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Beltway Confidential

History matters in German elections, and in ours, too

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Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone,United States,Germany,History

Der Spiegel has an excellent interactive map showing how each of Germany's seven political parties did in each election district this year and in 2009. Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (and their Christian Social allies in Bavaria) this year carried nearly all the land area of Germany, while the Social Democrats carried old industrial areas -- the Ruhr, Hamburg, Bremen, Hannover. The Left party carried most of East Berlin.

You can see history's impact when you click on each of the parties' names and see which are their weak and strong areas. The CDU/CSU is strongest in the parts of Germany that emerged from the religious wars of 1519-1648 as Catholic — the south of Germany and much of the Rhineland, plus Saxony (on the Czech border) in the 1949-89 East Germany. The SPD is strongest in the Protestant areas. The Left party is strongest in the former East Germany, but certainly not in West Berlin; this is a historically Protestant area but many voters here still yearn for something like Communism.

Business Insider has a good blog post with seven maps that "prove that history is forever." One shows the Left showing in the former East Germany; others are taken from the Strange Maps website and show how Poland and Ukraine are politically divided along historic lines -- Poland along the line between the German and Russian Empires in 1871-1918 and Ukraine along between Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking regions. They also show how Scotland votes quite differently from Britain, though the map is a little misleading. Business Insider concentrates on the Liberal Democrats' victories in lightly populated rural districts but ignores the geographically tiny but heavily Labour districts in Glasgow and other old industrial centers.

The final map is of the United States, with Business Insider noting that Mitt Romney carried most of electoral votes in the South and Barack Obama most of the electoral votes in the North. A better map would be one showing the counties that George Wallace carried in 1968. He was running as a third-party candidate, but in Alabama politics, and in the 1964, 1972 and 1976 presidential primaries he was running (as some young liberal commentators seem not to know) as a Democrat.

The bottom line: history matters. For an interesting history of American surges of migration, internal and immigrant, check out (shameless plug) my new book, "Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Transformed America and Its Politics."

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Author:

Michael Barone

Senior Political Analyst
The Washington Examiner