When Major League Baseball moved the sport’s All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver to protest Georgia’s recent election integrity law, another clash of all-stars immediately took its place. Nationally known politicians stepped up to the plate for the latest skirmish in the culture war.
On the left, there’s no bigger name in the lineup than President Joe Biden. He engaged on this issue from the beginning and encouraged MLB to move the midsummer classic as a statement against Georgia’s election law. He falsely declared that the law “ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over.”
But because the bill explicitly expands early voting rather than restricting it, even the fact-checkers at the Washington Post gave this critique four Pinocchios.
The team in the other dugout, the Republicans, clearly sees a unique political opportunity as well. Almost every Republican of national stature has stood up to speak out on this matter. Clearly, they believe it is a rare issue which both unites their entire coalition and fits their self-image as defenders of common-sense, Middle Class Americans against the “woke” virtue-signaling elites.
So now, there’s a new all-star game in Georgia, and Republican players are trying out for national leadership.
In addition to reigning MVP Donald Trump, up-and-comers Tom Cotton, Nikki Haley, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Pompeo, and just about every other big name on the right or potential Republican presidential candidate have done more than defend the Georgia election law. They have attacked MLB’s response with rhetoric usually reserved for political opponents.
Ben Sasse might get credit for some early scouting. Even before MLB’s decision, he had set the background of his Twitter account to a photo of the NBA all-star team with Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, photoshopped into the team.
It serves as a simple reminder of his 2019 statement that sports leagues consistently prefer Chinese money to human rights. That statement came in the wake of China’s request that Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey be fired for his tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
But, in this fight, Senator Rubio has been the most forceful. In a letter written to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Rubio pointed to the same hypocrisy that many others have noted. MLB’s laissez-faire approach to “human rights” issues in China stands in stark contrast to its ill-informed political statements in the United States.
Rubio stated that moving “the All-Star game out of Georgia is an easy way to signal virtues without significant financial fallout. But speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party would involve a significant loss of revenue and being closed out of a lucrative market.”
Then Rubio took an even more personal approach than others—going after Manfred himself. The purpose of the letter, Rubio explained, was to ask whether or not Manfred intends “to maintain your membership at Augusta National Golf Club” despite the Club’s presence in Georgia and its racially exclusive history.
Rubio admitted he didn’t expect Manfred to leave the Club because doing “so would require a personal sacrifice, as opposed to the woke corporate virtue signaling.”
In front of a national audience, the Republican all-star team is experimenting with different approaches. They may wear the same uniform, but they are mixing messages of populism, free-market boycotting, localism, and traditional values in different degrees, seeing what works and what doesn’t work with the media and the public.
The MLB All-Star Game, of course, is just an exhibition game. It’s a fun chance to see all the sport’s best players compete against one another in the same place at the same time.
This political all-star game is more serious, pitting left against right on MLB’s reaction to Georgia’s election law. Republicans obviously believe it will determine home-field advantage in the next stage of the culture war.
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