Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for linking to these marvelous maps from the University of Michigan, which correct the misleading (and depressing) impression given by that map of blazing red Middle America with its blue fringe: (and by that secession-fantasy counter-map of "The United States of Canada" and "Jesusland").
First, the cartographers show a "cartogram" of the red and blue states proportional to their population, rather than their area. Right away you can see the almost evenly divided nation that we really are.
But even more revealing are the cartograms showing vote results by population per county, first in blue-and-red: -- and then with added shades of purple for the many counties where the vote was very close. It's this image that reveals red and blue America to be threads of one tapestry, densely and intimately interwoven -- one nation, inextricable. This image ought to be posted on our walls as a reminder that we cannot secede from one another. It's as instructive and revelatory an emblem as the Earth first seen from space.UPDATE: That's somewhat contradicted by this:
[Across the country], the margin of victory [for either Republicans or Democrats] has steadily widened in every presidential election since 1976. In 2004, the overwhelming majority of counties were decided by margins of 20 percent or more. The number of Americans living in these landslide counties has doubled over the last 30 years. Today, half of all Americans are living in polarized communities.I wrote here, more recently and soberly, about the ways those tangled threads are pulling apart.