Monday, May 12, 2008

A patently false state-ment.

I am so sick and tired of hearing the Sunday-morning pundits unthinkingly and uncritically parrot all that Blue State/Red State crap. It's simply not true. And so, in hopes of putting this to rest once and for all (at least here on SHAMblog), I offer a section from my piece on journalism for Skeptic, now on the stands.

Once again, I'm not quoting myself because I think I'm brilliant, but because I'm pressed for time today and the graph is already written:

"The Red State/Blue State dichotomy...[is] invoked as an easy metaphor to express the philosophical schism that supposedly divides "the two Americas." Watching CNN's Bill Schneider hover over his maps on Election Night 2004, drawing stark lines between colors, one would've thought there were no Republicans in California, or that a Democrat arriving at the Texas border would be turned back at gunpoint. Well, guess what: The dichotomy doesn't exist—certainly not in the way journalists use the term. It's just a handy, sexy media fiction. Although California did wind up in the Kerry column in 2004, some 5.5 million Californians voted for George W. Bush. They represented about 45 percent of the state's total electorate and a much larger constituency in raw numbers than Bush enjoyed in any state he won, including Texas. Speaking of Texas: That unreconstituted Yankee, John Kerry, collected 2.8 million votes there. Two-point-eight million. Yet to hear the media tell it, California is deep, cool Blue, while Texas is a glaring, monolithic Red. Such fabrications aren't just silly. They become institutionalized in the culture, and they color—in this case literally—the way Americans view the nation in which they live."
And let me throw something else into the mix: If we're going to anoint a state "red" or "blue" simply because a party wins it—wouldn't that logic apply to the nation as a whole? So therefore, inasmuch as George W. Bush won the election in 2004, I guess the U.S. is, ipso facto, a "red nation." Or at least it has been for the past eight years. Right?

Can you see Chris Matthews buying into that one?


And as a postscript, to connect this up to our previous discussion of the True Self, the mythical Red State/Blue State paradigm is one more way of categorizing people, putting them into neat little boxes, rather than regarding each person as a person. So we have "red-staters"—presumably toothless beer-guzzlers who, in their spare time between NASCAR events, like to cap off a good lynching by impregnating their own teenage daughters—and "blue-staters"—who are erudite, Shiraz-sipping New York Times crossword-puzzle-in-ink doers who all have box seats at the Stadium (there's really only one) and tickets to Opening Night of the next Broadway smash.

It's stupid, it's divisive, it's woefully inaccurate, and it's an insult to notions of genuine individuality.


roger o'keefe said...

This is a good one, Steve. One of your best. I have to admit, I'm a political junkie, one of those people watching all the shows with all those pundits, and I never thought of it this way. It's an eye-opening observation and I'm forwarding it to everyone I know.

By the way, your idea of this being a "red nation" suits me just fine.

Steven Sashen said...

Just remember, there are only 2 kinds of people in this world:

People who divide the world into 2 kinds of people, and...

Anonymous said...

Amen Brother! I for one only want to be put in a box when I am dead and not second before that time. In my experience, people put others into boxes for their own reasons and not for the ones being put into the boxes.

Anonymous said...

Good grief, all RED? What a bloody nightmare....Oh wait, it is a bloody nightmare!

Good points made Steve. When I lived in Texas, I felt weird not supporting the Republican party. All of the red people couldn't understand why it could be any other way. When Clinton #1 won the general election, you would have thought the world was coming to an end. It didn't and the country was BLUE then.

So people, wake up and stop thinking in these ridiculous terms. You can like some things of one party and some of another. Thanks Steve for writing this. It is refreshing.


Cosmic Connie said...

RickW wrote: "Good grief, all RED? What a bloody nightmare....When I lived in Texas, I felt weird not supporting the Republican party."

And yet historically, Texas is one of the homes of the yellow-dog (or "yaller-dog") Democrat. Then there are the blue-dog Democrats. I'm hopelessly confused. Monty Python's Silly Party is starting to make a lot more sense.

Jeremy Smalling said...

Isn't that what the map looked like when Reagan was elected?