“It’s just a matter of when.”
When I wrote about the Georgia Senate race for TheLines at one of the various times this year I did, that was the wording I used on the battle for what ended up being the Senate’s last seat – that Raphael Warnock would win, and the only intrigue was whether he would do it in November or December. Given the combination of a stupid and antiquated runoff system and an uncertain Libertarian vote, it was always unclear whether he would get there in November, but as predicted, he got there in the end.
This column could just be a victory lap for the fact that he did end up winning, that the runoff was always going to be bluer than the General Election if it got there, and that I had the perfect Senate map, but that’s fundamentally not interesting. What is interesting is why he won – and it’s, to the shock* of everyone, the fucking suburbs.
(*I know you’re not shocked.)
The story of this election, and in many ways this cycle, was clear – the GOP paid a crazy penalty for their insane nominees. They paid a tax for Herschel’s CTE and Oz’s insanity and Blake Masters supporting election denial and everything else. They paid a crazy tax mostly in the suburbs – the very same suburbs that were supposed to be their salvation after Trump when the white voters who didn’t like the orange man suddenly came back to the GOP.
There was never a logic to it, because the GOP didn’t lose those voters because of Trump – they lost them because politics is more about social issues than economics nowadays, and that necessarily means that social liberals will leave the GOP and social conservatives will leave the Democratic Party. The reason Democrats did so well in Georgia is clear – they outran Biden’s results amongst what you’d call Atlanta’s circle of white wealth.
That circle of wealth is concentrated in two groups of places – North Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett, where whites went to get the white picket fence, and then Cherokee, Forsyth, and Hall, where whites went to make sure they didn’t ever have to run into any Black people. In both those “rings” of the northern suburbs and exurbs, Democrats have increasingly done better in recent times in part because of increased diversity of those counties, but more importantly because the whites in those areas have liberalized substantially.
I’ve written many times before about Forsyth, and there is a weird love hate relationship I have with the county. Whites only until the 90s, Forsyth was a Romney by 63% county 10 years ago. Tonight, it voted for Walker by 32%, a sign that any notion of suburban reversion would be coming was always a fanciful lie. For everyone who pines for a more traditional GOP coalition, this decline is both inexorable, but also completely understandable.
The reason I have any affection for the county is simple – it’s a place I’ve understood well, well enough to accurately predict it wouldn’t revert, but also to set a book there that might be coming out next year. It’s the exact kind of place that my bet – my overarching bet of this cycle, and of my broader brand – would either be paid out or put me to the end of whatever reputation. Fortunately, it came through.
The story of this victory is of Black turnout, yes, but it is also of the politics of suburbia, and a lesson not just to the American left in how to win through well off white social liberals, but the global left. It’s a happy night and I’m ecstatic for the voters of Georgia who finally get to not have a Senate race in 2024.
But if I’m being honest, I’m happier for myself at this point, because this night, and this cycle, has been a reminder that I’m not as useless or as stupid as I worried I was. In this business, whenever you win you’re convinced of your genius, and when you lose you’re convinced you’ll never have an insightful point again. That line, between genius and jester, is thin, and in a country where polling is more inconsistent than Pete Davidson’s relationship status, it can be really hard to figure out if you were good or lucky when you do get things right.
The answer, of course, is both – sometimes you’re good and sometimes you’re lucky. I have any platform today because of Georgia – because I was so vocal about betting Biden to win the state in 2020, there was enough good will around to get me through to the runoffs. Getting those right gave me some good will to save me through Virginia, and then fortunately the post-Dobbs road has been successful for me. To deny that 11k votes or whatever Biden won by wasn’t fluky as shit would be nonsense.
Will I be as successful next time out? No idea, and I don’t even know what the next big American race I’ll cover in depth on this site is. My plan for December mostly consists of putting this site on the backburner till the New Year so I can rest up, but we’ll be back in time I’m sure. But for now, I just feel an intense relief for the first time in a while – the relief that only comes from unambiguous victory.
May it not be a stranger for long.
I always enjoy reading your very insightful commentary...rest up for the F1 season too!..merci
Rest up for the Alberta election next May. You're going to need it.