality.

  63. Colin:

    Best moment was when he was clearly forced to address the Trump tweets and begrudgingly mentioned them for about 20 seconds before saying, “so…..THAT happened.”

  64. Colin:

    Seeing it is one thing; using it to draw false equivalencies for some broader argument about “mandates” is something else altogether.

  65. Erik Loomis:

    The county stuff is interesting and revealing in many ways. But the county maps absolutely do not say what John King says they say.

  66. Leeds man:

    Didn’t we go through this in 2004 and 2008? You’d think CNN would have caught up, what with their seeming obsession with graphics.

    Some other cool maps here.

  67. Erik Loomis:

    Obviously there’s a ton of things to learn from a county map. Unfortunately John King does not understand the lessons.

  68. Eli Rabett:

    Amurika don’t have rotten boroughs we got rotten states.

  69. gocart mozart:

    I did not see Holden Pattern’s comment upthread. I swear.

  70. Eli Rabett:

    On the NYT Virginia map, Arlington and Alexandria were so small that you could not click on them, which deluded a lot of Republicans:)

  71. dollared:

    I love the quote. But I believe the term used was “morons.”

  72. Bob Loblaw:

    Scott Pelley (sp?) on CBS was harping on Obama much of the night for trailing in the popular vote count by a million votes every 5 minutes or so, as if to make sure all the Romnoids kept tuning in or stayed angry, one or the other. I had to keep reassuring my girlfriend that Obama was going to take the lead eventually…which of course he did.

  73. Doshaburi:

    Yes, on CBS at the moment they called it for Obama, Bob Schieffer said how Obama’s losing the PV (as if that were the result) would cripple him or some nonsense. It took me 5 seconds to google that Cali would be netting Obama 3 million votes. But seriously, retire these guys.

  74. JKTHs:

    No you wouldn’t think that cause it would upset Republicans to learn that their base is all in rural unpopulated areas

  75. The Dark Avenger:

    6000, eh? Howbout a county with a population in the 3-digit range?:

    Kenedy County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. It is part of the Kingsville Micropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, its population was 416.[1] Its seat is Sarita[2], and the county is named for Mifflin Kenedy, an early rancher in the area. Kenedy County has the distinction of having the fourth-lowest population of any county in the United States, following Loving County, Texas, Kalawao County, Hawaii, and King County, Texas. It is also the easternmost and southernmost county in the United States that has more square miles than people.[3] The county was created in 1921 from parts of Hidalgo and Willacy counties. In 1999, Hurricane Bret struck the county, but damage was minimal due to the county’s low population. The Peñascal Wind Power Project was built near Sarita in the early 21st Century and is expected to slightly raise the population of the area.

    The King Ranch covers a large part of the county. [1]

  76. Reilly:

    The Beltway shamans know that the Fiscal Cliff is real. And that the only way to save ourselves from it is to offer a sacrifice of our poor and elderly to the Invisible Hand, who will then guide us safely around it. Then our stock markets will grow high and our investments will be fertile.

  77. rea:

    T. Roosevelt campaigned there in 1912 . . .

  78. Joseph Slater:

    Hell, I grew up in central Michigan and maybe a candidate would get to Lansing (an hour south) every third election or so. . . .

  79. Reilly:

    Tom Brokaw did the same thing in 2008.

    Yes he did. Held up a county map and ogled at the redness of it then declared us a center-right nation. Takes a special kind of brain-fish to convert the actual measure (votes) into a representation of land area and then stand in awe of the latter as if it imparted more information than the former.

  80. rea:

    You’ve got to admit, Shields and Brooks were pretty good in The Blue Lagoon.

  81. Gustaf Erikson:

    In Norway, there’s actually a slight modifier to the constitiuent areas that take the geographical size into account:

    As a Swede I regard this as typically Norwegian.

  82. John:

    Oh, certainly.

  83. John:

    Republicans were getting their election results from the New York Times? that seems unlikely.

  84. wengler:

    I had MSNBC on the TV and BBC on the computer.

    BBC engaged in a lot of CNN-style graphicky gimmicks, but at least they didn’t think the exit polls were too precious or misleading to embargo, so they threw out some relevant stats right at the beginning of the night.

  85. PBF:

    You urbanites are smart keeping your animal friends locked up in shelters and zoos.

  86. djangermous:

    Hooray for having a senate and a presidential electoral system that systematically privileges the residents of depopulated backwater hellholes!

  87. herr doktor bimler:

    And the trees are just the right height.

  88. Woodrowfan:

    Elton John “Feel like a Bullet in a Bolo Tie”

  89. Woodrowfan:

    hell, my county in NoVa has more people than 8 of the states.

  90. Halloween Jack:

    How much land does the federal government own again?

  91. mpowell:

    One thing that pissed me off was Barbara Walters chortling at the idea that election monitors from the EU would come to observe our elections. As if! All the while people are waiting in long lines in FL and OH as part of a plot by the Republicans to discourage turnout among Democratic voters. The picture of a completely self-absorbed and vacuous media elite could not be more perfect than in that moment.

  92. calling all toasters:

    Soybeans are people, my friend.

  93. Halloween Jack:

    In Colorado and Washington, that would be Blunt und Boden

  94. Halloween Jack:

    I myself saw it in 2004. Remember the “United States of Canada/Jesusland” map? Some yahoo redid it as a county map to show these little islands of blue in a sea of red, without noting that the “islands” often represented cities with millions of inhabitants.

  95. Peter VE:

    I look forward to my purchase of the County of Providence, with its Hereditary Electorship for the final approval of the next Emperor of America.

  96. elm:

    I also watched CBS most of the night for it’s genial blandness. They did a few interviews with campaign staffers, but they did not have a panel of partisans spinning and yelling, which was refreshing. Pelley et al had some annoying tics as you and someone else mentioned above, but it was mostly harmless.

    I switched over to NBC occassionally, as Williams and Todd were both pretty good, but every time Brokaw spoke I had to switch away.

    Then I switched to Fox News after the win was declared for the schadenfreude.

  97. elm:

    I swear, Schieffer did in fact fall asleep mid-sentence once. Even then, though, he was more coherent than whatever Brokaw was spewing.

  98. Cathleen:

    My page … (Cathleen)

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