Thursday, August 27, 2020

Would "North Dakota" have been funnier than "Wyoming"?

It's probably a good thing that Nate Silver doesn't read my blog because for all the man's considerable talents (I'm a big admirer), he has a notoriously thin skin and this is a really embarrassing comment from someone who makes a living, in part, studying the demographics and population distributions of the US.

The issue here is by no means limited to Silver. The majority of NYC based journalists have a shockingly weak understanding of the nation's most populous state (and are somehow even more ignorant of the states in between).

A great deal of the misinformation revolves around a fascination with San Francisco. The New York idea of SF as the only acceptable California city dates back at least as far as All About Eve and Addison De Witt  This SF-centric view of the state has led to a number of mistaken assumptions implicit in most coverage from the East, such as:

While LA is bigger, the population of California is almost evenly divided between Northern and Southern California;

[Greater LA is more than twice as big as the greater Bay Area. There are other ways of dividing things up but they all pretty much tell the same story.]

In Northern California, the big city is San Francisco;

[That would be San Jose, which is itself smaller than both LA and San Diego.]

Silicon Valley is right next door.

[It's about an hour's drive.]

Unless the majority of San Francisco residents move to Wyoming (with its three electoral votes), it's hard to imagine the city having a noticeable impact on the EC. Even considering the entire Bay Area, the numbers aren't all that big.

There's a more important story here about regional bias, provincialism herd mentality and the danger of conventional narratives, but it's late and I'm tired.

We'll come back to this. In the meantime, read more James Fallows, When I complain abut these things, Fallows is always the exception.

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