Below the Beltway

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 21, 2001; 1:37 PM

Now that we have a new president, I think we can all agree that this is a time for healing.

But first . . .

I've been staring at a map for several hours now: It breaks down the presidential vote county by county for the entire country,and it leads to a certain scientific observation about the nature of George W. Bush's victory. Some of you may find this to be an uncharitable observation, one that might even betray a subtle liberal-elite media bias. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.

This was a victory for the hicks. A hicktory!

Here are the names of some counties that went heavily for Gore: New York County, N.Y.; Philadelphia County, Pa.; Los Angeles County, Calif.; Milwaukee County, Wis.; Honolulu County, Hawaii; St. Louis County, Mo.

Here are the names of some counties that went heavily for Bush: Alfalfa County, Okla.; Antelope County, Neb.; Tallapoosa County, Ala.; Ozark County, Mo.; Lumpkin County, Ga.; Pottawatomie County, Kan; Yoakum County, Tex.

On this map, counties that voted for Bush are red; those for Gore are blue. The map is basically a wash of red. This is because most of the Gore counties are geographically small but densely populated; the Bush counties are, to put it mildly, not. For example, Bush kicked Gore's butt in Elko County, Nev., which is (true fact) slightly larger than Denmark. Elko County has nearly three people per square mile. I phoned the Elko visitors bureau and learned that the main yearly local event is the "Man-Mule Race," where a man races a mule 25 miles from Elko to Lamoille. There is also a Festival of Trees.

Now I know I cannot dismiss all residents of rural areas as "hicks." A responsible journalist can't make an unfair generalization like that. He has to first find a pretext. So I decided to come up with a scientific yardstick of sophistication, some way I could empirically gauge the degree to which an area consists of persons like me, as opposed to persons like Goober Pyle, Gomer's less sophisticated brother. I decided on "bookstores per capita."

Feeding this term into an Internet search engine, I discovered that the one place in America with the most bookstores per capita is Madison, Wis. . . . Also, um, Tucson.

And Seattle. And Ann Arbor, Mich. And Charlottesville. And Ithaca, N.Y. And Portland, Ore. And Boulder, Colo. (Most of these are official chamber-of-commerce-type claims -- suggesting that, from an accuracy standpoint, chambers of commerce rank somewhere between time-share telephone solicitors and National Park Service crowd estimators.)

But my point is, Gore won every county that each of these bragging brie-and-brioche cities is in.

Whereas he did not win Fergus Falls, Minn., in Otter Tail County.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2001 The Washington Post Company