The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The four simple reasons Trump’s ‘impeach this’ map doesn’t make any sense

The Fix’s Eugene Scott analyzes President Trump’s history of calling for uprisings following his latest tweet suggesting impeachment would cause civil war. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Happily for President Trump, he has found a new use for his obsession with the results of the 2016 presidential election.

On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted the following image, apparently cribbed from his daughter-in-law.

You can almost feel the energy with which he pressed the button to bring this tweet into the world. Boom. Impeach this, libs.

Unfortunately for Trump, though, the argument doesn’t make any sense.

1. For the 100th time, land isn’t alive and doesn’t vote.

By now, this criticism of electoral maps is taught in elementary schools. Or, at least, it should be. Those red counties in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, for example, are home to 1.6 million 2016 voters — fewer than half of the number of voters in Los Angeles County. Trump won 1 million votes in those states, beating Hillary Clinton by a 580,000-vote margin. In Los Angeles, Clinton beat Trump by 1.7 million votes.

Yet those four states are 83 times the size of Los Angeles County in area. And, therefore, they occupy 83 times as much space on the map as L.A., despite being the home of half as many voters.

Trump has done this before, so we’ve written about it before. In August 2017, I made this graphic, showing how the votes in Washington, D.C., compared to votes in Roberts County, Tex., where Trump had his largest percentage-point margin of victory.

On Trump’s map, Roberts County is a larger red block and Washington a smaller blue one.

The best map to illustrate the distinction here comes from XKCD.

All that red in the middle is better represented by a few scattered people.

Trump presumably knows this by now. He’s just making a broader point (while trolling his opponents): Look how much support I have!

2. Maybe Trump doesn’t want to go by actual votes for some reason.

This is the point: The map doesn’t show how much support Trump received. In fact, it obscures how much support he had, which is why he uses it.

Trump received nearly 3 million fewer votes than Clinton did. The margin was only slightly smaller than George W. Bush’s victory in 2004 — and nearly six times Al Gore’s margin against Bush in 2000, when Bush similarly went on to win the electoral vote.

At no point in time was Trump above 50 percent in 2016 presidential election polling. He received less than 50 percent of the vote. As president, he has never been above 50 percent in RealClearPolitics’s average of approval polling. Somewhat ironically, he has consistently represented the minority in national polling.

3. Have you seen Richard Nixon’s map in 1972?

Compare that with Richard Nixon. In 1972, Nixon won reelection by 18 million votes. His electoral map looked fairly similar to Trump’s in the middle of the country because, as in 2016, there still weren’t a lot of people living there.

The difference between Nixon’s landslide and Trump’s good luck is in how red the coasts are on Nixon’s map. He won Los Angeles and even parts of New York City. His was an overwhelming victory, and, in his case, the dearth of blue is actually somewhat revelatory.

And guess what happened to Nixon.

That’s right: Faced with imminent impeachment and probable removal from office, he resigned from office in the summer of 1974. What’s more, the cascade of events that led to his downfall actually stemmed from the 1972 election. The Watergate break-in was part of an effort to spy on the Democratic Party, an effort that was obviously unnecessary, given how broad his victory was.

There’s some poetry in it, really. Nixon’s 1972 electoral map represents the mistakes he made that led to his ouster. The nation was all set to try to impeach, but ended up not needing to.

4. Trump’s map isn’t even accurate.

It appears that Trump’s map captured the results of the 2016 race at some point before vote totals were finalized. There are a number of counties — including some with a lot of land area! — that are red on the map but should be blue. For example:

We didn’t highlight Alaska because, well, look at Alaska.

Again, though, the point is that this doesn’t matter: These places are mostly places where not many people live. Like that county in Minnesota — it was home to about 6,500 voters. If we’re playing this game, though, let’s at least play it properly.

In summary, then, we have this: Trump shared a map meant to show how his support would preempt any impeachment effort, except that it instead obscured how little support he has, was incorrect and is quickly undercut by considering what happened to Nixon 50 years ago.

Other than that, great tweet.