House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted the map below on Friday afternoon, adding a bit of commentary to its already noticeable text.

This tweet is a spectacularly bad defense against the impeachment inquiry, for eight immediately obvious reasons.

First, while it is true that President Trump won (almost) 63 million votes in the 2016 election, his opponent, Hillary Clinton, won (almost) 66 million votes. McCarthy is arguing that the will of those 63 million votes is untouchable, ignoring the immediate and obvious follow-up question.

After Thursday’s vote formalizing the impeachment inquiry, in fact, McCarthy criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): “It should not be Nancy Pelosi and a small group of people that she selects that get to determine who is going to be our president,” he said.

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There is at least some unintentional irony in that comment.

Second, that exhaustively discussed popular-vote discrepancy reveals one of the quirks of the Republican argument about impeachment. Impeachment, many have argued, is an attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election. It is, they argue in essence, a quirk of the Constitution that Democrats hope to use to throw out a democratic vote. Except, of course, that the election of the president through the electoral college is itself a quirk of the Constitution, one that resulted in Trump’s presidency in the first place.

Third, calling the 231 Democrats who voted for the impeachment inquiry “Washington Democrats” is like calling McCarthy himself a “Washington Republican.” There are only seven literal “Washington Democrats” — the seven Democrats who represent districts in the state of Washington. (There is also a “Washington Democrat” who represents the District, but she doesn’t get a vote.)

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Those 231 Democrats — and the 194 Republicans who opposed the inquiry — instead represent millions of Americans in hundreds of districts across the country, just as McCarthy himself represents a big chunk of California’s Central Valley. McCarthy is either arguing against the importance of representative democracy (and his own job) or he’s just playing rhetorical games.

Fourth, that map is terrible. It is terrible.

It is terrible primarily because all maps that purport to show popular will through a county-level map of presidential results are terrible. In each case, they substitute acreage for ballots cast, rendering the millions of votes in Chicago and New York to tiny specks while focusing instead on the great open plains of Nebraska.

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Here’s how I put it one month ago when Trump shared a similar map with a similar point:

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“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.”

It’s just inherently (and intentionally) misleading.

Fifth, this map and its annotations are actually worse than the Trump map was.

In the McCarthy map, Democratic counties just vanish — whoosh. There’s no red America and blue America, just red America and blue “Washington Democrats.” It’s a wonderfully lazy bit of rhetoric that allows expanses of land to represent Trump’s support but insists that Trump’s opposition be filtered through their elected representatives.

What about those congressional districts that voted for Trump but are now represented by Democrats, several dozen of whom backed the impeachment inquiry? The land that makes up those districts is noble, bright red and a symbol of wholesome America, but the members of the House they elected are devious toads rummaging around on Capitol Hill.

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Sixth, McCarthy’s map doesn’t even make sense.

Trump won more than 2,600 counties in 2016, more than five times the number of counties Clinton won. But neither candidate won 100 percent of the vote in each county. In each county, there were people who voted for the candidate who lost.

In other words, McCarthy’s not only whooshing away the Democrats in those blue (now white) counties — he’s also whooshing away the more than 20 million Trump voters who live in Clinton counties. They, according to his bad map, aren’t part of the “people that put President Trump in the White House.” Meanwhile, the more than 20 million Clinton voters who live in the counties Trump won are. McCarthy’s sloppy map labels all those Democratic voters as having put Trump in the White House.

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Seventh, it wasn’t all those red counties that put Trump in the White House. Voters in Minnesota, Oregon and New York who voted for Trump didn’t help put him in the White House at all! Their votes were wasted, tossed in the garbage as soon as the electoral college got together to cast its ballots.

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But more importantly: Eighth, most of the votes in most of the counties shown above were superfluous. It was, instead, 78,000 voters in three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — who gave Trump the electoral vote margin he needed to win. The 3,860 votes Trump got in Millard County, Utah, show up prominently on McCarthy’s map, since the county is about 6,600 square miles. But they didn’t win Trump the state, much less the White House.

The real problem McCarthy faces is that his party hasn’t yet come up with any effective defenses against the substantive allegations Trump faces. Instead we’re left with things like this, red-saturated maps presented as aha!-attempt memes.

Maps that might someday be used as examples of the worst and laziest political rhetoric.

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