A political map is a map that shows lines defining countries, states, and/or territories. It is unlike other maps in that its purpose is specifically to show borders. It also makes a deliberate political statement about which areas of the Earth belong to a country or state.
Cartography, in the past, has been subject to certain accusations. Because the Earth is round, two-dimensional or paper maps sometimes make some countries look larger than they really are. This can be deliberate, in some cases, and cause a map to be more "political" if it makes the "home" nation look larger and a "rival" country seem small. A fictional example occurred on the TV show The West Wing, when the made up group the Cartographers for Social Equality showed how the most common political map in use in the US is quite inaccurate in how it shows the size of countries outside the US. Though the group was fictional, the errors were not.
The traditional projection map used in US textbooks is incorrect in its assessment of size. Notably, Africa looks to be about the same size as Greenland, where it is in fact over ten times as large. The areas that account for the US are also shown to be similar in size to the former Soviet Union and China combined, which is inaccurate.
Part of the error in this type of map is due to an attempt to enlarge things farther from the equator. A new system, called the Gall-Peter map, has been proposed which significantly changes size ratio and makes it more accurate. This map is less politically charged, though still relatively uncommon, and many people who are used to standard projection maps find that it just looks wrong. North and South America look much smaller and less wide, while Asia, by comparison, looks enormous. Africa is also significantly larger.
Some argue that a change to a Gall-Peter political map might contribute to a more socially conscious view of the world, and especially of the United States' place in it. Since this format makes the US smaller and Africa much larger, for example, it can give a clearer sense how the African population is affected by poverty or AIDS.
Such a map does not allow the viewer to dismiss countries in Africa as tiny, but rather shows that they are relatively large and have a big population. In this way, the Gall-Peter map may help depoliticize past views of the world, especially when such views are nationalist or imperialist. Though the map can still be a political map according to its strict definition, it may not carry the political overtones of previous maps.