On Tuesday, Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Josh Hawley of Missouri announced an effort to punish MLB by removing its antitrust shield. Lee said the legal exemption had been created from “whole cloth” by the Supreme Court nearly 100 years ago.
Cruz, a perennial huffer, criticized “woke corporations” for becoming a “political enforcer for Democrats” in Washington.
Hawley painted corporate monopolies as an enemy of freedom. “When you have a concentration of economic power, political power follows,” he said. “It’s time for a new round of trust-busting in the United States. Major League Baseball is a good place to start.”
Whatever one thinks of the MLB’s antitrust exemption, the notable point here is a triad of Republicans taking direct aim at powerful corporations now that they no longer like how those corporations are using the power the GOP helped them amass.
Again, it’s just a head-spinning turn of events that is likely to only get more common in the coming months. “Since the 1950s, people have associated the GOP and big business. It doesn’t work anymore,” Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale University’s School of Management, told the Washington Post. Sonnenfeld helped organize a recent call among 100 corporate leaders as they grappled with how to demonstrate their opposition to GOP voter suppression measures. Outside of an issue like raising the corporate tax rate, Sonnenfeld said corporations were growing continually more out of step with Republicans. “They don’t have a political home,” he said.
It’s also important to note that GOP lawmakers are living in a world where the base of Trump voters they aim to please seems entirely disinterested in actual policy outcomes. Bluster and vitriol alone are enough for Trumpers. They simply want their leaders to draw blood regardless of whether it produces any long-term change.
The tactic also isn’t reserved for Republicans in Washington. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for instance, is now telling a luxury cruise line it can’t require its passengers to be vaccinated for COVID-19. “The Governor’s Executive Order provides that businesses in Florida are prohibited from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business,” press secretary Cody McCloud told the Florida-based Sun-Sentinel. “Therefore, the Executive Order prohibits cruise lines from requiring vaccine passports for their Florida operations.”
Ultimately, DeSantis may not have the legal authority he is claiming, but that’s not the goal. The goal is simply to score points with a GOP base that is ever more focused on hyperbolic grandstanding than outcomes.
The difference now is that absolutely everyone and everything is fair game as Republican politicians look for ways to ingratiate themselves to Trump’s base voters. Corporations, Major League Baseball—it’s all open season in the GOP.