How the Reds Got the Blues

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In virtually every nation around the globe, the color red is associated with socialism, communism, social democracy, and generally-speaking the political Left. A rare exception to that iron rule comes right here in the United States. In this country, the mainstream media has painted the Democrat Party in hues of blue.

This contradicts the time-honored color scheme of Western political parties, duplicated in most democracies throughout the world. In neighboring Canada, the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau is symbolized by the color red; in fact, one of its forerunners had actually called itself Parti Rouge. In Great Britain, red is the color of the leftist Labor Party, whose party anthem is unsubtly titled The Red Flag. And in France, where the ideological color coding all began, red remains the color of Communists and the extreme left, while the Socialists settle for a shade of pink that differentiates them from their radical comrades. Frequently, multi-party democracies require a more varied color mix representing narrow political, ethnic, or geographical groupings. For example, it’s obvious what color the Green Party employs, regardless of its particular national identity.

The color red for the Left dates back to the French Revolution and the succeeding European revolutions of 1848. Simultaneously, blue became associated with rival conservative parties and movements. The Tories in the United Kingdom, the Conservatives in Canada, and Republicans in France all use the color blue. 

If this red and blue color coordination holds true across Europe and the Anglosphere, why has America turned the color code upside down? Why does the media consistently paint the state-by-state national map blue for the left-leaning Democrats, the party of big labor, big government, and even socialism? Why does the same media drape red over states that vote for Republicans, the party of private property, government restraint, and social conservativism?

On the face of it, the blue-Democrat versus red-Republican map makes no sense. Not unless you remember the motto of the Democrats:  “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” 

Or as Obama Administration Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel explained:  “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that — it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

And that’s where there’s a story to be told.

The unanticipated crisis arrived in the millennial year 2000. Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Vice President Al Gore tallied a near electoral college tie, destined to be broken by the disputed Florida recount. For more than a month after election day had passed, the presidential outcome hung in the balance in the state of oranges, Disney World, and hanging chads. Finally, after 36 days, Bush was declared the 43rd President of the United States.

During those five weeks of recounting, the national media exclusively focused upon the unprecedented ballot tabulation. It was a riveting political tale with its resolution a mystery. Yet even during the campaign leading up to election day, some things had already changed. Breaking with longstanding precedent, the major media outlets had colluded to affix blue to Democrats and red to Republicans on their state-by-state national maps. 

Up to that time, the color coding system had been haphazard and uncertain. The three television networks rarely agreed among themselves, and their map colors frequently changed from election cycle to election cycle. In 2000, they uniformly agreed to employ the colors preferred by Democrat sympathizers. Additionally, for the first time, such newspapers as the stuffy elitist New York Times and the flashy upstart USA Today splashed the same red and blue maps on their pages. Ignoring common sense and historical context, one New York Times representative ludicrously claimed that the colors were chosen seeing that “it was a more naturalistic association because red and Republican begin with ‘R’.”  

Oddly, American liberals constantly prattle on about the need for multilateralism and internationalism; ignoring the rest of humanity, they decided to flip-flop the political colors decided upon in other democracies. By election season, everyone was on board, especially the three dominating television networks and the newspapers of record. For the first time ever, all major media outlets coordinated blue for Democrats and red for Republicans. 

Not wasting those five precious weeks of post-election crisis, major media figures continually drilled down on the idea of blue Democrats and red Republicans. 

Day after day, the liberals in the media reinforced the notion that Democrats were blue and Republicans red.  This idea was spotlighted by Tim Russert, the most prominent commentator at NBC News, who coined and popularized “red states” and “blue states,” terms that launched a thousand web sites. From that time forward, the traditional conservative blue would be associated with the liberal-to-leftist-to-socialist Democrat Party in the United States. In all advertising, color is communication; never again would the deep-seated liberal/left ideology of the Democrats be communicated in the media through the emblematic and logical color of red.

To his credit, Russert always seemed embarrassed with his unwanted title as father of “red state/blue state.” And most observers believe he tried to be even-handed as host the NBC’s Meet The Press. Yet, he had not entered journalism as an objective non-partisan observer. He served as chief of staff to New York Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a reliable big government liberal on domestic policy, and a more nuanced voice on foreign affairs. Russert also counseled Governor Mario Cuomo, the great hope of the most liberal wing of the Democrat Party during the Reagan era. 

Russert, for all his Democrat allegiance, tried to take Meet the Press down the middle. His current Meet the Press successor, Chuck Todd, another former Democrat operative, makes no pretense of objectivity. Todd did let the “cat out of the bag” when he admitted to Smithsonian in 2012 that the Democrats benefited from the association with the color blue. “For years, both parties would do red and blue maps,” noted Todd, “but they always made the other guys red. During the Cold War, who wanted to be red?”

Of course, Communism, socialism, and other leftist “isms” fly the red flag to this day. Everyone with the slightest knowledge about politics and ideology comprehends the meaning of red throughout modern history. By dissociating them from their true ideological color, this counterintuitive ploy gives invaluable color to Democrats; as the Left/liberal major political party in America, they have earned the color red, even if neither they nor their media allies acknowledge it. Using blue, Democrats are pulling off the ultimate false flag operation.

Although largely unfriendly to business, the Democrat Party also benefits from sharing the favorite brand color of corporate America. Not for nothing was IBM nicknamed “Big Blue.” Most design experts agree that blue evokes feelings of trust, integrity, calm, piety; it really is “true blue.” According to Black Bear Design, “Blue is arguably the most popular color used in brand creation and identity.” 

Zeven Design agrees, stressing:  “Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body.  … It is a preferred color for corporate America and by survey is the ‘favorite’ color … Here is the color of conservatism and dignity.”

If the Democrats were a retail business, their use of blue would be red-flagged for false advertising.

If business favors blue, so does American history. During the Civil War, Union soldiers wore blue uniforms, under the leadership Abraham Lincoln, who just happened to be the first Republican president. “Four score and seven years” before that, American patriots wore blue on the battlefield against the British red coat regulars. And in the fabled “midnight ride,” Paul Revere shouted the warning that echoed across the ages:  “The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!”

Throughout American history, from the Revolution to the Civil War to the Cold War, blue is the color commonly linked to military exploits and patriotic fervor. Blue is also the favored color of businesses, small and large. Additionally, blue is the color associated in Catholicism with the Blessed Virgin Mary and traditional devotions. 

Let’s see:  Blue is the color of military and patriotic flag wavers, business entrepreneurs, and churchgoers. Which political party does that sound like?

Hint:  Not the Democrats.

Absent the election year 2000 ballot box crisis, it’s impossible to know whether the mainstream media would have stuck with blue for Democrats. We do know that they took advantage of the crisis at hand, and forever altered the colors of the party of the left. We see how this shields Democrats from their natural connection to radicals, Communists, socialists, Bolsheviks, Jacobins, laborites, and other liberal and left-wing factions. At a minimum, it is misleading and deceitful. 

In today’s presidential election cycle, the liberal media giants continue to give the Democrat Party the benefit of blue. This built-in advantage will be maintained even should the party of the Left nominate a ticket of avowed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and ultra-liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren, while adopting the platform of U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, both members of the Democratic Socialists of America.

For the American Left, blue is the new red.


Joseph Tortelli is a freelancer writer. Read other articles by Mr. Tortelli here.