“Right now, we all have Georgia on our minds. It’s probably going to end up called for Joe Biden; his lead is razor-thin, but most observers expect it to survive a recount. And the January runoff races in Georgia offer Democrats their last chance to take the Senate.
Beyond the immediate electoral implications, however, the fact that Democrats are now competitive in Georgia but not in Ohio, which appears to have become Trumpier than Texas, tells you a lot about where America is heading. In some ways these changes in the electoral map offer reason for hope; but they also suggest looming problems for U.S. democracy.
How did Georgia turn faintly blue? As The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson wrote, in a phrase I wish I’d come up with, the great divide in American politics is now over “density and diplomas”: highly urbanized states — especially those containing large metropolitan areas — with highly educated populations tend to be Democratic.
Why this particular partisan association? Think about the longer-term political strategy of the modern G.O.P. Republican economic policy is relentlessly plutocratic: tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for everyone else. The party has, however, sought to win over voters who aren’t rich by taking advantage of intolerance — racial hostility, of course, but also opposition to social change in general.
But both living in large, diverse metropolitan areas and being highly educated seem to make voters less receptive to this strategy. Indeed, many big-city and highly educated voters seem repelled by G.O.P. illiberalism on social issues — which is why so many affluent Americans on the coasts back Democrats even though Republicans might reduce their taxes.
In practice, density and diplomas tend to go together — an association that has grown stronger over the past few decades. Modern economic growth has been led by knowledge-based industries; these industries tend to concentrate in large metropolitan areas that have highly educated work forces; and the growth of these metropolitan areas brings in even more highly educated workers.
Hence the transformation of Georgia. The state is home to greater Atlanta, one of the nation’s most dynamic metropolises, which now accounts for 57 percent of Georgia’s population. Atlanta has drawn in a growing number of college-educated workers, so that at this point the percentage of working-age adults with bachelor’s degrees is higher in Georgia than in Wisconsin or Michigan. So at some level it shouldn’t be surprising that Georgia apparently joined the “blue wall” in securing the presidency for Biden.
But if there’s one thing I hope Democrats have learned these past dozen years, it is that they can’t simply count on changing demography and growing social liberalism to deliver election victories. Red-state Republicans have fought tooth and nail to hold power — not by moderating their policies, but through gerrymandering and vote suppression. And Democrats need to do what they can to fight back.
Which is why Georgia’s blue shift is in one way a reason for hope.
Why, after all, did Biden win Georgia even as he was losing North Carolina, another relatively well-educated state with growing knowledge industries? The answer, in two words: Stacey Abrams.”