News about presidential campaigns took a back seat to Hurricane Sandy earlier this week, but the Red and Blue debates are bound to resurface at any moment. The whole concept of color-coded states got our comfortable t-shirt color-conscious staff wondering about the origins of the red and blue political color scheme.
According to Wikipedia, “Before the 2000 presidential election, the traditional color coding scheme was “Blue for Republican, Red for Democrat,” in line with historical European associations (red was used for left-leaning parties).”
During the Civil War, blue usually referred to the ‘Republican North’ as the uniform of the Union soldier was predominantly blue. Later, the political parties were all over the color spectrum. In 1908, for example, the New York Times printed a special color edition depicting the Democratic states in blue, Republican states in yellow. That same year, the Washington Post painted the Republicans red and the Democratic-leaning states blue.
Color television certainly had an influence on the color-coding of the political parties – newscasters relied on the use of vivid colors to convey their messages. One source claims that from “1976 to 2004, the broadcast networks, in an attempt to avoid favoritism in color coding, standardized on the convention of alternating every four years between blue and red the color used for the incumbent party”. (Wikipedia to the rescue)
By 1996, political color schemes were reminiscent of a Jackson Pollack. And during the hurricane? Blue and Red washed together to become purple. Violet, grape, berry and wine are our favorite purples.