Monday, July 7, 2014

Animations of US Political Changes Since 1918

US political evolution
Throughout, in accordance with convention, Blue is Democrat, Red is Republican. The two maps show the change in voting patterns over the roughly 100 years leading up to 2012.
I posted this over on my animated film reviews site because this is an awesome display of the power of animation. It also is one of those topics that gets people going, and so it seems like something appropriate to post over here as well.

US political evolution

We are going to look at changes in the US political landscape over time. This is a post about politics, but it is not intended to be "political." A mere review of facts about politics is not partisan, and so this post is not partisan. The point is to show how animation can make facts clearer in the political realm and is not just for sheer entertainment.

Arizona State University Professor Jonathan Davis prepared these materials, which show the huge political shift in the United States over the past century. The bottom line from all this is, "Things change."

US political evolution

The figures speak for themselves, we'll just introduce them with the surrounding facts and leave it to you to draw whichever conclusions you see fit.

The full app is a bit cumbersome, so for simplicity here are a few summaries of changes during particular periods. This post involves a lot of downloading, sorry about that. Once it loads, though, it is pretty interesting to see the dramatic political changes, which can happen quite quickly.

1920s-1930s: The Great Depression And The New Deal Turn the Map Blue

Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt won election as President in 1932, but that was not the redefining year for the US House. That had to wait until 1934. When it happened, it was a massive shift. Watch practically the entire map turn blue and stay that way.

US political evolution
Congress District elections during the 1930s

The wonder is that the Republican Party survived the 1930s at all.

1990s: Republican Resurgence Turns the Map Red

Things change. The Democrats took firm control of both Houses of Congress during the "Sputnik" crisis of 1958 after years of shifting back and forth again, and they did not relinquish either House until 1980, the year in which Republican Ronald Reagan's election as President began a political reorientation of US politics and Republicans finally again won one of the two Houses of Congress, the Senate. This shift was fulfilled in 1994 when for the first time since the 1950s, the House went Republican as well. In 2000, both Houses of Congress and the Presidency were Republican.

US political evolution
Congressional District changes during the 1990s

Shapes of Districts

This is the closest we are going to get to massaging some viewers' partisan political muscles. There is a common political theme among some that, currently, Republicans somehow have hoodwinked the country to carve out political districts that enable themselves to dominate the US House of Representatives. This is known as "gerrymandering."

There are lots of reasons for gerrymandering (named for a 1800s Massachusetts politician). They include partisan advantage, of course - district lines are drawn by State Legislatures that are controlled by a particular political party. The reasons also include, however, court-mandated district lines to ensure fairness to minority groups.

Without taking a position on that particular point (everybody familiar with the topic has an opinion on this), we present the following two map comparisons. They show that, whatever has been going on, it has been going on in pretty much every state that has multiple districts, regardless of political orientation.

US political evolution
Congressional Districts 1918

US political evolution
Congressional Districts 2012


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