The use of legislative power for that punitive purpose is bad enough. But this whole episode is clarifying in other ways. It shows how unrepentant Republicans are over their widespread support for a certain former president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election and how hollow GOP attacks on “woke” corporations truly are.
First, let’s be clear about what Republicans are really saying here. They aren’t simply blasting MLB for moving the game (which some Democrats also oppose). They are also criticizing the content of MLB’s message about Georgia’s law.
Yes, the law makes it harder to vote
MLB’s statement declared that MLB “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.” It underscored its support for “a future in which everyone participates” and for “fair access to voting.”
That Republicans are denouncing this as “wokeness” is clarifying. After all, the law would hamper access to the ballot. As a New York Times analysis shows, it places numerous new limits on vote-by-mail, cuts way back on drop boxes and mobile voting units, and bans third-party groups from sharing food and water with people in voting lines.
As the Times concludes, the law will make “absentee voting harder” and create “restrictions and complications” that will “hamper the right to vote.”
Republicans claim MLB is engaging in fearmongering and lies about the law itself. To be clear, it’s possible to legitimately disagree over what constitutes a “restriction” on voting and over whether sharply curtailing provisions relied upon disproportionately by African Americans limits “fair” access.
In my view, MLB’s description is absolutely correct, but even those who disagree with it should concede it’s not wildly absurd. It’s plainly within the bounds of reasonable debate. What Republicans are really revealing is that they can’t open the door even a crack to any acknowledgment that such measures might threaten disenfranchising effects.
What’s more, there is zero public rationale for many of them. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recently declared that Georgia’s elections “have never been more safe or secure.” So why do these things?
Republicans can’t permit an honest debate on that question, either. Instead, they insist they’re necessary to ward off fictitious voter fraud, or to restore people’s “confidence” in the system. Admitting our 2020 elections were a great success would blow up those rationales.
Meanwhile, the larger context matters: All this comes after President Donald Trump tried to strong-arm Georgia election officials to rig the 2020 results, and after Trump endorsed a candidate for Georgia secretary of state whose reason for running is his tacit promise to try to overturn future results that Republicans hate.
And similar efforts are unfolding across the country, often justified with the lie that the election was stolen from Trump.
Stop minimizing the larger story
This is why efforts to narrowly measure the impact of the law on turnout so badly miss the larger story here. There is a place for such measurement, of course. But it ignores the vast civic degradation that this entire post-election campaign from Republicans has wrought.
Even if voters who might be burdened by these measures do turn out anyway, they still constitute an effort to make it harder to vote for cynical partisan purposes, an act of deep contempt for fellow citizens, based on fictions that are themselves having a terrible impact.
You cannot seriously evaluate the Georgia law without reckoning with its role in the much broader campaign that’s unfolding here, and with all the damage it is doing.
Indeed, that is central to understanding why corporations are reacting this way. Numerous corporations began putting out statements much earlier, to condemn Republican efforts to overturn the election. So this whole display isn’t just about Georgia. It may reflect a broader cultural impulse toward defending democracy and toward the need to denounce serious threats to it.
The point here is not that MLB deserves to keep its antitrust exemption, something lawmakers have questioned for a long time. Nor is it that MLB was necessarily right to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta.
Rather, it’s that Republicans are threatening to use legislative power to punish MLB for criticism of the Georgia law that, while perhaps arguable, plainly constitutes a reasonable stance. This comes after Georgia Republicans tried to nix a tax break for Delta Air Lines to punish it for criticizing the law.
That Republicans are denouncing these things as unacceptable corporate wokeness is revealing enough on its own. It’s even more risible that this comes as Republican officials are denouncing efforts to raise corporate tax rates to fund badly needed infrastructure repairs and other job-creating proposals as socialism.