Reporters and commentators use red states and blue states as if these were God-given characteristics. It’s bad journalism and it tends to reify what are only partial and often temporary characteristics. Polarization in America is bad enough without Orwellian language needlessly exaggerating it.
Even states that are heavily Republican have plenty of Democratic voters, not to mention independents and swing voters. So there is no such thing as a “red” state. It’s better and more accurate (and conducive to better understanding) to use terms like “Republican-leaning” or “heavily Democratic.”
The current color-coding only dates to the 2000 election. Before 2000, networks did use color-coded maps, but varied them and were more likely to use red for Democrat, blue for Republican. In 2000, Tim Russert began coding Democrats as blue, supposedly to avoid any taint that Democrats were Reds.
Whatever the origin of the practice, it’s dumb, sloppy shorthand, with real negative effects. If the mainstream press wants to avoid being a target for Donald Trump’s “enemy of the people” slurs, it can start by cleaning up its own act.
Even the most serious media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and PBS, routinely fall into this usage. Maybe if they stop, they can shame the networks and other media into following suit.