Michigan is a key swing state in this year’s presidential election. Although historically democratic, the state was narrowly won by Donald Trump in 2016. A recent New York Times article picked out three of the state’s counties– Macomb, Oakland, and Kent– as key areas in determining the state’s election results.
This 1966 Rand McNally/Gulf street map of Detroit includes portions of Oakland County, one of these key swing areas; in the northernmost portion of the map, you can see the Oakland-Wayne county line. Macomb county is to the east of Oakland County, also in the greater Detroit area (although not pictured on the map). Kent county is in the western portion of the state, in the Grand Rapids area.
Part of Michigan’s significance in these elections in particular is its identity as part of the so-called “rust belt” due to the rise and fall of the automobile industry in the state, especially in Detroit. Note the presence of car factories on this road map, the map’s sponsor Gulf, and the phrase at the top of the map, “petroleum promotes progress”. This phrase may not ring so true in Detroit today. How did these industrial comings and goings shape Detroit and Michigan in general, and how do these trends come to bear in electoral politics? How did the “progress” promoted by industry in the area relate to categories of race and class across space?
If you’re interested in election mapping, check out this brief slideshow explaining debates in election cartography from the New York Times.
Have a good week,
Aidan Antonienko ‘21