Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another New Link, and an Observation

I got online this morning to write a new piece that I dreamed up last night. Sleep has always helped my writing. And, by that I don't just mean that I have to have enough sleep to be able to mentally function well enough to write something that isn't crap. I haven't had the luxury of that much sleep since I became a parent. Parenting is a long term experiment on the effects of sleep deprivation. No, what I really mean is that, every time I get really stuck, every time I can't make any order out of the chaos that is the writing process, I take a nap. When I wake up, it all makes sense. Somehow, while my conscious mind checked out, my subconscious ordered the whole thing.

However, when you do your best work in your sleep, it is imperative to write down (or, in my case, type out) those clever workings of the subconscious mind as early as possible, before the conscious mind has a chance to muddle things up again. So I got online this morning to do a little bit of supporting research to back up the ideas in the essay I dreamt last night. Problem was, I couldn't find what I was looking for, and the later we get into this morning the more likely I am to realize that between my broken wrist and Adam's ear infection, I didn't sleep well enough last night to do decent work.

Yesterday I read this article in the Indiana University Alumni Magazine. Yes, even though I've always lived in Kentucky, somehow I managed to graduate from IU, but that's a story for another time. Anyway, the article, titled Purple Politics?, attacked the popular division of our country into red states and blue states. Most states, at least according to the political scientists interviewed for the article, are actually a shade of purple, a complex mixture of both blue and red elements.

While the article focuses primarily, of course, on the state of Indiana, noting, in a quote from Princeton University's Robert J. Vanderbei, who created a map of "Purple America," that:

"Indiana is reliably Republican in presidential contests going back to 1964, but it has had, at the same time, a habit of electing Democratic governors, senators, mayors, state legislators, and so on," he says. "So, is it a Republican state or a two-party battleground?"

the idea of "Purple States" can be applied to almost any state. Traditionally red states, that is, states that almost always vote for a Republican presidential candidate, often elect Democrats in local elections. Traditionally blue states, similarly, often elect Republicans in local elections. Rarely, if ever, will you find a monolithically red or blue state.

And, even when you can identify an electoral trend in a particular state, there is often a strong minority. Take my own Kentucky, a reliably red state in presidential elections. In the 2000 presidential election 638,898 Kentuckians voted for Al Gore. I was one of them. Do we cease to be representative Kentuckians just because 872,492 of our fellow Kentuckians voted for George W. Bush?

With the idea of purple states floating around in my head, I dreamt of a paper which would analyze the recent mid term election results, especially as they concern my home state, as the product of our purple nature. It was to be a dissertation on Kentucky politics, with a great many statistics concerning voting trends in Kentucky through history. I was all fired up to write a major essay on Kentucky as a study in the anatomy of a purple state.

But, after only an hour of Internet searching, the fire had gone out. I was hoping to find, in a single place, a detailed statistical analysis of voting trends in federal, state and local elections, sorted by geographical area. I was certain that there would be, somewhere in the vastness of cyberspace, some depository of information which would reveal itself to me if only I googled the right phrase.

But, after having found only a disorganized sea of unsorted, uninterpreted numbers, I've all but given up. This must be why I'm not a political scientist!

So, having failed to do the proper research, having given up in the face of momentary adversity and the prospect of actually having to do real work just for a blog entry; should I post my unsupported rantings and ravings, or should I just go about my merry day, realizing that I don't yet know the password and secret handshake which opens up the world of electoral data which must be available to people who do this for a living?

Maybe I'll find the answer to that question while I'm anesthetized for my surgery this afternoon. For, in that sleep of anesthesia, who knows what dreams may come?

In the meantime, ponder this:

While Nancy Pelosi's brilliant scheme for Democrats to take back the House for the first time since 1994 consisted of identifying palatably conservative Democrats to run in traditionally red states like Kentucky, the Kentucky 3rd is sending to Washington perhaps the only Representative more liberal than Pelosi, in the person of Congressman-elect John Yarmuth. From a state whose only other Democratic Congressman is Rep. Ben Chandler, a Republican in Democrat clothing; a state who, God forgive us, has unleashed the political monster that is Sen. Mitch McConnell; now comes the founder of an "alternative" newspaper who made his name bashing every conservative he can think of.

Doesn't that just bust the stereotype?!?

Anyway, since, absent sufficient research, I decided not to post my manifesto on Kentucky as a purple state (can't you tell I didn't write about that?!?) I logged into my Beta Blogger account to post a new link to my sidebar.

Frank Lockwood, religion reporter for the Lexington Herald Leader, has his own blog, Bible Belt Blogger. Since he has linked to my blog, I decided to do him the favor of linking back. If you're interested in seeing a delightful hybrid of traditional journalism is blogging, or if you're just interested in the inner workings of religion in the so-called Bible Belt, check out Frank's blog.

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