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Educational Polarization Is Getting More Extreme With Interesting Political Consequences

The Split-Ticket discusses ongoing polarization, why it will get more extreme, and the political consequences at the national level. Let's tune in.
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Comparison of Ratios

The White Vote and Educational Polarization

Please consider the The White Vote and Educational Polarization (emphasis mine).

Over the last 30 years, the American electorate has undergone a major realignment, driven primarily by polarization along educational lines. Degree-holding suburban voters, previously a solidly Republican group, have drifted to the left and towards the Democratic party, while white non-college voters have responded in kind by shifting strongly to the right and swinging Republican at increasingly high levels. Unsurprisingly, given today’s levels of partisan polarization, neither of these patterns show signs of abating anytime soon.

This was most clearly evident in 2016 and 2020, where the voting lines diverged more starkly along education than they ever had before, particularly among white voters. As per the Associated Press’ 2020 Votecast, although whites comprised 74% of the electorate and backed Donald Trump by 12 points, the picture under the hood is of two very different different demographics. Whites with a degree (31% of the electorate) voted for Joe Biden by 7, while Trump won non-college whites (43% of the electorate) by 25 points. The national 32-point divergence on educational lines is the highest it has ever been.

Who Has More to Gain and Lose?

Split-Ticket analyzes the ratio of white-college educated Trump voters to white non-college-educated Biden voters on a state by state basis to decide who has more to gain or lose. 

The theory is roles have shifted and are unlikely to shift again soon. 

Split-Ticket concludes the brightest spots for the Democratic Party are likely to be found in Texas and Georgia, for two reasons.

  • Both states have a very high concentration of suburban college-educated whites that are now shifting Democratic. 
  • The heavily-white rural areas in these states already being deep-red means that there are not nearly as many Biden-voting, non-college white voters left for the GOP to flip.

The opposite is happening in Wisconsin and Nevada, and potentially Maine and Michigan.

Fair Swap?

The world in which Texas and Georgia both begin voting regularly for Democrats is more likely than not to be the same one in which Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan begin consistently voting Republican. This might be a trade that excites Democrats at first, because winning the presidency becomes extremely difficult for the GOP if they lose Texas and Georgia in the same election. But it would also make winning the Senate exceptionally tough for Democrats, given that it would only worsen the chamber’s existing R+5 bias. And in a world in which bipartisanship appears to be dying a very public death, you wonder whether either party would want to make that trade.

Scorched Earth 

This setup, if it continues to play out as it has over the past few elections, will exacerbate the attack Democrats have against the Senate being undemocratic. 

Yet, It makes it increasingly unlikely the Republicans will want to change rules against the Filibuster. 

Two senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona are against changing Senate Filibuster rules.

There are strong grounds for that.

On March 16, 2021, McConnell Vows ‘Scorched Earth’ if Senate Ends Filibuster.

“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said in a Senate speech.

McConnell said the partisan gridlock of the Trump and Obama eras would look like “child’s play” compared to what’s to come.And it makes it much more difficult for either party to gain control of the Senate, House, and White House. 


Look at What Happened to Democrats Already

Democrats did away with the filibuster rules to overcome Republican stonewalling of President Barack Obama’s executive branch nominations and some judicial nominees.

Republicans and McConnell then escalated the process by eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court justices, smoothing confirmation of President Donald Trump’s three high court nominees.

I Can Hardly Wait 

Permanent Gridlock?

The educational shift makes it harder for one party to control all three branches of government at the same time. 

This increases the need for bipartisan legislation to get anything done.

However, the setup of electing more and more extreme candidates who control the agenda makes bipartisanship increasingly unlikely.

Unless something changes it adds up to more gridlock. Some will welcome that on grounds that government is more likely to do anything wrong than right. 

In the short term, Democrats rate to lose the House making this Biden's last chance to get anything done. 

Warning Shot Fired

The next time Republicans control everything, look for them to change Filibuster rules. Then the Democrats will suddenly be against the idea. 

But if Republicans can change the rules, they can then change them back if they lose the House of Representatives or White House.

That's the battle that is underway now. 

Thanks for Tuning In!    

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