Backing off? Biden dodges when asked whether the Masters should be boycotted

Five days ago he was asked if baseball should pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta and was unequivocal. I’d strongly support them doing that, the president said.

Today he was asked the logical follow-up question. Does the same go for the Masters?

Suddenly he’s undecided. Wha’ happened?

“There’s another side to it, too,” he says at one point, aptly. “The other side to it, too, is when they in fact move out of Georgia, the people who need the help the most, people who are making hourly wages, sometimes get hurt the most.”

Well, that’s also true of the MLB boycott. Cobb County’s going to lose an estimated $100 million in tourism revenue from losing the All-Star Game. A lot of waiters, hotel housekeepers, and other blue-collar workers in and around Atlanta will have less money in their pockets this summer thanks to the political cover provided by the president for baseball to bug out of town. Why didn’t Sleepy Joe consider “the people who need the help the most” before blithely condoning MLB’s boycott?

Between Psaki’s walkback at yesterday’s briefing and Biden himself hedging in the clip above, it’s clear that the White House has quickly gotten uncomfortable with boycott politics. I assume they’re hearing from anxious Democrats in Georgia that a cascade of subsequent boycotts from other woke companies emulating MLB would be very bad for voters’ bottom lines and even worse for the party, which risks being blamed. And I further assume they’re hearing from anxious corporations that don’t want to get in the middle of an escalating partisan culture war over Georgia’s law and see their own bottom lines hurt when angry conservatives decide to punish them by walking away.

Biden has to turn down the heat. For his party’s sake, for corporate America’s sake, and for the sake of his own image as a guy who’s aiming to “calm” America after four turbulent years of Trump. So suddenly he’s in the “do what you want to do” camp with respect to the Masters.

Not all righties are ready for a truce, though. Politico:

Republicans are also encouraging state and federal officials to utilize the tax code as a means of hitting back at, what they deem to be, “woke capitalism.” And they’re targeting some of the most iconic American brands — from Delta and Coca Cola to Major League Baseball — in the process.

“The GOP response … is the successful playbook for how these fights will be won moving forward,” said former Office of Management and Budget director Russ Vought, whose new group, the Center for American Restoration, is largely focused on cultural issues.

“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,” Vought added.

I’m skeptical that targeting particular companies for their political views would stand up in court, even allowing for the fact that government isn’t required to grant tax breaks. It’s a privilege, not a right, and the state can rescind privileges. But the state can’t do it for impermissible reasons. If, say, the feds passed a law rescinding the child tax credit for any taxpayer who criticized the IRS, Republicans would call that viewpoint discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment — even though no one’s entitled to a child tax credit as a matter of right. What’s the difference between that scenario and Georgia rescinding the tax break on jet fuel that Delta currently enjoys because the company criticized its new voting law?

Maybe if the bill were drafted in a “neutral” way, without singling out Delta or stating the reasons for rescinding the tax break, it might hold up in front of a judge. But (a) that would mean other airlines that hadn’t criticized the law would lose the same tax break and (b) the court could always look to statements made by legislators to try to discern whether impermissible viewpoint discrimination motivated them.

Using state power to punish a private entity for its political views is a bad, bad, bad precedent. If someone’s going to punish “woke capital,” it should be grassroots righties in the form of counter-boycotts. But that’s probably not going to happen: Boycotts require persistence and organization, not the sort of shoot-from-the-hip “we should boycott this” hit-and-run that Trump is known for when he calls for punishing an enemy. He puts out a statement, a few hours of murmuring among political junkies ensues, and then he’s on to the next thing. I can understand why people like Vought would rather not focus on boycotts, which require sustained commitment, and instead prefer legislative action, which can be done in bursts. But it’s a path to ruin, assuming it’s legal at all.