Monday, November 12, 2012

The Blue Blob: The Driftless Area

I did NOT know this. And now you know it!


 There’s a big blob of counties where Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois come together, which are solid blue [on the Electoral College map].  Why is that?  These are counties with farms and small towns, there are basically no cities of any size.  The biggest city is Madison, population 200,000, which is the big blue county in south central Wisconsin, on the eastern edge of the blob.  I grew up in Madison, but I don’t have a clue as to why those counties further west are blue.  I always assumed western Wisconsin was exactly like north-central and eastern Wisconsin—full of corn and dairy farms, and small towns with one church and 4 bars.  Counties full of people with northern European backgrounds.  Everywhere else in the Midwest the farm areas went for the GOP, except that strange blob that overlays parts of 4 states.  A few of those counties may have small cities with a few manufacturing firms, but look how uniform that blue area is.  There is obviously some difference that explains this, and now I feel like we should have been taught in school that southwestern Wisconsin is really weird.

Or perhaps we were taught in school, and I wasn’t paying enough attention.  There is in fact something weird about southwestern Wisconsin.  The glacier that covered North America during the Ice Age missed this area; indeed it went completely around it, leaving it hillier than normal for the Midwest.  It’s called the “Driftless Area.”  If you grew up on the coasts you’ve never heard of this area, because nobody on either coast finds the American Midwest to be at all interesting. They rather go visit Paris or Bali.

A nod to MAG.

1 comment:

Thomas Oatley said...

I was puzzling over that last week. One hypothesis: High concentration of ethanol production facilities in that space.