Then there’s the part about having “too narrow a sense of social responsibility.” Exhibit A here is the failure in 2012 of a massive $7.2 billion transportation initiative, which would have paid for sorely needed regional highway improvements and funneled $600 million into the Atlanta Beltline, an innovative proposal to link neighborhoods in the city by light rail, using 22 miles of abandoned cargo lines left over from Atlanta’s heyday as a railroad hub. To which the voters of the metropolitan Atlanta area said: Hell, no. Here is a region that even without freak snowstorms is choking on its own traffic, which has built its reputation on being a transportation hub, which is looking at a future when gas will never be less than $3 a gallon again, and all voters could think about was how much they hated government and paying taxes. They had their reasons—Georgia has no shortage of political corruption, and in 2012 the economy was still deeply in the tank—but even so, it was like watching folks refuse to get out of a burning house because they objected to the way the firemen were holding the ladder.
And, of course, there’s race. Race is a recurring motif in the long history of the city-rural divide in Georgia politics, as well as the uneasy history of relations between the leaders in City Hall and the state Capitol just down the street. Much as white Southerners despise being labeled “racist” whenever they vote Republican—and I do understand why that makes them mad—it is still a fact that you cannot separate anything in the South entirely from the question of race.