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Reply #73: It's a scam that started in 2000. [View All]

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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-16-11 06:25 PM
Response to Reply #55
73. It's a scam that started in 2000.
The parties were never color-coded before then.

Colors are eternal and immutable concepts. The idea of red states and blue states turns issues into matters of cultural or personal identity. Suddenly it's in your Texan DNA to vote for Republicans, even when they're screwing you.

Here's a DU post I wrote about it back in 2008:

originally posted at DU Sun Jan-20-08 03:32 PM

The designation of states since 2000 as "Red" for Republican and "Blue" for Democratic long ago became a subtle manipulation, and should be rejected as such.

A History in Color

Since the ascendancy of color television, blue and red have alternated as the colors assigned to the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on the election night maps used by the TV networks. This is not just because red and blue are primary colors and appear on the U.S. flag. They also happen to be universally distinguishable among viewers with different forms of color blindness.

Many readers may remember that Reagan states were shown in blue in 1980 and 1984. Bush was given red in 1988, but Clinton states were red in both 1992 and 1996.

An informal rule has governed color selection and has almost always been followed by every broadcast network since 1972: Color alternates for the incumbent party. Since incumbency varies, the same party can get the same color several times in a row.

For example, the incumbent color in 2000 was blue and thus given to the Democrats, while the opposition Republicans received red. The next election, the incumbent color switched to red. But since a Republican was now in office, states that voted for Bush remained in red.

If the rule is followed in 2008, however, then the Republican states will be shown in blue and the Democratic states in red.*

The above is explained and illustrated with old TV shots on a right-wing blog that features a table showing the colors used in different election years:

A Psychology of Color

After the 2000 election, something changed. For the first time, the colors used arbitrarily on the election night maps entered the language (if informally) as the permanent colors of the parties.

This may have arisen simply because the election took more than a month to resolve (or steal, if you will), so that the coverage constantly featured maps with Gore in blue and Bush in red. But Blue and Red since then have remained widespread as terms describing a dichotomy.

Democrats and Republicans may often sound and act the same, but to call them Blue and Red suggests true and irreconcilable differences. The two colors, after all, can never be the same. The two-party system is both legitimated subtly as genuinely adversarial, and enshrined as a natural state.

Colors are beyond rationality. They are abstract, natural, and emotionally powerful.

To speak of Blues and Reds is to turn political ideologies and party coalitions into essential aspects of geography, culture and identity. A state no longer votes Republican, but simply is Red by nature. The country is graphically polarized, in fact divided into gangs, Bloods and Crips. Hooligans called the "Greens" and "Blues" once battled each other in the stands at the Hippodrome of Constantinople.

The Blue/Red terminology favors the discourse of the culture wars over mere debate on issues (or economic interests). Thus it encourages a manner of thinking about politics that I would argue is skewed to favor the concerns normally associated with the present-day "Reds."

Colors play to patriotic feeling, and thus reinforce those who are more prone to it. In my observation, the ideologues on the "Red" side have more frequently and more proudly adopted the distinction and termed themselves "Redstaters."

I do not think this coincidental, albeit ironic after the many decades Republicans spent sniffing around for Commie Red bastards.

The fact is that the populations of the states that voted for Bush (notwithstanding that several of these victories were probably stolen on his behalf) tend to be poorer and to have less formal education; they are considered more likely to have a chip on their shoulder and feel resentment against the states that swing Democratic. At any rate, this is what Rovian politics has understood and encouraged, creating the category of "NASCAR Dad" to counter "Soccer Mom." Again, Red/Blue subtly reinforces that.

November will bring a test: If the networks follow their own longstanding informal rule, they will designate blue as the Republican color and red as the Democratic. Some confusion will ensue, which should be constructive, as it will bring forth the arbitrary choice involved in the color assignment. It's easy to imagine protests arising, especially on the right, at what may be called a move by the liberal media to drain away the now widespread connotations of the colors.

If however the broadcasters instead continue the color scheme of 2000 and 2004, giving blue to the Democratic contender and red to the Republican stand-in for incumbency, they will implicitly endorsed the role the colors have come to play since 2000. The use of Red/Blue will have been confirmed as a psychological operation.


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