Some States Are Red, Some States Are Blue, the Blue States Are Redder, but What Can You Do?

By | August 27, 2018 | 2 Comments

As we approach the 2018 midterm elections, politics seems to pervade everything, but the dissention is combined with confusion. Look at this 2016 election map. You could drive from Key West, at the tip of Florida, to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on the Canadian border – a distance of 3193 miles – and never pass through a state that voted for Hillary. The map by counties is even more impressive.

And yet the 2016 election is repeatedly called “controversial” or “disputed.” Why? I believe part of the reason is the confusing choice of colors.

During the 2000 election, the media began using maps showing liberal states as blue and conservative states as red. The obvious reason was to avoid the implication that liberals are related to socialists or communists, who throughout the world for over a century have been associated with the color red.

Prior to 2000, the color scheme varied, with the more common − and more logical − practice being to use red for Democrats and blue for Republicans. For example, NBC’s David Brinkley referred to Ronald Reagan’s 49-state landslide victory in 1984 as a “sea of blue.” But since 2000, the current usage has become so ingrained that it would be very difficult to change. There may be a lesson here.

We should be careful of the habits we develop. Changing them later can be difficult or impossible, no matter how illogical or destructive they may be. This is true for a drug habit, but it is equally − if less obviously − true for habits of thought. Refusing to associate big-government candidates and parties with socialism may seem innocent. But such thinking is hardly innocent if it encourages us to overlook the failing socialist states in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.Margaret Thatcher

Barack Obama proposed a variation on the theme of “one size fits all” health-care plans. We refused to see the similarities between this plan and the socialized Canadian system with its long delays, the British system with its rationing of care, and the French system with its inability to react to emergencies. Fuzzy terminology leads to fuzzy thinking. We heard promises of “excellent care for everyone at less cost” and reacted with cheers and applause, rather than the hoots and whistles such baloney deserved.

Then we have the notion that Democrats are more “compassionate” than Republicans. This is true only if we define “compassionate” as voting Democratic − a circular argument if there ever was one. In fact, conservatives on average give more to charity than liberals, both as individuals and by state. And Americans give more to charity than Europeans who live in socialist nations.

I believe that socialism is deficient not only on economic grounds, but also on moral grounds. It encourages us to leave the well-being of fellow citizens and even family to the government. For example, in 2003 France was stuck by a heat wave in which over 11,000 died. Those who could do so took their usual August vacation to the seashore, leaving elderly relatives and neighbors to swelter in non-air-conditioned apartments. Even health-care personnel went on vacation, while those who remained were limited by law to a 35-hour work week. There’s “compassion” for you.

Forty percent of Americans can’t name a single First Amendment right, and only 15 percent name freedom of religion. News report

Some time ago I was talking to a liberal colleague. I mentioned the evils of the Soviet Union. As if on cue, he said, “True communism hasn’t been tried.” Really? In 74 years of “building socialism,” the Soviet Union just couldn’t get it right? And Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania, and East Germany didn’t do it right, either? What about China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia – not to mention the liberals’ favorite, Cuba? What about the failed African regimes that rejected Western ideas of democracy and free enterprise, but unwisely chose Marxism to emulate?

In fact, true communism was tried by the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Colony in 1620. After a few years of near starvation, they gave it up, allowed private ownership of land ‒ and flourished. This experience was duplicated by communists in the Soviet Union and China, where millions died in famines. But unlike the Pilgrims, it took the Russians and Chinese many years to admit their error.

After centuries of attempts of various sorts by various peoples of various racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, nobody could get socialism “right.” But many liberals still believe that they could get it “right,” if only we nasty old conservatives got out of the way and let them try.

Soviet citizen: Have we achieved true communism yet?
Communist official: No, things are going to get even worse.


But with due respect for Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, what does it mean to get socialism “right”? Venezuela used to be prosperous, based on oil production. But then it went socialist, and is now poverty-stricken and on the verge of collapse. Hugo Chávez couldn’t get it “right,” and now Nicolás Maduro can’t get it “right” either. There may be a clue here.

  • Can a system that is inefficient be made to work efficiently?
  • Can a system that creates disincentives to productivity be made productive?
  • Can a system that rewards conformity be made innovative?
  • Can a system that discourages individual responsibility be made to encourage it?
  • Can a system that enforces compliance be made to encourage political freedom?
  • Can a system that punishes “incorrect” speech be made to encourage free expression?
  • Can a system that takes more of our money and makes spending decisions for us be made to encourage economic freedom?
  • Can a system based on Marx’s 19th-century notions cope with 21st-century problems?
  • Can a system based on lies ever succeed? Note the admission that ObamaCare could not have been passed without lying to Congress and the American people.

We can’t get socialism “right” any more than we can get wife-beating “right” or perpetual motion “right.” If something is wrong, both morally and practically, we can never get it “right.” The best we can hope for is to get it less wrong − that is, to compare it with something that seems even worse.

Thus when I criticized his hero, Fidel Castro, my liberal colleague replied, “He got rid of Batista.” Yes, but so what? John Gotti got rid of Paul Castellano − did that excuse Gotti’s Mafia career? And Lenin got rid of the czar. But what if he hadn’t? Despite the oppression and inefficiency of the czarist regime, things in Russia were slowly improving. It is illogical to compare conditions in the Soviet Union before it collapsed in 1991 with conditions in the czarist Russia of 1917. Nothing in the world is the same as it was in 1917.

Similarly, apologists for Castro compare education and health care in Cuba now with conditions when Batista fell in 1959. Liberals fall into the trap of assuming that if the Left hadn’t seized power, conditions in the country in question would have remained frozen in time. This is similar to claiming that if the American Revolution hadn’t occurred, we would still be going around on horseback wearing three-cornered hats and wigs.

Things change whether our guy or the other guy is in charge. The question is how they change. Does freedom increase or decrease? Is the value of the individual enhanced or diminished? Does society come to resemble a community of human beings or an anthill? Are productivity and innovation encouraged or discouraged? Are we motivated to take care of ourselves, our family, and our neighbors, or are we tempted to slough off our responsibilities onto Big Brother?

When we call conservative states red and liberal states blue, it is more than a mere confusion of colors. We are being manipulated to muddle our thinking until we can no longer draw logical conclusions.

Socialism isn’t a novel idea worth trying. It is an old idea that has been tried in many forms, in many places, by many people, and to a significant extent it doesn’t work. We need to take from socialism the idea of a social safety net into which the unfortunate can fall without serious injury. But at the same time, we need to encourage individual initiative and responsibility, because they are necessary for progress – and even more important, because they are essential for human dignity.

We can call red blue and blue red all day long, but the true colors remain the same.

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