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TIGC tackles the big political question of 2022

This is the time of year when most journalists look back at the previous year and recap its major stories. Here at Trouble in God’s Country, I’ve decided to look to the future and take on the major question that will probably hang over Georgia politics for most of the rest of the year.

Specifically: Will Covid kill so many more Republicans than Democrats that it might actually influence the election results in November?

I know, I know. You’re thinking it’s impossible to know whether Covid victims voted red or blue. You’re probably also thinking the question is rude, insensitive and in poor taste. You may be right on both counts. But bear with me.

I took a first pass at this question back in September. At the time, I was looking at the laissez-faire approach Governor Brian Kemp was taking on Covid and linking that to the differing death and vaccination rates that were already taking shape between the state’s red and blue counties.

My thinking then was that the numbers were interesting but that the possibility that they might actually impact future election results was a little far-fetched.

Now, I think I can report that the possibility is a good bit less far-fetched.

First, one data point I used in that initial report probably understated the difference in the Covid death rates in red and blue Georgia. Back then — on September 10th — the Georgia Department of Public Health’s daily Covid report revealed that the Trump counties had suffered 10,545 deaths from the virus versus 9,468 for the Biden counties.

In that analysis, however, I ignored one column in the Georgia Department of Public Health’s daily reports: “Probable Deaths.” I did that in the interest of being cautious and conservative in the way I analyzed the data. I’ve since decided that was unnecessary and, frankly, wrong. Whatever the final cause of death is ruled to be, those “probable” Covid victims are still dead and, presumably, won’t be able to vote.

Add those “probables” to the tally and the body count in the GOP counties jumped, as of last September 10th, to 12,597 versus 10,361 for the 30 Democratic counties — a difference of 2,236. More interesting, I thought, but probably still not a big enough number to get worked up about.

So, what’s happened since then? Well, as of December 31st, the total Covid death toll in the Trump counties — for confirmed and probable deaths — was 17,119 versus 13,157 in the Biden counties, a difference of 3,962.

The bottom line arithmetic on this is that, for the 112 days between September 10th and the end of the year, the Republican counties, on average, lost an average of just over 40 people (virtually all of them voting age) to Covid versus just under 25 people in the Biden counties — a difference of 15.4 deaths per day.

Extrapolating from December 31st until the November 8th General Election would obviously be a risky exercise, but if — big if, I know — the current trend holds, the gap between the Republican and Democratic counties would swell to more than 8,700.

In a state where former President Trump got himself tape-recorded pleading with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” so he could reverse Biden’s Georgia victory, that’s probably a big enough number to merit a little attention.

And, yes, I know: I may be on shaky ground in suggesting that the geographic differences are a proxy for the political split. But at this point there’s enough data available that I’m comfortable doing just that: I’d wager the law of large numbers is kicking in and that, overall, the geographic and political splits are pretty close.

I’d bet that’s especially true once we factor in the vaccination differences. As of September 10th, the Democratic counties had already given two Covid shots to nearly 800,000 more of their residents than had the GOP counties. As of the end of the year, the vaccination advantage in the Biden counties had grown by another 60,000.

This picture comes into much sharper focus when you look at political universes that are overwhelmingly red or blue. Twenty-five largely rural or exurban counties gave Trump at least 80 percent of their 2020 vote; collectively they hit 83.6 percent for the incumbent president. As a point of comparison, urban DeKalb County gave Biden 84.1 percent of its vote.

This table summarizes the key data points.

With a much smaller population, the 25 Trump counties had nonetheless posted 1,129 more Covid deaths than DeKalb County at year’s end; indeed, the collective Covid death rate for those counties is substantially worse than Mississippi’s, which is currently the worst in the nation.

DeKalb, meanwhile, had fully vaccinated 52.6 percent of its population and gotten boosters in the arms of 19 percent. The 25 Trump counties lag badly in both categories.

Will these trends really ripple into Georgia’s political waters and influence the electoral tides this fall? We won’t know until the night of November 8th, but I think the numbers have gotten big enough that they’re worth watching.

And I’ll add this: If the former president has to come back to Georgia this winter in search of more supposedly missing votes, I’ll have a suggestion about where he should look. I’ll also offer one other piece of advice: bring shovels.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gordon McKemie #

    “Tramp the dirt down.” Elvis Costello

    January 5, 2022
  2. Jim Jones and the Koolaid #

    Good job.

    However, I’m willing to go where you are not 🙂

    1.) It’s common knowledge that D’s are mostly vaccinated (some polls show as much as 96%) while it’s the R’s who are not. So that means that the deaths in blue counties now are overwhelmingly R’s (or R leaning voters) since it’s the unvaccinated who are 95% of deaths (keep in mind Trump received 58K+ plus votes in 2020) so the numbers are WAY worst for the R’s.

    2.) Because R’s are better at getting their voters to vote in the short term this isn’t that big of a deal, BUT in the LONG term this is devestating for the R’s. Antivaxxers / vax hesitant are NOT old. Just look at – the VAST majority are under 65, most in their 40s and 50s, some in their 20s. This is REALLY bad for R’s. These deaths are of people who would have been reliable R voters for the next 10-40 years and with demographic changes the R’s can NOT afford to lose voters so young.

    Just look at the demographic changes for Georgia – 59.7% white in 2010 as per and now it’s 51.9% white – – at that rate white voters could be < then 50% of all potentianl voters in November, definitely in 2024. This is a FATAL problem for the R's since they are overwhelmingly a white voter oriented party.

    3.) Pro vs Anti vax is an issue that IMO is splitting the R's (only they just don't realize it yet). It's the same issue as allowing drivers to drive drunk vs not driving drunk, requiring seatbelts vs not requiring seatbelts, mandating that cell phone use be hand free while driving vs. not, smoking vs non-smoking inside public venues etc. etc. We all know how those issues went (and a LOT of primatily conservatives are still fighting the lost cause for those issues btw) and it'll be the same for pro vs anti vax. Moderate conservatives (aka RINO's) support vacination and as more and more anti-vaxxers catch Covid and more R's see the results there will be a shift in how the party views vacination which will have political consequences. I definitely can see RINO's staying home in '22 if the R's run hard antivaxxers / anti mandaters and keep in mind that if even just 10% of RINO's don't vote in '22 thats at least 3-4% of R voters and they can't win if that many RINO's don't vote.

    January 6, 2022
    • Jim Jones and the Koolaid #

      Correction: Trump received 58K+ plus in DEKALB county in 2020.

      January 7, 2022
  3. B. Allen #

    Excellent article, I’ve been thinking about this issue for awhile. Kudos to the commenter, Jim Jones and the Koolaid, for digging a little deeper into the article.

    January 6, 2022

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