Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Red State, Blue State, Who State, Why State?
Wikipedia - which bases and documents its information on footnoted information from the Pew Research Center - has this to say about the Red State-Blue State colors:
Early on, the most common—though again, not universal—color scheme was to use red for Democrats and blue for Republicans. This was the color scheme employed by NBC—David Brinkley famously referred to the 1984 map showing Reagan's 49-state landslide as a "sea of blue", but this color scheme was also employed by most newsmagazines. CBS during this same period, however, used the opposite scheme—blue for Democrats, red for Republicans. ABC was less consistent than its elder network brothers; in at least two presidential elections during this time before the emergence of cable news outlets, ABC used yellow for one major party and blue for the other. As late as 1996, there was still no universal association of one color with one party.
But in 2000, for the first time, all major electronic media outlets used the same colors for each party: Red for Republicans, blue for Democrats. Partly as a result of this near-universal color-coding, the terms Red States and Blue States entered popular usage in the weeks following the 2000 presidential election. Additionally, the closeness of the disputed election kept the colored maps in the public view for longer than usual, and red and blue thus became fixed in the media and in many people's minds.  Journalists began to routinely refer to "blue states" and "red states" even before the 2000 election was settled. After the results were final, journalists stuck with the color scheme, such as The Atlantic's cover story by David Brooks in the December 2001 issue entitled, "One Nation, Slightly Divisible." Thus red and blue became fixed in the media and in many people's minds  despite the fact that no "official" color choices had been made by the parties.
In Canada party colors are deeply ingrained and historic and have been unchanged during the Twentieth Century. The Liberal Party of Canada has long used red and the Conservative Party of Canada has long used blue, and in fact the phrases Liberal red and Tory blue are a part of the national lexicon, as is Red Tory, denoting Conservative members who are social moderates. Similarly, the symbol of Britain's Labour Party is a red rose (and the socialist song 'The Red Flag' is still sung at party conferences), while the British Conservatives are traditionally associated with the color blue.
It is not difficult to speculate that color associations such as these came about in reaction against the associations evoked of the more strongly ideologic parties of other countries, such that Democrats would react strongly against an accusation of being "red" or "pink". Yellow could be considered derogatory, indicating pusillanimity even if labeled "gold"; brown could evoke fascists and feces, and would not be technically feasible on television.
Some conservatives have also been wary of using the red state term to describe conservative or Republican-voting electorates, as the term had previously most often been associated with socialist states, like the U.S.S.R., Cuba, China, and East Germany. However, it may be argued that a color scheme associating red with the Democratic Party would have never become widely popularized since Democrats would have been just as reluctant to associate themselves with a color that has been historically perceived as associated with "un-American" communism.
We are left with - thanks to the well-coordinated efforts of the MSM who lean Left of Center - the color red representing Conservatism and blue representing Liberalism, while the rest of the world uses these colors just the opposite. No - no obvious ideology or subliminal persuasive tactics here. None at all.
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