In part 1, we discussed some fun facts about Twitter, Ray Rice costumes, and Creationism. You might want to read that first.
You wouldn’t know that Twitter has fewer active monthly users than Yahoo! from the hype. Cable news covers the “conversation” on Twitter constantly. Of course, I don’t regularly watch cable news. And neither do you, unless you’re a white male over 65. Most of what you and I know about cable news is from either The Daily Show or from reading things in more responsible media about what was said on cable news. People of my political slant wring their hands and slap their foreheads over the shenanigans at Fox News and what the existence of such irresponsible “journalism” says about America. Everyone has an opinion about Fox News. But no one really watches it.
Here’s a quiz: have you heard of Bill O’Reilly? Have you heard of Mi Corazon Es Tuyo? I bet I know how you answered (unless you’re Latino). The latter is the most popular show on a network with greater reach than Fox News, the former is a guy on a network watched only by white male Baby Boomers. These are people who think The Doors are a good band! Luckily for both American music and American politics, the Fox News population is getting smaller. So who cares what they think or which frothing maniac they watch?
Well it turns out that old Doors fans had undue influence on the 2014 elections. The Republicans took state legislatures, governorships, and the House. The alleged surprise is that Republicans took the Senate. Except for this: by a quirk of the system, there were a disproportionate number of Senate seats up for grabs in red states. Red states, with some exceptions, are rural and have fewer people than blue states. You can choose to look at election night results and see a country that’s turning red. But that’s based on geography, like this map from 2012:
But what if you, say, made a cartogram that adjusted areas of the US by population? And then, instead of making it just red or blue, had a color scale based on the percentage of Democratic and Republican votes by county. It looks like this – or it did for the 2012 election results (click on the map for the source site):
Different, huh? You know why Republicans think the Constitution is a divinely inspired document written by saints? Because it enshrines in the Senate equal representation for places that no one lives. I’m not saying it shouldn’t. However, you could look at the election results and conclude that the 52 Republican senators indicate that America is getting more conservative. Or you could conclude that a random electoral quirk, the unpopularity of the President, and the design of the Constitution made this more likely. And then you can factor in that Republicans did very well with old white men, who were a big chunk of the electorate this time. Yes, old white men. Again. They like the Doors, they watch Fox News, and they can strap on their blindingly white tennis shoes and hoof it over to the polling place to vote. It’s unlikely that they’re going to change their minds. But they’re a small and declining part of the electorate.
In the meantime, maybe the rest of us should just stop focusing on stupid stuff.