OK. Let me see if I have this straight.
Major League Baseball, and the 100 or so big corporations that successfully lobbied Commissioner Manfred to pull the All-Star Game and Draft out of Atlanta, did so because of their unwavering commitment to electoral integrity and the honoring of the democratic process. Right?
I must be missing something here. They say they are “honoring” American democracy by directing their monetary might against the duly elected legislators of the state of Georgia (who just happen to be mostly Republicans). Because they object to a bill aimed at protecting the integrity of Georgia elections, they are telling Georgia voters that they have elected the wrong people to office – and so they are going to retaliate. Pro baseball, genuflecting to the Almighty Dollar, has joined the choir.
Maybe I’m just slow, but I am trying to understand how the democratic process is elevated by 100 corporate CEOs and 30 Major League Baseball teams browbeating the voters of Georgia for choosing the wrong people to represent them. Then, when these lawmakers exercise the responsibilities of representative government, passing legislation that reflects the will of the people, corporate America comes down on them like a ton of bricks – punishing them financially. Their message: vote for the right people who will pass the right kind of laws, or we will pick up our dirty dollars and go elsewhere.
Realistically, this is a message not just for Georgians, but for every voter in every state. It is saying, in effect, we do not honor your choices in the voting booth if the choices you make are “wrong.” We will flex our financial muscle and make you pay. And we will bring our dollars back when you succumb to our wishes. In the earlier days of American politics, this was called “street money.” Operatives would corrupt local elections by bribing electors to vote a certain way. Five bucks here. Ten bucks there. Today, the moral equivalent is much more sophisticated and is swaddled in the sanctimonious rhetoric of identity politics. Professional sports owners and the nation’s corporate board rooms influence voters – and the people they elect – with billions, by threatening to patronize more “cooperative” states.
Federal law prohibits corporate donations to political campaigns and parties. Yet the dollar-driven, cookie cutter conscience of corporate American is doing just that. It begins by holding lectures and workshops, conducted by professional propagandists of critical race theory and America-denouncing radicalism. Corporate executives and directors are thus fitted with a conscience of political correctness. While there are no doubt true believers among them, the majority of these corporate elites are cynics, not idealists. To them, jumping on board with the cancel culture is a highway paved in gold. Their research tells them that conservatives are largely passive and laissez faire, while the far left is obsessively political and votes with their dollars. Money rules. It’s all about money.
The offspring of the corporate-cancel culture union is exceedingly partisan. It is, in effect, an uninterrupted endorsement of the Democratic Party without directly saying so. Given that the ideological policies they promote are represented almost exclusively by Democratic candidates, how can it not be argued that these sports teams and corporations are firmly planted in the Democratic camp? Perhaps they should be a little more forthcoming about this. Call it truth in advertising. The Democratic Dodgers. The Democratic Red Sox. The Democratic Delta Airlines. The Democratic Walmart. The Democratic Verizon. We cater to Democrats. Republicans should pick another store and another team.
Clearly, the big corporations are swimming with the sharks who, having caused America to bleed red, white and blue, are moving in for the kill. Whether through opportunism or simple fear of lost business, these companies and sports organizations have cast aside the established business practices of precision and prudence. How else can we explain the reckless political positions they take? Consider their scripted attacks on Georgia’s new election law, taken directly from the playbook of the Democratic National Committee and the vestigial brain of our current president. “Jim Crow on Steroids!” A great line from the pen of a Biden speechwriter. Yet if these corporate mimickers were doing their homework – as they do in every other area of business – they would instantly discover that the attacks are sophistry and fabrication. They are blasting a bill that doesn’t exist.
How could any reasonable executive conclude that the simple requirement of producing a voter ID to protect against electoral fraud is “Jim Crow”? How is a more careful and secure handling of absentee ballots “Jim Crow”? How is the regulation of free stuff given to a lineup of voters, to discourage polling place electioneering, “Jim Crow”? How is expanding the hours and number of days a precinct must be open for early voter access “Jim Crow”? If these execs would actually read the 95-page bill – and were intellectually honest – their attacks would melt away. But they don’t seem to care about the truth. Imagine if Bank of America, Coca-Cola or the New York Yankees ran their daily operations that way – disinterested in the data and unconcerned about factual truth. That’s what politics will do to you.
Let’s get real. What exactly is the state of Georgia seeking to do here? They are trying to protect the sanctity of the electoral process by raising the standard the government itself must follow to faithfully administer future elections. Georgia’s leaders should be applauded for this, not hosed down by corporate elites. If you want a business system to improve and be made more reliable, what do you do? Do you raise the bar or lower it? If you want your team to perform better, do you raise the bar or lower the bar? Should your team’s standards be higher or lower? How seriously can we take Major League Baseball when it says it supports the “voting rights” of all Americans, if that “support” takes the form of attacking all efforts to guarantee electoral integrity, ballot security and the democratic process itself? How much are a voter’s rights protected, when others are allowed to cheat?
Underlying these attacks and financial recriminations brought against our fellow citizens from Georgia is the ubiquitous charge of racism and white supremacy. This is perhaps the most insulting aspect of all. The narrative goes something like this: If you raise the standards for electoral integrity and make it more difficult to cheat, you are a racist, because these higher standards of voter honesty “disproportionately disadvantage the black community.” Come again? Do they hear what they are saying? They are claiming that stronger rules of integrity hurt blacks more – that whites intentionally impose these rules so as to suppress the number of black votes cast. Talk about racist! All of us should reject out of hand that kind of race-baiting and divisive rhetoric.
So, what about the players? Why have we not heard from them in this matter? Shouldn’t they be speaking up at this pivotal moment in the history of their sport – and their country?
If I were a professional ballplayer right now, I would be furious, for at least three important reasons: the game, the fans and the players themselves. For starters, I would seriously question why the game we Americans so cherish should suddenly become divided along political lines. Don’t we have enough politics in our lives as it is, without having our professional sports leagues weighing in on political subjects? Frankly, what value would they possibly have to offer, beyond political correctness and shallow me-too-ism? Throughout this latest debacle, has the MLB offered any new perspectives or deeper arguments? What have they accomplished beyond dividing their players, coaches and fans?
Secondly, players should be indignant on behalf of their loyal fans. Fans take their kids to ball games or settle down in front of the TV to bask in a few brief hours of pure enjoyment and peace. They do not engage the great game of baseball to be politicized – either by watching players dishonor the national anthem, or by listening to strident, partisan political statements coming from the league and the club’s front office. When this happens, they become a captive audience, taken advantage of by other people’s politics and other people’s causes. They didn’t pay for that. They didn’t want that. They came to watch a game, and have every right to be left the hell alone.
Finally, the players should be incensed at being used as pawns for other people’s political purposes. Whether they agree or disagree with a given political position the team is taking (always secularist, Democratic and left-wing) isn’t the point. When they signed with the team, they didn’t buy in to being used for political causes not their own. They are individuals, with cultural, spiritual and political values as diverse as the fans who watch them. They need to be respected as individuals. The notion that a team – or a league of teams – can have a singular political view on a given public policy issue is preposterous, and places the individual player in an untenable position that may well violate their personal conscience. They didn’t sign up for that. They signed up to play the game to the best of their abilities. If they want to be political activists, they can do so on their own time. Otherwise, they have every right to be left out of politics and left alone. It’s time players start speaking up about their individual autonomy and that of their teammates. If they don’t, this will only get worse.
What about the rest of us? Will we once again just shrug it off, while the dividers continue to divide our country by recruiting the teams for which we root and the businesses from whom we buy? Or will we finally start communicating our indignation, and start voting with our dollars? We will finally move from passive to active? Will we finally say we’ve had enough?
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