My students and I had fun discussing political geography today. For instance, take a look at these two maps side by side. First, we have the presidential electoral map from 1860, from the National Atlas of the United States:
Then we have this recent study, from Open Left, depicting how white men (the only ones eligible to vote in 1860) voted in 2008:
Now, obviously it would be very easy to overdraw an analysis from these two maps. And indeed, I think Open Left is a bit too Whiggish (despite trying not to be Whiggish) about the links between the expansion of voting rights and the election of Progressive presidential candidates–after all, the expanded electorate has certainly elected its share of conservative Presidents.
But it’s still pretty interesting.
This article originally appeared in issue 10.1 (October, 2009).
Jeffrey L. Pasley is associate professor of history at the University of Missouri and the author of “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (2001), along with numerous articles and book chapters, most recently the entry on Philip Freneau in Greil Marcus’s forthcoming New Literary History of America. He is currently completing a book on the presidential election of 1796 for the University Press of Kansas and also writes the blog Publick Occurrences 2.0 for some Website called Common-place.