Friday, November 7, 2014

Red State Blues Redux

In the wake of Tuesday’s election, many folks in red states are feeling mighty blue. Well, that can’t be helped, so it’s time to move on to the next bout in the ballot box, which will be in just 23 months and 51 weeks.  Better get busy!

The fact that red is associated with Republicans and blue with Democrats may seem counter-intuitive.  Red, which derives from the Sanskrit rudhirá (“blood”), has historically been associated with left-wing political causes. On the other hand, blue, which originated in proto-Indo-Euroean bhel, meaning “light-colored, yellow, or burnt,” and later Old Norse bla (“livid, discolored as in a bruise”), is traditionally the color of conservatism.

Red and blue took on their current political associations in the presidential election of 2000, thanks to network TV, as I pointed out in a similar blog two years ago.

Colors were first used on electronic election maps in 1976, when NBC depicted Gerald Ford in blue and Jimmy Carter in red. In 1984, NBC showed Ronald Reagan’s landslide of 44 states as a “sea of blue.”  CBS used the opposite colors—red for Republicans and blue for Democrats. At ABC blue and yellow were the choices.

During this period the three major networks informally agreed on a uniform red-blue scheme that would alternate every four years, being assigned according to who were the incumbents (blue) and who were the challengers (red).

By 2000 all the broadcast and cable networks used this system, and it was the incumbent Democrats’ turn to be blue.  Because of the prolonged controversy over the election outcome, coverage dragged on for weeks, and commentators began to refer to a state as “red” or “blue,” according to which party had carried it.  From that time on, the red-state/blue-state dichotomy became ingrained in American political dialogue.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou is also ingrained—or, rather, he’s into grains, mostly the distilled neutral kind.  Today, like most days, he has the blues.

            Oh, Lord, I got those Lone Star, Red State Blues,
            Surrounded by a crowd with wing-nut views,
            First Rick Perry, now Greg Abbott,
            Like some hard-to-kick bad habit,
            They try to be more right-wing than Ted Cruz.

            Oh, Lord, I got those Lone Star, Red State Blues,
            I’m in a land where folks believe Fox News,
            And for Tea Party theatrics,           
            You cannot top Dan Patrick’s,                    
            And now another Bush for us to choose.
            When I’m resting in my arbor, oh
            How I dream of old Ralph Yarborough,
            I’d bring back Barbara Jordan, if I could.
            Mickey Leland, Henry B. Gonzalez,
            Ann Richards, too—oh, they were hot tamales—
            And right now even Lyndon’s looking good!

            Oh, Lord, I got those Lone Star, Red State Blues,
            A feeling that goes right down to my shoes,
            There’s just one chance in a billion
            Texas won’t remain vermilion,
            Oh, Lordy, yes, I got those ever-lastin’, Lone Star, 
                     Red State Blues.

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