On Friday, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that it would be punishing the state of Georgia for passing its new election reform law by moving the 2021 MLB All-Star Game out of Atlanta. According to one Georgia tourism official, this boycott will cost Georgia more than $100 million in “estimated lost economic impact.” MLB joins a number of corporations in what appears to be a massive coordinated boycott of the state urged on by President Joe Biden. Corporate power and state power working hand in hand to commit economic terrorism against their political opponents — surely nothing to worry about!
I debated all weekend how I wanted to approach this post. Ultimately, I don’t think I need to spend much effort defending the bill. Others have done that, and the idea that a law that makes Georgia one of the most generous early voting states in the nation is somehow “Jim Crow 2.0” is laughable on its face. Instead, I think it’s important to focus on strategically countering the Left’s coordinated boycott. We’ve seen this movie before, and we’re going to keep seeing it again and again until we figure out how to effectively fight back.
Let’s recap some of the Left’s most high profile boycotts over the past several years:
Arizona, 2014, over a religious freedom bill
Indiana, 2015, over a religious freedom bill
North Carolina, 2016, over HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill”
Georgia, 2021, over this election reform bill.
The first three boycotts were extremely successful. In Arizona, business interests pressured Gov. Jan Brewer to veto her state’s religious freedom bill before a boycott really got off the ground — the rumor was that the NFL might take Super Bowl XLIX away from Arizona if the bill was signed into law. She quickly capitulated.
In Indiana, then-Gov. Mike Pence initially signed a religious freedom bill, before completely caving. Per Forbes:
After the law passed on March 26, 2015, reaction was swift, strong and negative, with cancellations of planned events and business expansions, travel bans and denunciations from across the spectrum: companies including Salesforce, Apple, Eli Lilly and Angie's List; sports leagues including the NCAA, NBA and WNBA; states and municipalities coast to coast; rock concerts; comedy shows and church groups.
The RFRA was amended about a week later with language adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of factors that could not be cause for denial of service. Many organizations rescinded their travel bans to the state.
The Left took what they learned from their successful gambit in Indiana and perfected it the following year in North Carolina, after Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2 into law, the so-called “bathroom bill” that would have protected women in private spaces. To McCrory’s credit, he stood strong and did not waver in the face of unprecedented pressure. According to one estimate from the Associated Press — hardly an impartial actor in all of this — the economic boycotts were set to cost the state $3.76 billion over a dozen years in lost economic activity. McCrory narrowly lost his re-election in the fall, providing the Left with its greatest scalp to date, and the bill was repealed the following year.
The long-term effect of these three victories was significant. Republican governors and legislatures across the country have avoided religious freedom bills and bathroom bills like the plague. By winning a few high-profile battles, the Left essentially guaranteed that they would win the war on these issues by taking advantage of a Republican Party more interested in re-election than drawing any sort of line in the sand.
The Left has now perfected their strategy. They focus on one state, use the media to generate outrage and feed the state’s voters with a steady diet of propaganda and falsehoods, and use the entirety of their institutional power (sports leagues, higher education, and big business) to make the state feel tremendous economic pain. Then, the Left scores a victory by either getting the Republicans to back down and forfeit the issue — e.g. Arizona and Indiana — or by punishing the Republicans electorally for standing up against them — e.g. North Carolina. This is why otherwise conservative politicians like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem back down when it seemingly makes no political sense to do so. This threat of backlash is the main reason why she vetoed House Bill 1217.
Georgia makes for an ideal target, which is why the truth about the law is so unimportant to the Left. The state went blue in 2020, both in the presidential race and the Senate runoffs. Democrats have an opportunity to play for keeps in 2022 by re-electing Senator Warnock and electing Stacey Abrams as governor. And simultaneously, at the federal level, Democrats are trying to make the political case for doing away with the Senate filibuster in order to pass H.R. 1 — their “election reform” bill that is so extreme one might be forgiven for regarding it as an existential threat to the Republic itself. A state passing “Jim Crow 2.0” should give their base (and their institutional allies) all the rhetorical justification they need to go nuclear.
The boycott is in full swing now — the MLB All-Star game was just the first domino to fall. Watch the next couple days. Georgia is going to get absolutely pummeled by the Left, and it’s going to make what happened in North Carolina look like they were playing two-hand touch.
What Can Be Done to Defend Georgia?
The good news is that we have a courageous governor in Georgia:
Gov. Kemp is going to come under incredible pressure to cave in the coming days. He sure looks like he’s digging in for a fight. This is good.
If the Left doesn’t persuade him to back down, they will follow the North Carolina model and continue to inflict economic pain on Georgia throughout the next two years, allowing Abrams to run her 2022 gubernatorial campaign on bringing economic normalcy back to the state. Defending Kemp then becomes absolutely essential. I know President Trump isn’t a big fan and had floated the idea of endorsing a primary opponent, but he’s going to have to suck it up and make amends. If Kemp fights this, and it sure looks like he’s doing so tooth and nail, then he’s our guy now. Getting him re-elected and maintaining Georgia’s Republican majorities in the legislature becomes one of the GOP’s biggest priorities in the midterm.
What Can Be Done to Stop “Woke Capital”?
I don’t believe that corporations are becoming political actors purely out of an ideological commitment to the radical Left. That might be true in some cases. But corporations fear the Left in a way they simply do not fear the Right, so they do their best to appease them. Sure, they say, we’ll stop advertising on Tucker Carlson, we’ll copy ACLU talking points and send out terse statements about various Republican legislative efforts, we’ll celebrate LGBT Pride Month, Black Lives Matter, and the Trans Day of Visibility, we’ll censor conservatives online, we’ll force our employees into Critical Race Theory training sessions — okay, so you guys are cool with us, right?
The Right’s problem is that we’re the dorky kids in class who go out of our way to tell everyone we don’t believe in physical violence. Ever. That might seem like a great principle to have, but it gives bullies free rein on us, and they obviously take advantage. Ultimately, if Republicans want to get corporations to stop terrorizing us, we have to show them we can hit them in the face and make them bleed.
So, what’s that look like in practice?
Well, to start, we need to get over our aversion to boycotts. We should start with Major League Baseball. There is absolutely no reason any conservative should be giving MLB any money whatsoever after the stunt they pulled on Friday. Not only should conservatives boycott the league, but they should pressure — dare I say bully — other conservatives to do the same. If a conservative you know is tweeting about a great play, maybe throw some shade at them? Do you care about democracy, or not? Are you really comfortable supporting a league that is boycotting a state for enacting policies you believe in because they say you are a racist for supporting them? We are too gosh darn nice. That’s why no corporation takes a boycott threat seriously from us. Stop it!
Unfortunately, boycotting alone won’t cut it. It has a role to play, but it can’t be the whole answer. We need to match corporate power with state power — because it’s the only actual power we have. Sen. Marco Rubio has some thoughts:
Ed O'Keefe @edokeefeJUST IN: @MLB announces it’ll move the All-Star Game and Draft out of Atlanta due to the state passing a new elections law last week. https://t.co/rBVUQ6FMJG
I think it certainly makes sense for the GOP to take a more holistically hostile approach toward large corporations if large corporations are actively waging war against us. There’s no reason for our relationship to continue to be so one-sided. Does anyone really feel great now about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cutting the corporate tax rate to 21 percent?
But we should be willing to go out of our way to specifically target bad actors (and bad industries) as well. Both Delta Airlines and American Airlines have aggressively criticized Republican election reform efforts, both in Georgia and elsewhere. Meanwhile, numerous Republicans in Congress fought to include a $25 billion airline bailout in the CARES Act and a $14 billion bailout in the more recent $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. If the airlines want to campaign for the Democrats, maybe it’s time for Republicans to stop offering them sweetheart deals?
The same obviously goes for Big Tech. My organization will be releasing a report later this year demonstrating this fact, but I’ll just tease it now: Big Tech rigged the election for Joe Biden. It’s a fact. Why in the world would any Republican be worried about the interests of Facebook, Twitter, or Google? Section 230, antitrust, privacy, even full stack net neutrality — everything that hurts the Silicon Valley behemoths should be on the table.
And if MLB wants to play political games, they should be prepared to face political consequences:
Rep. Jeff Duncan @RepJeffDuncanIn light of @MLB's stance to undermine election integrity laws, I have instructed my staff to begin drafting legislation to remove Major League Baseball's federal antitrust exception.
Sen. Mike Lee is obviously right to look at antitrust. But MLB has other vulnerabilities. The league is actively doing business with Communist China, while simultaneously maintaining a cozy relationship with Cuba. Perhaps a Senator on Foreign Affairs would like to have a public chat with Rob Manfred?
And in 2018, the league successfully lobbied Congress for an exemption that allows it to pay minor leaguers significantly less than minimum wage. Is that really fair? Maybe minor league ballplayers should be allowed to unionize. There’s plenty there for Republicans to work with.
One more thing for states to consider: if a state provides a corporation or a sports league with any sort of tax break or subsidy, it might consider making those benefits conditional:
If Amazon gets a benefit from a state and then turns around and stabs its citizens in the back, shouldn’t the state have a right to immediate recourse? This kind of provision could be used to protect a state against sports leagues as well.
I imagine I’ll be revisiting this topic a lot in the coming weeks. I wish I had all the answers. But it’s clearly time for Republicans to set aside some of the old orthodoxies and start thinking creatively about how to deal with corporate power. If we can’t protect free and fair elections, what hope does America really have?