Joe Biden, Democrats backpedal amid MLB All-Star Game uproar

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Democrats scrambled Tuesday to dodge the fallout from Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta as Republicans stepped up to the plate, blaming an overheated “Jim Crow” narrative for stoking an over-the-top corporate backlash against Georgia.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki sought to distance President Biden from the MLB’s decision to exit Atlanta, a majority-Black city expected to take a $100 million hit, downplaying his previously expressed support for relocating the game over Georgia’s newly passed election law.

“He was answering a direct question during an interview with ESPN about opening day of baseball,” Ms. Psaki said at the daily briefing. “He was simply conveying he would support that decision [to move the All-Star game] if that decision was made by MLB — just as he would support decisions made by private sector companies.”

A week ago, however, Mr. Biden sounded considerably more enthusiastic. Asked whether MLB should move the All-Star Game, he said, “I would strongly support them doing that.”

“People look to them. They’re leaders,” Mr. Biden said in a March 31 interview with ESPN. “This is Jim Crow on steroids, what they’re doing in Georgia and 40 other states.”

The attempt to walk back Mr. Biden’s comments came with Democrats feeling the heat over their scorched-earth campaign against the Georgia Election Integrity Act, which requires identification for absentee ballot, expands early voting, and curtails electioneering near polling places.

Republicans have argued that the law is hardly an outlier — even blue states like Delaware and New York have tighter early voting windows — but the “Jim Crow 2.0” narrative led by former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has put Georgia in the cross-hairs of woke corporations.

“We are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Tuesday in a statement.

More than a dozen companies, including Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and Home Depot, as well as tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google, have condemned the Georgia law, culminating in MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta and into Denver.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp called the situation “almost comical,” given that Atlanta is 51% Black while Denver is less than 10% Black. Colorado also has fewer early voting days than Georgia, which now has 17, and both states require voter identification before casting ballots.

“I mean, it’s insane,” Mr. Kemp said Tuesday on Fox News’ “The Story.” “You compare where Major League Baseball is headquartered in New York. They’re boycotting and pulling games out of a state like ours, and yet they’re headquartered in a state that’s more restrictive than we are. It just doesn’t add up.”

Mr. McConnell did the math, however, and concluded that such “disinformation has a purpose,” namely, to gin up support for H.R. 1, the sweeping Democratic elections overhaul that already has passed the House, by demonizing the Georgia law.

“Washington Democrats want to pass a sweeping bill that would let them rewrite all 50 states’ election laws and turn the Federal Election Commission into a Democrat-run partisan body,” Mr. McConnell said. “This power grab is impossible to defend, so the left wants to deflect.”

He scolded corporate America for jumping on the “outrage-industrial complex” bandwagon, warning of the dangers of reacting to “every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling.”

“Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order,” Mr. McConnell said. “Businesses must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and push bad ideas that citizens reject at the ballot box.”

Ms. Abrams has sought to distance herself from the boycott calls, telling supporters last week “please do not boycott us.” On Monday, she blamed Republicans for passing the election bill “knowing the economic risks to the state.”

“Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that the MLB is relocating the All-Star Game; however, I commend the players, owners and League for speaking out,” she said. “I urge others in positions of leadership to do so as well.”

Same with Sen. Jon Ossoff, Georgia Democrat, who said April 1 that “I absolutely oppose and reject any notion of boycotting Georgia” while blasting the “disgraceful voter suppression bill.”

If that message is getting lost, it may be because not all Democrats are on board. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, said Sunday that “our hope is that this boycott will result in changes in the law,” referring to the MLB move out of Atlanta.

“We know that boycotts have allowed for justice to be delivered in many spaces,” Ms. Omar said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The civil rights movement was rooted in boycotts.”

Mr. Kemp accused Ms. Abrams of the “biggest flip-flop since John Kerry I have ever seen,” referring to the Biden climate czar’s unsuccessful presidential run.

“For someone that has been pressuring these corporations, pressuring Major League Baseball to now come out after the fact and say don’t boycott? People are getting screwed in this,” Mr. Kemp said.

Not letting Democrats off the hook was Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, who said that Ms. Abrams and Democrats are squarely to blame for MLB’s departure.

“There’s all these people who are woke, but now even the woke, people like Stacey Abrams, are starting to see, oh, no what have I unleashed? I just lost my state $100 million in revenue,” Mr. Paul said on Fox News’ “The Story.” “Stacey Abrams and the Democrats cost Georgia $100 million in revenue because they complained about something they didn’t read and they said something about it that wasn’t true.”

Not only is Atlanta losing the All-Star revenue, but the beneficiary, Denver, has the largest White population of any of the 30 MLB cities, at 76%. Just 9.2% of its residents are Black, according to the 2019 census update.

Critics point out that the MLB is based in New York, whose election laws are in some respects tougher than Georgia’s. New York allows nine early voting days versus 17 for Georgia under the new law, and New Yorkers must provide a reason for requesting an absentee ballot, while Georgia is a no-excuse state.

Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, noted that Colorado, an all-mail ballot state, has 15 early voting days, two fewer than Georgia.

“The @MLB is moving the #MLBAllStarGame out of ATL which has more day-of voting rights than CO?” Mr. Scott tweeted. “The Wokes are at it again, folks.”

Boycotts are typically part of the Democratic playbook, but the Georgia uproar has some Republicans suggesting that maybe conservatives need to apply pressure from the right on corporate America.

Former President Donald Trump sounded the call on Saturday with a statement saying it was “finally time for Republicans and Conservatives to fight back — we have more people than they do — by far!”

“Boycott Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Citigroup, Cisco, UPS and Merck. Don’t go back to their products until they relent. We can play a better game than them,” Mr. Trump said.

Ditto Mr. Paul. “My point is, if they want to boycott us, why don’t we boycott them?” he asked.

“This is the only thing that will teach them a lesson,” Mr. Paul said. “If Coca-Cola wants to only operate in Democrat states and wants only Democrats to drink Coca-Cola, God love them, we’ll see what they do when half the country quits drinking Coca-Cola, when half the country quits using Delta.”

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