What's the actual definition of a red state vs. a blue state?
The red and blue comes from the electoral college. Any state can be a red or a blue, depending on how the citizens vote in a presidential election. Red states tend to vote Republican, and blue states tend to vote Democrat. Some states are always red or blue. California has only gone red once and that was in 1968 when Nixon was elected. Texas also went blue that year voting for Johnson. You'll see a lot more about red and blue states in the presidential election in 2012. The states that tend to go red are in the south and midwest, and blue states are on the coasts, Michigan, and Illinois. But some states like Nebraska, Ohio, and Florida are called swing states. These states tend to vote either way and presidential candidates will campaign mostly in these states. Hope this helps. For more information, look up the electoral college.
Why is California the Bluest Red state in the Union?
Calif is a blue state. Really.
Which is not to say that there aren't communities that are redder than red.
Around the state, and the country, we see more population in cities than in the country, and cities tend to be more democratic.
(although rich cities tend to be more republican.)
Calif has more people in cities.
Even so, Calif suffers from the, "I'll vote for anyone who promises to lower my taxes, and I'll vote anyone out who raises my taxes" syndrome.
Calif's school system is a legacy system, built before Prop-13 passed.
If we had to start today, it would never be built.
Calif is a victim as well.
for example, Schwarzenegger was elected because he was Schwarzenegger, not because he was republican.
prop-8 passed because of the extraordinary amount of money that came from red states.
and it just barely passed.
That was because some were afraid that if Calif allowed gay marriage then there would be a waterfall across the nation.
which is probably true.
Calif has a problem with taxes -- specifically, property tax.
Prop-13, passed back in the 1970s, limits property tax to 1% of the selling price of the property.
There are houses that have been owned for many years for which the property tax is in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.
my property tax is a bit over $6k even though my house is worth over 1m.
in fact, it's so bad, that Warren Buffet complained that the state didn't charge him enough property tax.
(You will, of course, hear some idiot complain that he should pay more. However, having him pay more wouldn't fix the enormous deficit that the state is in.)
The Calif legislature suffers from the same problem that the US senate does.
It takes a 2/3 vote to pass a budget.
just as the republicans use the filibuster to block congress, the republicans in Calif, with an apparent majority of 1/3, refuse to pass a budget.
University of Calif tuition has doubled more than once lately.
State college tuition has also doubled.
Junior college tuition was $7 a class when i was there.
Now it's $78 (i think).
Elementary and high school budgets have been severely cut again this year.
and you have to pay for parking, no matter how far out in the country you are.
It is so bad that there is currently an initiative to prevent the state from taking money from cities.
Our town passed it's own parcel tax, $300/property, just to make up school funding a few years ago.
I expect that we'll see something on the ballot again soon, because of all the classes that are being cut.
when did red state start referring to republicans and blue to democrats?
I think different networks used different systems. I believe that 2000 was the first one where they used to really talk about it using colors. Everybody knew it was going to be close and both campaigns really focused on the swing states.
It wasn't always like this btw. I looked at the 1976 map and compared it to 2000. 25 states went a different way in 1976 compared to 2000. Back then, the west coast was entirely Republican. The south was entirely Democratic. The NE was mostly Republican. Sort of hard to believe based on today's maps, huh.