I must be getting old.
I’m getting forgetful.
I have trouble remembering what a red state denotes and what a blue state means.
But I don’t think it’s an early case of Alzheimer’s that causes this confusion.
Rather, I suggest to you it is the fact that I am old enough to remember when Democratic states were labeled red and Republican states were labeled blue.
I would also suggest that former system made more sense and was deliberately changed by media partisans who didn’t like to suggest Democrats should be associated with the color red.
Let me provide a little history for those too young to remember and for those old enough to have forgotten.
The current use of Republican red and Democrat blue began only eight years ago. It has been attributed to the late Tim Russert, a respected television interviewer, but one who worked formerly for Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. He first used this color scheme in 2000, according to the Washington Post, and it took.
I’m not surprised it did, given the political complexion of the national press corps.
In fact, even the predictably leeward-tilting Wikipedia acknowledges the newly adopted U.S. hue standard stands in stark contrast “to the system of political colors in most other long-established democracies, where blue represents right wing and conservative parties, while red represents left-wing and socialist parties.”
I strongly suspect this not-so-subtle change eight years ago was deliberate on the part of Russert and those who so eagerly picked up on it.
Let’s take a look at what was happening on television before 1980. Again, according to the usually unreliable Wikipedia, “In 1976, John Chancellor, the anchorman for the ‘NBC Nightly News,’ asked his network’s engineers to construct a large electronic map of the USA. The map was placed in the network’s election-night news studio. If Jimmy Carter, the Democratic candidate that year, won a state, it would light up in red; if Gerald Ford, the Republican, carried a state, it would light up in blue.”
The next election cycle, famous for Ronald Reagan’s Republican landslide was also memorable for David Brinkley’s observation that the election board looked like a “sea of blue.”
Ronald Reagan dominates on 1984 electoral map
There were deviations at some other networks, which suggests to me that activists masquerading as journalists were early on attempting to relieve their friends at the Democratic Party of the burden of identification with the color red – no matter how accurate it might be and no matter the historical precedent for it.
Why am I bringing all this up now that the election is over?
Because there was no point even trying to open the topic for discussion during the heat of the election campaign. There was such unanimity of purpose behind the color conspiracy.
But I propose to you it’s time we – real Americans, the rest of us – stopped being manipulated like this.
I would like to announce today that my news organization, WND, will no longer use the currently accepted “red state-blue state” paradigm. We won’t use the reverse, either, because it is certain only to cause confusion among our readers.
But I further propose that you start lobbying other news organizations to reconsider their use of the currently accepted “red state-blue state” labeling system based on the historical precedents you have learned about in this column and because it was launched and inspired by a former Democratic Party activist cum newsman and was adopted enthusiastically because it was so welcomed by the press’ overwhelming party of choice.
Maybe you just think I’m being silly.
Maybe you think I’m being partisan myself.
Maybe you think this isn’t an important issue.
Let me straighten you out.
First of all, I am not being partisan. I am registered to neither party, and, anyone who read my most recent book, “None of the Above,” (it’s a bargain, by the way, autographed for a buck) will instantly recognize I have little use for the currently red Republican Party.
Words mean things. Symbols mean things. Why is it that I get confused about what someone means when they say, for instance, “California is a blue state and Texas is red.” I get confused because it makes no sense! We all know California is red and Texas is blue. That makes sense.
I know there may be more pressing issues on your plate today. But, you have to admit, my proposal makes sense. Are you with me?