It’s been four years since I made this point heading into another presidential election.
But it’s a point worth making again and again. It illustrates how the Democrats have their way with the media – every time.
Folks like me, old enough to remember when red states meant Democrat and blue states meant Republican, probably still get confused from time to time about the terminology.
All one has to do is take a trip down memory lane to look at the way the media uniformly showed the Ronald Reagan landslide of 1984. Look at the map. The blue states belonged to Reagan. The red states were those won by Walter Mondale.
Why did that perfectly sensible system suddenly change in the presidential election of 2000?
The story goes that the current use of Republican red and Democrat blue began when the late Tim Russert, a respected television interviewer, but one who worked formerly for Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, decided to use this new color scheme 12 years ago, according to the Washington Post, and it took.
I’m not surprised it did, given the political complexion of the national press corps.
The 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.
I’m not making this up. 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 countries that bother to hold elections: “This unofficial system of political colors used in the United States is the reverse of that in most other long-established democracies, where blue represents right-wing and conservative parties, and red represents left-wing and social democratic parties.”
For once, Wikipedia has it right.
What’s a little more surprising, however, is how easily Republicans fell in line, apparently without realizing the reason they went from blue to red overnight. There’s even a Republican-leaning opinion site called RedState.com. How shortsighted and gullible can you get?
To understand the history behind this change, 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.”
Made sense. Jimmy Carter was a progenitor of Barack Obama. And even though Gerald Ford was too dumb to understand that Eastern Europe and specifically Poland was, at the time, under Soviet domination, no one would ever accuse him of being a commie.
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.”
That made even more sense because Reagan’s convictions were decidedly and unabashedly anti-red.
There were deviations at some other networks, but the standard remained Democrat-red and Republican-blue for three more presidential elections. It was understandable. There was little confusion about it. It all made sense.
Democrats were at least soft on communism and socialism in the post JFK-LBJ world. Republicans tended to be anti-communist. It was all perfectly understandable, accurate and had both historical precedent to support it as well as contemporary parallels in other countries.
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, as I did on 2008, that my news organization, WND, will stand apart and refuse to use the “red-state-blue-state” paradigm in news coverage because it will not be a part of the obvious manipulation behind it. 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.
Words mean things. Symbols, too, have meaning. 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! I don’t think I’m alone. I would propose to you that most people my age or older feel the same way. We all know California is red and Texas is blue. That makes sense.
It’s a very simple concept. Some Democrats, perhaps those not belonging openly to the Progressive Caucus, might be a little self-conscious about being red. Republicans are not. But the fact remains that today’s Democrats are pushing a political agenda that is traditionally, historically and practically red all over.
It’s time for them – and their cheerleaders in the press – to just be honest about it.