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The Red And The Blue

Kevin Drum takes a look at the history of the "red state, blue state" meme. My only two cents to add on top of what Kevin says is that it would make me happy if people would go back to the old (though non-universal) convention of making the Democrats red. Red is, by general global agreement, the color of parties of the left.

November 14, 2004 | Permalink

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It's become de rigeur to complain about the fact that in the US, "red states" are conservative and "blue states" are liberal, despite the fact that through most of modern history and over most of the world, red was the color of the left. But I'd like... [Read More]

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Comments

Personally, I think it's great that the Democrats get the blue color. They shouldn't be associated with "the Reds."

Posted by: Seth | Nov 14, 2004 3:43:03 AM

Yes, but blue is my favorite color, and I support the Democrats, and it's all about me, so...

Posted by: Sovay | Nov 14, 2004 3:51:34 AM

Egad, no. I daily give thanks that the Republicans ended up with Red so that we don't have the facile connection between the Democratic Party and Communism.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Nov 14, 2004 4:04:05 AM

Red is, by general global agreement, the color of parties of the left.

Yes, but if you look carefully at the US political palette, the color they designate for the Republicans is not 'red' - it's actually quite brownish.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 14, 2004 5:17:50 AM

Red is the appropriate color for the current Republican party. They have a whole lot more in common with Bolsheviks than do the Democrats. Fervent ideology, spread by any means necessary, violent or non-violent. Intolerance of dissent. Purges (see CIA, State Department, Red Army). Belief that theory overcomes fact (see Iraq, Marxism) and that repetition overcomes reality (see Orwell, GWOT). Yup, they're Reds alright...

Posted by: Eric | Nov 14, 2004 5:27:42 AM

Personally, my favorite color is a kind of dark green, but anyway, I personal prefer the current red/blue system, because of the emotional content I associate with the colors. I associate red with violence, anger, aggression, etc, emotions which Republicans frequently draw upon for their success, and I associate blue with calm, coldness, and analytical thinking, all of which might be considered attributes (or, in the case of coldness, problems) for the Democrats. Plus, blue is the color of, 1) cold (Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc), and 2) the ocean (coastal regions like California, Pennsylvania, lakeside Chicago, etc). Red is the color of heat (the south). So, overall, I find the current red/blue map more emotionally satisfactory than the old 1996 one.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Nov 14, 2004 5:34:19 AM

where do rednecks come from?

Posted by: Tim Harris | Nov 14, 2004 6:33:00 AM

Shouldn't we be pondering who poisoned Arafat?

Posted by: poputonian | Nov 14, 2004 7:06:20 AM

"Red is the appropriate color for the current Republican party. They have a whole lot more in common with Bolsheviks than do the Democrats. Fervent ideology . . .violent or non-violent . . . [p]urges . . . "

Add to this the deliberate destruction of the currency.

Posted by: Joel | Nov 14, 2004 7:50:09 AM

"I daily give thanks that the Republicans ended up with Red so that we don't have the facile connection between the Democratic Party and Communism."

Considering the political composition of the media, it's fairly likely that's EXACTLY why Republicans were assigned red: To avoid reminding people of the quite real, albiet somewhat attenuated, connection between the Democratic party and Communism.

Frankly, I think they should have gone with red and green; More festive.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Nov 14, 2004 8:23:23 AM

Red is appropriately symbolic of the sanguinary character of the region's inhabitants.

Posted by: Donny | Nov 14, 2004 8:25:15 AM

Plaid & Paisley

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 14, 2004 8:37:15 AM

Your Definitive Guide to TV Election Map Coloring

- Since the advent of color TV, all networks have used the same color scheme in any one year.

- Since the advent of color TV, there has been a formula to avoid charges of giving any party an advantage by painting it a "better" color.

Here is the formula: the color of the incumbent party alternates every 4 years.

Ford '76 Blue
Carter '80 Red
Reagan '84 Blue
Bush '88 Red
Clinton '92 Blue
Clinton '96 Red
Gore '00 Blue
Bush '04 Red

So, this year, the formula held. It'll be interesting to see if the formula holds in '08, as the GOP is Red, Dem is Blue concept has taken such hold. But I expect it will hold to avoid the exact problem it was designed to avoid - people bitching that their party is the wrong color.

So in '08, the Edwards states will turn red while the Frist states turn blue. And except for a few blue patches in the Mountain West and the Old Confederacy, the map will be a glorious sea of red.

Glad I could help.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 14, 2004 9:01:04 AM

One error:

Bush '92 Blue

Posted by: Petey | Nov 14, 2004 9:09:42 AM

If THAT'S what they wanted to do, they'd have been better off alternating the colors of the parties, not the colors of the incumbants, so that you wouldn't get back to back elections with the same color assignment. But it was probably some graphic arts designer, not an engineer, who came up with the scheme. LOL

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Nov 14, 2004 9:10:05 AM

So, this year, the formula held. It'll be interesting to see if the formula holds in '08...

No it won't hold, we live in the post-11/2 world now, the 11/2 changed everything...

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 14, 2004 9:13:13 AM

Chinese color theory equates red with success and wealth, I understand (maybe that is why so many of their restaurants choose red as the main theme.) So maybe it is not such a good idea to cede this color to the GOP.

Posted by: Messenger | Nov 14, 2004 9:23:38 AM

"If THAT'S what they wanted to do, they'd have been better off alternating the colors of the parties, not the colors of the incumbants, so that you wouldn't get back to back elections with the same color assignment."

Yeah. I'd love to have been sitting in the room when they came up with that, so I'd have ANY kind of idea what the rationale was, other than to make it VERY confusing to understand.

It produced 3 straight elections with D-Red / R-Blue in '76, '80, and '84.

And if Bob Shrum and Stan Greenberg had a clue about how American politics works, we would've gotten 3 straight elections with D-Blue / R-Red in '00, '04, and '08.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 14, 2004 9:28:13 AM

"But it was probably some graphic arts designer, not an engineer, who came up with the scheme. LOL"

Given the way of the world of the TV networks in '66, I bet Cronkite, Brinkley, and Howard K Smith all sat down over martinis at the 21 Club and hashed out the details.

Howard Beale had fallen drunk under the table by that time, so he never got his Mauve / Puce color scheme into the mix.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 14, 2004 9:46:24 AM

If Red is by global agreement the colour of the Left (as it is, in fact) then the current Democratic Party has no right whatsoever to claim it. By any international standard, it is far to the right of the center. Only in the USA would it even occur to anyone to associate this party with the "left".

Posted by: messenger | Nov 14, 2004 9:59:50 AM

IIRC, the Nazi flag was red. That one anomaly alone should be enough to belie the universal association of red with the left. And as messenger points out, the modern Democratic party wouldn't be on the left side of the spectrum on the other side of the Atlantic.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Nov 14, 2004 10:05:12 AM

"That one anomaly alone should be enough to belie the universal association of red with the left."

At least, for anyone historically ignorant enough to not know that the "Nazis" were the "National Socialists".

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Nov 14, 2004 10:09:20 AM

I think Eric has the most compelling and persuasive response to Matt's suggestion if we're going to judge the parties today by the substance of their actions rather than their stereotypes or past iterations.

Posted by: Windhorse | Nov 14, 2004 10:12:04 AM

"That one anomaly alone should be enough to belie the universal association of red with the left."

At least, for anyone historically ignorant enough to not know that the "Nazis" were the "National Socialists".

Well, I see another debate over which side gets to claim fascism coming... sigh. But labels don't really mean much, internationally speaking; I believe that modern Australian Republicans are more to the left than the "Liberals" Down Under.

Posted by: latts | Nov 14, 2004 10:13:21 AM

At least, for anyone historically ignorant enough to not know that the "Nazis" were the "National Socialists".

Call them what you will, the Nazis were emphatically NOT leftists.

Certainly, the Left had its own butchers--Pol Pot and Stalin leap to mind--but Hitler was not one of them.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Nov 14, 2004 10:29:43 AM

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