Better Dead than Red, or Better Red than Dead?

One of my colleagues, now long retired, put it this way.  Frankly, I can’t remember who said what — who gets the credit.  Or who gets the blame, depending, of course, on your perspective.  Anyway, the question is this: Why do Republicans own red?

When I was a U.S. congressional page for the Republicans, they wore red.  Red neckties and red party dresses abounded.  Later, when I switched sides, I began to relate more to my friends from the other side of the aisle. This wasn’t hard, since Tip O’Neill was the speaker of the House when I was a page, and the Republican party was so small (circa 1977–78) that my friends were pages borrowed from the other side:  Southern Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats, bold Democrats, or just plain curious Democrats coming from the closest city to red that we had: San Francisco. The Republicans, in other words, did not have enough leg power, or person power, to run all their errands.  So, back in the day, the Democrats were gentlemen* and would help them out — at least at the level of running errands to the House floor.

Getting back to the conversation at hand, I didn’t turn blue for long.  The Democrats, I quickly learned at Claremont Men’s College, were not as, but almost as ______  (fill in the blank) boring in the absence of agents of change as the Republicans.  In a two-party system, they were Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

So, I moved left.  Moving left after college meant leaving the country. Going abroad, I ended up in the one country that could be counted back then as dissident, or had a dissident history — the former Yugoslavia.

Here we all embraced the red.  Indeed, one of my going-away gifts was a basket of red stuff — red nail varnish, lipstick, etc. — and the biggest movie that spring, when I got to decide if I wanted my diploma to read Claremont Men’s College or Claremont McKenna College, was Reds, by Warren Beatty.

Back then, red was the color of communists — and I never quite put it together why it was also the color of Republicans.

Anyway, listening to Max Boot on a Forum podcast got me thinking: Now we do know — not why they, but at least he, wears red.  And this got a laugh out of me.

It made me think: “Better dead than red” made sense to my relatives and I decided to resist my relatives with “Better red than dead.”  But today’s Republicans are so anti-intellectual that you might say: “Better-read? Then dead.”  Whose color is it anyway?  Or are we all seeing red, knowing that some say or dance around it that our president is committing treason.

 

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* I say gentlemanly because the House was a gentlemen’s club.  We were taught that the number-one reason a woman sat in the House was because her husband had died in a plane crash.  I still have yet to check the veracity of that statement.

 

** you guess

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About Professor Ruth O'Brien

Professor Ruth O'Brien, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY)/ & Honorary Unaffiliated Academic Book Series Editor for The Public Square, Princeton University Press & Heretical Thought, Oxford University Press, USA Last book: Out of Many, One: Obama & the Third American Political Tradition (U of Chicago 2013). Social Media training by 365 Publics. Nickname: Professorette by Rush Limbaugh (see http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Faculty/Core-Bios/Ruth-O-Brien)

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