The front of Thursday’s New York Times featured more wishful thinking on the part of the paper, which is still waiting for that off-year anti-Trump electoral surge: “Atlanta’s Suburbs Wonder if Newcomers Will Turn Them Blue.” Fausset threw some old, extraneous accusations of racism into the bargain, while emphasizing alleged conservative intolerance of liberals (in a world where the evidence of political intolerance is weighted in the other direction).
At first blush, this bedroom city of 83,000 a half-hour north of Atlanta might be mistaken for the perfect example of a white-flight Sun Belt suburb.
It sits squarely in the congressional district once represented by Newt Gingrich, with excellent public schools and master-planned communities so pristine they could have been built by a model train aficionado. In 2015, the all-white City Council rejected the idea of expanding public transit out from majority-black Atlanta on the grounds that it “would increase high-density housing.”
But something has been happening in Johns Creek -- and, indeed, across much of the vast archipelago of cul-de-sac communities north of Atlanta that served as the launchpad for Mr. Gingrich’s 1994 Republican revolution. The promise of a suburban idyll has been increasingly attracting all kinds of people -- many of whom are not white, and not Republican.
Today, 24 percent of people in Johns Creek are of Asian heritage. Indian-Americans shop for saris at the Medlock Crossing strip mall and flock to the latest Bollywood hits at the multiplex. Chinese-Americans and food lovers of all stripes head to the Sichuan House, near the Target and Home Depot stores, for sliced pork ears in chili sauce and “tearfully spicy” mung bean noodles.
Indeed, the northern Atlanta suburbs, once considered bastions of Republicanism, are experiencing an identity crisis -- one that became acute with the success of a Democrat, Jon Ossoff, in a special House of Representatives election in Georgia’s Sixth District, which last sent a Democrat to Congress in the Carter administration.
(Fausset worked hard to hype the Democrats’ anti-Trump hope Jon Ossoff, even after his first failed attempt to win the “jungle” primary in April.)
<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>
Fueled by fierce anti-Trump sentiment, millions in outside donations and an untiring door-to-door campaign mounted by liberals including many newcomers to the district, Mr. Ossoff placed first in an 18-way race in April and will face Karen Handel, a fixture in Georgia Republican politics, in a June 20 runoff.
Many Republicans remain confident that Ms. Handel will prevail in a 70 percent-white district where even liberals concede that conservative culture dominates. Big churches and golf courses still do much to set the social tone, and homegrown conservative talk-radio personalities like Herman Cain and Erick Erickson help commuters assuage the increasingly painful slog through traffic.
November was a watershed, however. Though she did not carry Georgia, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald J. Trump in both suburban Cobb County, part of which is in the Sixth District, and nearby Gwinnett County. Both were once considered classic white-flight suburbs; today Gwinnett is majority-minority, and Cobb is fast heading that way.
Fausset lumped in Republican Newt Gingrich with old racist Democrats like former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox.
Low taxes, cheap homes and sunshine indeed helped fuel the rise of Atlanta’s northern suburbs beginning in the 1950s -- along with a heavy dollop of racism.
During integration the Klan presence was strong in Cobb County, and in later years, it was home to the former segregationist governor Lester Maddox and the white supremacist and convicted church bomber J. B. Stoner. But Cobb also became home to a large group of transplants decoupled from local history, many of them professionals transferred to metro Atlanta from elsewhere who were looking for good public schools.
Mr. Gingrich, who served as House speaker from 1995 to 1999, used language in his heyday that liberals saw as racially coded, railing against the “welfare state” of Atlanta. But for the most part he appealed to newcomers and old-timers alike, extolling free markets, technology and traditional values as a means of answering “the cries of the baby boom generation for a new politics responsive to the future’s needs.”
Maddox and Stoner are long dead, but the high-performing schools in places like unincorporated East Cobb County still serve as a magnet. Eight years ago, they attracted Jen Cox, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat who had been living in Denver.
After myriad examples of intolerant leftists shouting down and attacking conservative speakers, and studies showing Democrats are less tolerant of political opponents than Republicans, the Times managed to find social and cultural intolerance solely on the right:
Ms. Cox is a co-founder of PaveItBlue, one of the many new grass-roots liberal groups that have sprung up or vastly expanded to help a Democrat win the Sixth District contest. As she passed numerous yard signs for Mr. Ossoff, she noted that such a display of support for a liberal would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Ms. Cox described the social pressure to conform here that pervaded dinner parties and play dates, influencing the politics of even newcomers. “It’s something really palpable here, like, ‘You’re in the Deep South. This is the way it is, and if you don’t like it, we don’t want to hear from you,’ ” she said.
Some feel threatened by the new liberal activism. On Election Day in East Cobb, a man pulling out of a polling place parking lot in a Jeep asked Ed Neubaum, a man with an Ossoff sign, whether he was a fan of Nancy Pelosi.
Certainly, replied Mr. Neubaum, a 57-year-old real estate agent. The other man replied with a vulgarity, called Mr. Neubaum a socialist and said he was responsible for “the burning of America.”
Fausset wouldn’t put down the race card, stretching to find related anecdotes.
Mr. Ossoff’s supporters mention a number of incidents like these: hostile, but not violent. And in recent years, the suburbs’ changing racial realities have created their own tensions. In 2015, a Cobb County councilwoman who is black accused a county police officer of harassment and intimidation when the officer followed her home, aggressively she said, in an unmarked car. In January, a Gwinnett County commissioner, a white Republican, referred to Representative John Lewis, the civil rights icon, as a “racist pig” in a Facebook post, infuriating many Democrats and African-Americans, who called for the commissioner’s resignation.