Bushmanders and Bullwinkles: How Politicians Manipulate Electronic Maps and Census Data to Win Elections

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Bushmanders and Bullwinkles: How Politicians Manipulate Electronic Maps and Census Data to Win Elections
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  • Mark Monmonier
Edition: 1
ISBN: 0226534243
Item Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches 1.06 pounds
Label: University of Chicago Press
  • English (Published)
  • English (Original Language)
  • English (Unknown)
Manufacturer: University of Chicago Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 216
Package Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches 0.95 pounds
Package Quantity: 1
Publication Date: 2001-04-15
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Studio: University of Chicago Press
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For years Mark Monmonier, "a prose stylist of no mean ability or charm" according to the Washington Post, has delighted readers with his insightful understanding of cartography as an art and technology that is both deceptive and revealing. Now he turns his focus to the story of political cartography and the redrawing of congressional districts. His title Bushmanders and Bullwinkles combines gerrymander with the surname of the president who actively tolerated racial gerrymandering and draws attention to the ridiculously shaped congressional districts that evoke the antlers of the moose who shared the cartoon spotlight with Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

Written from the perspective of a cartographer rather than a political scientist, Bushmanders and Bullwinkles examines the political tales maps tell when votes and power are at stake. Monmonier shows how redistricting committees carve out favorable election districts for themselves and their allies; how disgruntled politicians use shape to challenge alleged racial gerrymanders; and how geographic information systems can make reapportionment a controversial process with outrageous products. He also explores controversies over the proper roles of natural boundaries, media maps, census enumeration, and ethnic identity. Raising important questions about Supreme Court decisions in regulating redistricting, Monmonier asks if the focus on form rather than function may be little more than a distraction from larger issues like election reform.

Characterized by the same wit and clarity as Monmonier's previous books, Bushmanders and Bullwinkles is essential background for understanding what might prove the most contentious political debate of the new decade.
Maps present one of the prickliest problems in U.S. politics. The shape of congressional districts plays a gigantic role in the never-ending struggle between Democrats and Republicans. Draw the boundaries one way, and liberals have the upper hand. Shift them around a bit, and suddenly conservatives control the agenda. Gerrymandering is a constant threat every 10 years, when the states redraw their congressional districts based on fresh census information. The stakes are enormous, and abuse is almost a certainty. That's why Bushmanders and Bullwinkles is so welcome. "I want to make readers aware of how legislators, judges, and other elected officials use the decennial remap to promote personal or ideological agendas," writes Mark Monmonier. He succeeds at this gloriously--and just in time: redistricting will be a hot-button issue in the years ahead, as states draw their new maps in 2001 and 2002, the parties inevitably go to court in 2003, and finally the 2004 election shakeout arrives, with results that can reverberate for years. (Some analysts argue that redistricting explains why Republicans captured the House in 1994, for example.)

What's more, redistricting has never been more complicated. Monmonier walks readers through all the important controversies, paying special attention to the furor over majority-minority districts. He describes the paradox of the first Bush administration working with black and Hispanic groups to create these jurisdictions--on the theory that packing minority voters into overwhelmingly Democratic districts would dilute their influence elsewhere and thereby help elect more Republicans. The result was a surge in black and Hispanic members of Congress (a goal of the minority groups), plus gains for the GOP. Achieving this required sophisticated software, and resulted in messy, fractal-shaped districts.

This is an outstanding guide to these once and future controversies. It's also loaded with maps, which are essential to any understanding of the subject. For readers looking for a primer on this complex but vital and fascinating topic, there may be nothing better than Bushmanders and Bullwinkles. --John J. Miller