So Democrats emerge from this week confronting a huge demographic hole: their meager performance among all white voters except women with college degrees (who tend to be both more socially liberal and more receptive to activist government). And they face a huge geographic hole: a collapse in the interior states, which tend to be whiter and older than the coastal states, with fewer college graduates. After the first red-blue map entered our consciousness following the 2000 presidential race, I wrote that it was possible to drive east for three days from San Francisco without crossing a county that voted Democratic; it is now possible to do the same thing with House districts. Still strong (if somewhat diminished) on the coasts, but routed in the heartland, Democrats look like a bridge with two pillars, but no span in between.

Democrats don’t need to win most white voters or most interior states to compete. But they can’t get annihilated on those battlefields either, and that’s exactly what happened as the party stumbled to its historic collapse this week.