Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Mark Krikorian takes a vacation in Michigan and reports back:

Amidst the big-picture stuff, two things at the Ford museum stuck out: The map showing the outcome of the 1976 election had the red and blue states as they’re supposed to be — the Democrats in red and the Republicans in blue. Has anyone tried to dig out which graphic artist or art director at one of the networks decided to change this in 2000? It has to have been a considered decision by a leftie who didn’t think the Democrats should be portrayed as the reds, but I’ve never seen the name(s) of the specific person or persons responsible.

Nah. Nothing so sinister. Here’s the answer:1

Since the advent of color TV, there has been a formula to avoid charges of giving any party an advantage by painting it a “better” color. Here is the formula: the color of the incumbent party alternates every 4 years.

In 2000 the formula produced blue for Gore and red for Bush, and shortly after that the famous electoral map showing blue coasts and a vast swath of red everywhere else made its debut. This prompted everyone to start talking about red states and blue states, and ever since then it’s stuck. Something tells me this is an explanation that’s going to have to be repeated every few years.

1The best answer I’ve been able to come up with, anyway. However, state colors have varied over the years, and not all networks and print outlets followed this formula perfectly. But it seems to have been pretty common, and in any case it was just a coincidence that Democrats got colored blue in 2000 and that was the election that produced a famous map. Just luck of the draw.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate