by Samuel Hux

When did American politics become color blind?  No, I don’t mean racially color blind, although that would be a true blessing not at all likely in this age of identity politics.  I mean for instance how does Mississippi become a “red state”?

Color, like direction, has long been a political code.  Think of Left, Right, and Center.  Center generally suggests Moderate politics, between the Left, including positions anywhere from Liberal to Socialist to Communist to Anarchist, and the Right, including positions anywhere from Conservative to Libertarian to Fascist.  That’s a hell of a lot to include given the contradictions within the three “directions.”  Given especially the superficial similarities between Anarchism on the Left and Libertarianism on the Right; given the fact that Fascism on the Right, both the classic Italian variety and the Nazi version contain some Socialistic tendencies.  But there we are nonetheless: Left-Center-Right gives us some sense of direction.  Color used to for the longest time make some sense as well.

Black has never suggested anything conventionally Liberal or Conservative, but, rather, something “revolutionary” whether of the left or the right.  Think of the Black flag of Anarchism; think of the Black shirts of Fascist militants.   Out of the Brownshirts of the Nazi SA developed the General SS clothed in Black uniforms.  (And the Swastika was always Black, on a Red background perhaps suggesting the “Socialism” of National Socialism.)   Mention Black, one can’t help but think of White—such as the anti-Soviet disposition and Rightist militants of the Russian Civil War called “the Whites.”  And we know why they were Whites: because they were not Reds!  There was no confusion, until now; Red has long meant a tendency toward the left.  Red has never meant Conservative.

Given the contemporary American symbolism if you’re not Red you’re Blue.  But Blue has never meant Left, has never meant Liberal.  As well as I can recall historically the only Blue association I know of was the semi-fascist Blue Shirt Movement of Ireland in the 1930s.

In fact, Red is the only, the single, color which has consistently had but one general symbolic political association. The incontrovertible fact is that for 100 years or more Red has meant left of center, often uncomfortably so since “Red” often meant, derisively, “communist.”

So why are the states that vote Democratic Blue?   So why are the states that vote Republican Red?  When, maybe 30 years ago, the networks began the practice of the big map with states outlined, White stood for undecided, Blue for Republican, and Red for Democratic.  Therefore: very conventional.  Since then (but precisely when?) the networks have “decided” (as if they made an intelligent decision) to color red here and blue there in apparent ignorance of what colors had meant or implied or had not meant or implied in the past they know so shamefully little of.  Perhaps the reason is sheer perversity.

Why must I suffer that moment of confusion when I hear that Mississippi has gone “Red” so that I think, “That’s nonsense!  Mississippi cannot be Left Wing!”  Well, I don’t suffer that confusion anymore, although I did for a long while, as I know other people have as well.  I have grown used to the annoyance of seeing Red mean conservative.  What I feel now is contempt: contempt for the networks who would propose to instruct the population about world events when they are so dismally oblivious to history, including the history of symbolic identification.

I suppose I should be happy, or at least relieved, that these ignorami don’t use directional symbols, since one cannot be sure they know one hand from the other.


12 Responses

    1. Of course it’s not conservative. Not everything on “the right” is conservative. Li.bertarianism for instance is not, as the great Russell Kirk knew.

      1. I think it’s wrong to replicate the conventions of the Left. This leads to calling Government Education ‘Public Education’ and a natural economic system by the politicized ism, Capitalism.

  1. Anyone who places Fascism on the Right is someone to utterly ignore. That person flunked history and political science, assuming of course he can read, be curious and have an open mind.

    1. You again, “Galt”? I don’t place it on the Right! Political convention does. Do you know the expression “The pot calling the kettle black”? It’s you who should learn to read. You always miss the point.

  2. Why not cease using the now debased political terms ‘right’, ‘left’, ‘socal’, … and try the more descriptive terms like autocratic coercive thru multilateral democratic as on the spectrum of types of governance?
    Where on the spectrum would stand or slouch Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Truman, JFK, Reagan, Trump, Bismarck, Mussolini, Hitler … on the issues they faced?
    What’s to be learned for what useful principles?

  3. This was an interesting read. Although I share your general sentiments about TV news, my hypothesis would be that TV and print media simply followed the colors that the respective parties developed a preference for using in their advertising logos, fonts and so on. The convention of red for Republican and blue for Democrat has stuck and I don’t think really confuses anyone, given that Marxism, socialism, and other “Red” political forces aren’t anywhere near as powerful or relevant as they were as during say, the twenties through the 70s. They come up as a topic in everyday news rarely or never.

    Just as a bit of exercise, I looked up the Google tool that lets you track word usage in published texts over time. According to that the use of the terms “red state” and blue state” took off around the year 2000.

      1. I did a bit of further digging into your question and searched Youtube for “election night [year]”. I was kinda surprised to turn up several uploads of complete election night broadcasts, going as far back as 1960. The wonders of the internet.

        Looking through those it seems ABC started the trend of giving the color blue to the Democratic Party in their 1976 coverage (looks like the first year they used maps). CBS ditched red for the Democrats starting in 1984, CNN in 1992, and NBC in 1996. There wasn’t anything available for Fox News (launched 1996).

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