The GOP used to be the party that most loudly and vocally hated the commies.

Communism was, at one time, their favorite “fear” tool, with the GOP citing ad nauseam the encroaching “red threat.”  “Fighting commies” was used to justify wars, hate other nationalities (sound familiar?), and it led to one of the darkest periods in American politics called McCarthyism.

Nutshell: McCarthyism was when anyone could call you a commie and suddenly the burden of proof was on you to show you weren’t a dreaded subversive commie.  Politicians’ careers were destroyed and Hollywood writers were blacklisted.  There was an official government committee called the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Roses are red

The dems are blue

Red is for commies

And the GOP too.

But the USA eventually came, more or less, to their senses and, especially with the end of the Cold War, became much less concerned with commies and the terrifying spread of socialism, which was frequently conflated with communism even as we adopted many socialist elements ourselves.  Cognitive dissonance was not invented yesterday.

How did communists become red?

Russia and China have a long history of using red: the “red army”, red as the dominant color in their flags, and back when they were more actively Leninist and/or communist, red symbolized the color of the workers’ blood. And there’s the Red Square in Moscow and the Russian word which means both “red” and “beautiful”: krasnaya.

So this led to the use in the USA of the pejorative term “reds” for anyone who aligned (or was suspected of aligning) with the communists.  Indeed, even “pinko” found wide use describing anyone  suspected of having communist (or even liberal) tendencies.  Pink is of course a mixture of white and red.

Why are the Republicans the red party?

First off, the parties have changed dramatically.  Republicans proudly point to Abe Lincoln and cite his Republican bonafides and strut around claiming to be the party that freed the slaves.  There’s a nugget of truth: the original Republican party did in fact free the slaves, but that’s not the Republican party of today.  The Democrats of that era were the hard core  conservatives and the upstart Republican party came to challenge them from the liberal side.  Slowly, over the course of time they effectively and completely traded places.

So you might surmise that the color assignment dates back to when their ideologies were the polar opposite of what they are today.  A reasonable guess to be sure, but incorrect.  The colors appear to have been mostly arbitrary, being adopted to show election results on TV during the imbroglio of the 2000 election, with “red states” being conservative or GOP, and blue states being the Dems or liberals.  The GOP then picked up on the color red and began to proudly use it in an official capacity for their party.

Color coding of the parties is not a US-only thing.  It’s prevalent in other countries, and oddly enough “red” is almost always the “leftie” party and “blue” is for the conservatives.  It’s only here in the US that the meaning is swapped.  In fact, with the possible exception of South Korea, we are the only major nation that uses red to mean conservative.

The GOP has changed dramatically even in our lifetime.  Watch this clip of Reagan and Bush debating illegal aliens in 1980 and you’ll swear they’re both hard-core lefties.

Modern times

I use the phrase “modern times” rather ironically because our worldview, in many ways, seems to have slipped back a century.  These days, the modern-day GOP doesn’t seem to fear Russia at all and in fact they seem to be cozying up to them.

Regarding Asians, on the campaign trail Trump made sure he was an equal opportunity offender and definitely got in his licks charging China with currency manipulation, attacking trade relations, and doing bad imitations of the Chinese.  But now that he’s eaten some lovely cake with Xi, we’re apparently BFFs.

Modern day Russia is not really a communist country anymore.  Communism and capitalism are economic systems.  Democracy is a political system.

Russia is a capitalist society these days in terms of economics.  Politically they call themselves a democracy: they have a parliament and they hold elections.  But it’s a highly flawed democracy.  Election results are “rigged”, the free press does not exist, and protections for individual rights are nearly non-existent.

China politically is an unabashed dictatorship.  The Chinese Communist Party still remains in control, but most vestiges of communism have been erased as they embraced capitalism and consequentially developed one of the biggest wealth gaps in the world.

So really it comes down to whether you prefer a traditional democracy with issues decided by democratic election, a free press, and strong protections for individual rights, or whether you’re down with what we’d probably just call an “authoritarian regime” where one man or one party makes the real decisions regardless of any democratic theater that may or may not be involved.

Unfortunately, we don’t have cute names for this like we used to with “commies” and “reds”, to excuse people from all that messy thinking.  But we are drifting perilously close to becoming a “authoritarian regime” with the current administration’s efforts to control (or at least neutralize) the press, and their focus on reducing democratic input and eliminating essential human rights.

In summary…

So let’s quit calling it “conservative news” and start calling it what it is: propaganda.  Let’s stand up for our right to disagree instead of attempting to quell any discord with threats and intimidation.  Let’s protect our free press and our free elections.  Don’t be the fabled frog in boiling water becoming more and more accustomed until it’s too late. Because it can happen here.