The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Why I’m protesting the Congressional Baseball Game

Then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), left, then-Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) applaud a message by then-President Donald Trump on the video board before the Congressional Baseball Game on June 15, 2017, at Nationals Park. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
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Mike Tidwell is executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund.

I’ll be attending the 87th annual Congressional Baseball Game Thursday at Nationals Park. I won’t be there as a fan, peacefully cracking my peanuts. I’ll be there as a protester, peacefully engaged in civil disobedience.

I’m a lifelong baseball devotee who attends games at D.C.’s Nationals Park mostly to forget about politics, not engage in them. You want to hand me literature outside the park or chant your message inside? Have at it. But make it quick, man. You’re annoying me.

There’s one towering exception, however — one issue so huge, so all-consuming, that it transcends baseball and everything else. It’s called, you know, the burning up of the whole world!

The Post reported this month that 1,000-year-old bristlecone pines are dying en masse in California. Meanwhile, Europe sets a new heat record almost daily, and scientists have declared a “code red” for the planet unless we cut carbon emissions immediately.

Yet Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and his Republican allies this month again blocked major federal climate legislation. In doing so, they have simultaneously boosted inflation, enriched their friends in the fossil fuel industry and trashed the future of my 25-year-old son and his whole generation.

So, as the world burns, Congress appears ready to remain perfectly hitless on climate change. And as if playing games with the atmosphere weren’t enough, these same members of Congress now want to play a literal game of baseball on July 28 — as if everything were fine.

Manchin and the Republicans are counting on Americans to simply shrug and move on from this latest blow to the planet. But everything’s not fine, and I’m not moving on. Nor are members of a dozen other justice, faith and climate organizations under the umbrella name Now or Never. We’re coming to the Congressional Baseball Game to stage a nearby rally and peacefully protest with our bodies outside the stadium while displaying our message inside.

Our signal to Congress is in our name: Now or never. There’s no more time for games of delay.

Anyone asking why we would inject politics into this amiable, annual game of baseball is asking the wrong question. The real issue: Why do Manchin and the GOP impose self-serving money politics on the life-or-death scientific reality of global warming? The last Ice Age ended when atmospheric carbon dioxide rose only 80 parts per million (ppm) over a 7,000-year period. Now, thanks to runaway fossil fuel combustion, it’s risen 80 ppm in just the past 42 years. We’re now at a staggering 418 ppm in the atmosphere and headed much, much higher.

God knows, for more than a year, President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) did their best to pass a budget reconciliation bill with transformative climate investments. Their plan to spend $550 billion in tax credits for wind and solar power and electric vehicles would have kept the United States on track to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, the president’s goal. Forty-nine Democratic senators supported the plan. Zero Republicans did. And Manchin “negotiated” in utterly bad faith on behalf of the coal and oil and gas industries, which give him more money than anyone else in either party.

So what’s the ask of protesters coming to the Congressional Baseball Game? First, Schumer and congressional Democrats cannot give up on climate this summer. If they do, they’ll lose a whole generation of voters to apathy and despair, to heat waves and wildfires. Get climate provisions back into the current budget reconciliation package or come back in September for a second reconciliation focused just on climate.

And if Manchin and the Republicans still want to play hardball, then so be it. I think September should be the month when every young person with an endangered future, every young parent with vulnerable kids, every senior citizen determined to leave a better legacy must come to D.C. and accept responsibility to peacefully occupy Senate offices until this game of extra innings is won for the planet.

And if even that fails? Then it’s time for a whole new team. There’s an election in November — and as tempting as it is for Democrats and independents and thinking Republicans to grow disillusioned, we don’t have the luxury. So many recent headlines: 104 degrees in London, widespread drought across half of Mexico, forest fires torching millions of acres of forest in Alaska. These climate trends are not abstractions. They are dire consequences headed for us, for your life and mine, unless we take action in the voting booth and on the streets.

On July 28, I don’t expect to see much baseball. I’ll be arm in arm with college kids and pastors and parents calmly protesting with our bodies outside Nationals Park. We’ll be appealing to fans entering the Congressional Baseball Game to pause long enough to hear our message: Congress must stop playing games with our one and only, life-giving climate.

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