Republicans Try Playing Hardball … And Strike Out
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Republicans Try Playing Hardball … And Strike Out

The Georgia Governor Throws a Tantrum after Baseball Calls a Foul on Voting Restrictions

Republicans aren’t trying to squash voting rights for people of color, suggests the Georgia governor. Apparently, Baseball is “caving to fears and lies.”

And Brian Kemp’s Republican teammates in the U.S. Senate are backing the play. They are finding time once again for an irrelevant threat to withdraw anti-trust protections for Major League Baseball in retaliation for pulling its annual All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of the new voting changes in Georgia. Those laws, well, tend to squash voting rights for people of color.

The Former Guy went further, not only trashing organized baseball but calling for a boycott of those Georgia-based corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta that belatedly criticized voter suppression. Those corporations note that they lobbied to keep yet worse restrictions from taking hold.

This is the same Donald Trump who never showed up to throw out the Opening Day pitch for any of his four years in office. It is the same Trump who makes no effort for public health or coronavirus relief. It is the Trump who comes to life again to push his own election fraud nonsense.

Nearly 200 companies have joined in a strong statement against proposals that threaten to restrict voting access in dozens of states in a further sign of corporate willingness to speak out on social justice issues.

Meanwhile, here were President Joe Biden, predecessor Barack Obama and a host of others saying that moving the All-Star Game was just the right touch. It honored Hank Aaron and lots of other Black ballplayers – and voters – for working off the field to achieve expanded voting rights.

Of course, the week before, voting advocates were threatening a similar boycott over corporate silence.

Now, nearly 200 companies have joined in a strong statement against proposals that threaten to restrict voting access in dozens of states in a further sign of corporate willingness to speak out on social justice.

Just for the record, the NBA, the basketball equivalent with teams made up of a majority of Black players, is already on record opposing these Republican legislative restrictions in 47 states. The NFL has been slapped repeatedly by Trump and Republican leaders over kneeling incidents during the national anthem to protest racism.

Customers and Conscience

Baseball has plenty of other issues, starting with the pandemic, but also including a dwindling audience, its persistent desire to change its rules to speed up the game and way too much trading of players among teams to inspire local loyalty. But this one stands out, of course, for the social justice statement behind it. (This is to say nothing of the tragic start of a new season in which my team has lost its first games.)

Naturally, the hope of the joint statement by businesses, organized by Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group focused on voter engagement, is as much about retaining employees and customers as about racism.

But it is an action that is meant to speak to the commitments those companies made last summer after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police. It addresses, too, the need to show corporate accountability for the effects of policy on minority communities in particular.

Ultimately, activists want corporations to withhold campaign money from those supporting these voter restriction bills, promoting the baseless election fraud allegations or refusing to pursue the origins of the Jan. 6 insurrection army of pro-Trump forces in the U.S. Capitol.

Though Georgia has voted, other states with Republican state legislative majorities are teeing up similar bills mostly drafted by national groups to ensure voter ID rules and to restrict mail voting. In Georgia, Governor Kemp rightly notes that an additional Saturday of early voting would expand voting, but there are many provisions that appear aimed directly at making voting easier or at damping voting in majority Black areas.

Indeed, the entire Trump campaign of Stop the Steal has been aimed at challenging votes in cities with substantial Black voting populations.

In Texas, where 49 restrictive bills have been filed, the state Senate passed one that would ban overnight early voting and drive-through early voting. That drew critical remarks from Texas-based businesses, including Dell and American Airlines.

The sheer number of companies coming out with statements about the need to expand voting should be attracting attention from the very Republican leaders who cite these businesses as demanding tax cuts or other legislation that happens to fit more neatly into their ideology.

But Kemp and others are pushing back instead, saying companies will “have to answer to their shareholders,” for example. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded to American Airlines, saying: “Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy.”

Whom to Boycott

No decision has been made about a new location for the All-Star Game, said to be worth $100 million in local business impact. Logic says it likely will move to a more identifiably Blue state—home stadiums for the Yankees/Mets, Dodgers, Cubs/White Sox or somewhere with a totally neutral focus like Milwaukee, one-time home to the then-emergent Hank Aaron.

Here was conservative Hugh Hewitt: By moving the game, “MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has, in the opinion of many Republicans, declared the league an arm of the Democratic Party and baseball itself to be a blue sport, with values opposed to the Constitution and representative government.” He promised to boycott the season along with all other companies noting unfairness.

OK.

Both politics by boycott and business by protest seem extreme. If you don’t go Delta, you also don’t go American; the other airlines will follow.

What should happen here is that legislators remind themselves that these debates concern the preservation of democracy, whose practical and moral core is easier voting.

Step One should be an emphatic vote by Congress on its two current bills to step on these restrictive state laws. An equally clear decision from the Supreme Court should acknowledge a mistake in guessing that the era of racial prejudice toward Black voters is over.

Indeed, in a world turned electronic, you wonder why we’re insisting either on hours-long, drinking water-absent voting lines on a select Tuesday workday or on a slow-moving, politicized mail system.

Why not look to technologies that allow for electronic voting from wherever we happen to be?Identifications and ID challenge questions used by banks and supermarkets could be the templates.

Do these Republican lawmakers think they are serving anyone but  themselves and their own re-elections?

Do Republicans think that Stacey Abrams, Black voting advocate from Georgia, and others will fade away with new rules in place?

It is refreshing to see corporations speaking up; it is depressing that Republican ears are closed.

When we do vote, under whatever the rules, it would be nice to see the backers of these restrictive bills benched.

Play Ball.

Featured image: USA Today

April 5, 2021