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The color of assumption: How colors became entangled in politics

Did you know certain colors represent a political association? The ideology behind associating colors with political parties is not new. However, in recent years the colors red and blue became interchangeable with the Republican and Democratic Party: the primary colors of the American Flag.

During the Civil War era, the Republican party’s political color was blue. This was an homage to the Union and the Lincoln Party. Red signified the Democrats and their opposition towards President Abraham Lincoln’s policies. In the 1800s, political parties did not have official colors.

Through the years, parties continuously swapped between blue and red. Blue for Democrats, red for Republicans, and vice versa.

Did you know network television did not use a unified color system until the current century?

Before the year 2000 major news networks ABC, CBS, and NBC had their preference of colors to use on election night. On each network, different colors represented the same candidate on an electoral map.

Networks did not have a unified color system to identify which states supported the Democrat or Republican candidate. The idea of using a unified color system came later in the 21st century.

In 1976, NBC debuted their colossal electoral map for television viewers at home. Election night news anchor John Chancellor urged the network to use red and blue to illustrate which states supported the Republican incumbent Gerald Ford and which supported Democratic opponent Jimmy Carter. At 3:30 a.m. EST, Mississippi turned red and NBC declared Carter the winner. This was the start of cementing the terms red states, blue states, and using colors as identifiers of a political association.

Did you know people make subconscious decisions or assumptions about people, political affiliations and objects based on color? Those colors are important to campaigns and brand identities because whether or not a person is aware of it, colors are embedding subliminal messages.

If an individual is walking down the street and sees another individual 20 feet away wearing a red hat, that person will most likely assume the other person is a Trump supporter. Why? Donald Trump has made the red hat the symbol of his campaign.

In the same situation, if the same person had on a black hat, there is a strong possibility the other person would assume that individual is a Black Lives Matter supporter. Why? Because for the past five months the mass media has consistently shown the Black Lives Matter logo on television as the official symbol of the ongoing protests against police brutality.

Did you know using colors in a political campaign to send subliminal messages, whether inadvertently or deliberate, is not a recent phenomenon? Colors provide visual and psychological information. Which makes it easier to spread propaganda.

The irony of the Republicans using red as their official color could be serendipitous. Red has traditionally equated communism and socialism. Using a red flag dates back to the revolutions of 1848, the French Revolution in the 18th century, and the “Red Scare,” in the 1940s and 50s.

This is the period in history when supporters of McCarthyism accused fellow Americans of treason and referred to them as “Reds.”

Rewind to 1976, party colors switched from blue to red, red to blue, and a myriad of other colors in all elections. In 2000, the networks ended their lively use of colors that confused the viewers who flipped between stations.

The tumultuous presidential election between Republican George H. W. Bush v. the Incumbent Democrat Vice-President Al Gore forever ended color swapping.

The mass media synonymously attached the colors to partisanship. Red for the Republican’s and Blue for Democrats. Linking permanent colors to political affiliations made it easier for people to identify supporters based on color and not a logo.

Did you know according to brand marketing, blue represents peace, security, trustworthiness, and stability?

The characteristics of blue mean to reflect the democratic mission statement, “America works best, and Americans prosper the most as a people, when we are all in it together and play by the same rules.”

In 2010, the Democrats adopted an all-blue logo. Around the same time, Republican’s embraced an all-red logo on their official website.

The characteristics of red are love, power, danger, and stop. The attributes of red were not a factor in the 2014 Republican mission statement “America works best, and America prospers when individuals and families can maintain their independence from government.”

People could make the presumption that both parties affirmed these colors because they recognized the power behind its political influence.

At the end of the day, colors do not define the political party or person. It’s the morality, mission, and intentions that define who a person is and what the Republicans and Democrats stand for.



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