Republicans historically blue and democrats red

By By Steven Warrick

By Steven Warrick

One of the most irritating things about the presidential election is the constant use of the term “red state” to describe those conservative states that tend to vote Republican and “blue state” to describe those liberal states that tend to vote Democrat. The red state blue state descriptions are inaccurate, unhistorical and confusing as red has long been the color identified with the left and blue the color of the right. It just doesn’t make sense for conservative Utah to be called “the reddest of the red states.”

I have long had an affinity for both the Republican Party and the color blue, so it just seems right that the two should go together. I started supporting Republican candidates at age 6 because my parents did, but within a few years, I had decided for myself that I agreed a lot more with Republicans than with Democrats. However, blue has always been my favorite color. Of course, I have never supported the blue clad teams of a certain school to the South.

The color blue has long been associated with political conservatism. Blue is the color associated with Britain’s Conservative or Tory Party a party which according to Oxford historian Maurice Woods dates back to 1660 as the party or faction loyal to King Charles II. Phrase Finder credits the term “true blue” a term often used to describe conservatives to a color fast cloth made in Coventry England in the late Middle Ages. The term later morphed into a metaphor for political loyalty in the late 17th century.

The historical association of the color red with the political left does not go back as far as the history of the identification of the color blue with the right, but the association has been stronger. Red was first used as a color to signify the political left by revolutionaries during the French Revolution in the late 18th century according to 19th century Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle.

It was later used by revolutionaries in the wave of revolutions that swept Europe in 1848. The most known association was with the Soviet Communists during Russian Revolution in 1917. In the civil war that followed the revolution, the forces supporting the Soviet regime were known as the Reds, and the counter-revolutionaries were known as the Whites.

Since that time, the color red has been used to signify other movements or regimes that were either left-wing or Communist, such as the Peoples’ Republic of China, which was long known in this country as Red China.

Of course Barack Obama and the Democrats are no more Communist than John McCain and the Republicans are supporters of a Stuart Monarchy. Nevertheless, the colors have significance for their symbolism. Although both of our two major parties are centrist, the Democrats are our party of the left and the Republicans are our party of the right.

The use of the terms “blue state” and “red state” is extremely recent by way of comparison. It started out as nothing more than the chance selection of colors on a map of the United States by a graphic artist during the 2000 election.

According to the Washington Post as well as MSNBC’s web site it was the host of NBC’s, Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” fame who started using the terms “blue state” and “red state” to signify respectively states that vote Democratic and Republican. The use of these terms has taken off since that time and is now widely used to describe Democrats and Republicans. This is unfortunate because it runs so counter to the historical understanding of the political symbolism of the two colors.

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Steve Warrick