Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama raged that “Republicans are fans most likely able to afford Major League Baseball obscene ticket, parking & food prices.” Wait a minute—I thought Republicans are the gritty heartlanders and Democrats are the snooty elites?
Brooks added that the MLB “should stay out of politics, or at least adopt pro-America political positions, or risk losing their #GOP fan base.” So Mo Brooks’ official stance is that making it harder for Black people to vote is the “pro-America political position.” Duly noted. In any case, 62% of “avid” baseball fans support the decision to move the All-Star Game, according to one poll.
But this is not just about public whining. It’s also about legislative threats. After Republicans in the Georgia state House passed a bill stripping Delta Airlines of a tax break over its opposition to the voter suppression law, only to have that bill not be taken up on the state Senate’s last day in session, South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan is making a big show of a proposal to strip the MLB of its antitrust exemption.
Russell Vought, head of the Office of Management and Budget under Donald Trump and now a full-time culture warrior, made clear that this is the playbook here. “Boycotts may or may not work, but what will work is to identify every unique benefit these woke companies get under the law and remove them and require they operate as all other companies in those states have to,” he said.
Vought isn’t alone in his commitment to reshaping the Republican Party around keeping corporations in line.
“Old habits are hard to break. There are legislators who have served in office for 30 years and this is like learning a new language for them,” Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, told Politico. “They still think profit motives drive these companies and it’s not in their interest to punish conservatives. But you’re seeing younger senators and office holders speak out on this and it will shape their politics moving forward.”
Here’s the thing: Profit motives do substantially drive these companies. But the companies have decided that supporting voting rights is a better move, profit-wise, than being associated with a law that criminalizes giving water or pizza to people waiting in line for hours to vote, because the latter is a Very Bad Look. Black people buy things. Brown people buy things. LGBTQ people buy things. Young people buy things. For companies that want to appeal to the widest possible market, catering to the shrinking, aging, white Republican base is not a good calculation. Which is exactly why Republicans are yelling loudly about boycotts and supposedly popular opinion while really threatening legislative penalties. They know the latter, not the former, is where their leverage comes from.