When Republicans Were Blue and Democrats Were Red

The era of color-coded political parties is more recent than you might think

In 1980, CBS News used this color scheme for their presidential election coverage (Youtube)

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At this point—three presidential elections after Bush v. Gore—the color arrangement seems unlikely to reverse any time soon. Not only have “red states” and “blue states” entered the lexicon, partisans on both sides have taken ownership of them. For instance, RedState is a conservative blog; Blue State Digital, which grew out of Democrat Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, helps candidates and organizations use technology to raise money, advocate their positions and connect with constituents. In 2008, a Republican and a Democrat even joined forces to create Purple Strategies, a bipartisan public affairs firm.

Sara Quinn, a visual journalist now at the Poynter Institute in Florida, said she sees no particular advantage to either color.

“Red is usually very warm and it comes forward to the eye. Blue tends to be a recessive color, but a calming color,” she said.

Not that anyone thought of those things when assigning colors in 2000. Not that they think about it at all today.

“After that election the colors became part of the national discourse,” said Tse. “You couldn’t do it any other way.”


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