Heh: MLB now less popular than the NFL among Republicans

AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter

Man. All those years of complaints about kneeling during the national anthem and Trump calling for boycotts and Mike Pence walking out of a stadium in protest and Roger Goodell getting an earful for supporting Black Lives Matter — and yet all it took for the NFL to become more popular than Major League Baseball among righties was Rob Manfred pulling the All-Star Game from Atlanta.

Chin up, MLB. Maybe some football player will cop a squat on the flag next season and you’ll be back to second place among Republicans.

Baseball had never had lower GOP favorability than football over the past 15 months until the league office decided that it would make a daring show of boycotting a new voting law which, to all appearances, it had zero problem with on the merits.

That’s a big drop, from +47 to +12 in the span of a month. I’m curious to know how the numbers changed among Democrats. No doubt favorability rose, but I bet it didn’t rise by 35 net points. Feels like a net loss for baseball.

This poll is dropping on the same day that hundreds of CEOs signed onto a joint statement warning that their companies will oppose “any discriminatory legislation” targeting voting rights. That’s a shot across the bow of various Republican-controlled state legislatures currently working on bills to reform their voting laws. Corporate America is warning the GOP that what happened in Georgia can happen elsewhere too, especially if other states’ laws go further than GA’s mostly modest changes. An interesting detail about the statement, though:

Coca-Cola and Delta, which condemned the Georgia law after it was passed, declined to add their names, according to people familiar with the matter…

People involved in the process said some of the Atlanta companies that did not sign were wary because of the blowback they had received after their earlier statements on voting rights but also did not feel the need to speak again.

Coke and Delta have had enough of this political storm, it seems, after being justly pummeled by righties for letting progressives strong-arm them into demagoging Georgia’s law. Another noteworthy omission from today’s joint statement:

Why didn’t Walmart sign? Doug McMillon, the retailer’s C.E.O., who also chairs the influential Business Roundtable lobby group, sent a note to employees to explain the company’s position. “We are not in the business of partisan politics,” he wrote. “While our government relations teams have historically focused on core business issues like tax policy or government regulation, Walmart and other major employers are increasingly being asked to weigh in on broader societal issues such as civil rights.” The company didn’t sign the statement, but “we do want to be clear that we believe broad participation and trust in the election process are vital to its integrity,” Mr. McMillon said.

Some polling suggests that Walmart customers skew Republican, which makes sense since there are more Walmart stores located in red states than blue states. (The Walton family famously got their start in Arkansas, too.) Walmart obviously looked at the bottom line when it was invited to sign the statement and made the right choice.

By the way, the excerpt above is from a Times story titled, “The C.E.O.s Who Didn’t Sign a Big Defense of Voting Rights.” How often do newspapers focus on business leaders for *not* making news? It was nice of the NYT to make it easy for lefty activists to figure out whom they should be mad at.

For all the conservative upset at MLB, which included a Trump statement last week calling for a boycott, there appears to be no organized effort to extract a price from the league for bailing out of Georgia. (Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have proposed eliminating baseball’s antitrust exemption but that’s going nowhere in a Democratic Senate.) In fact, despite Biden’s very far left agenda, there’s no real organized conservative protest effort of any kind the way there was with the tea party in 2009. Political journalists are trying to figure out why:

As [Mark] Sanford sees it — and, keep in mind, he’s no Trump fan — a movement like the Tea Party emerges when people galvanize around ideas. When they galvanize around an individual, they’re really just waiting for that individual to act or guide them. Put another way: While the Tea Party exploited a GOP leadership vacuum in 2009, there is a need for a vacuum in 2021…

Jenny Beth Martin, who co-founded the Tea Party Patriots and was a delegate to the 2020 RNC convention, conceded that there wasn’t as much mobilization now compared to 12 years ago. She said the Covid pandemic was a big part of that, preventing conservatives from congregating, holding their own events or disrupting those of others.

But implicit in her analysis was that Trump was still setting the direction for the activists. “He certainly is a leader and people are looking to him for leadership,” she said. The bigger tell came when she described what she called “the animating issue in the country” for her organization.

The “animating issue” is election integrity, a nod at the persistent “stop the steal” myth among populists that Biden cheated somehow to win. But even that issue isn’t so “animating”: There haven’t been any mass protests against H.R. 1 or in support of red states’ election reform bills. My hot take is that grassroots slacktivism reflects Jonathan Last’s point about the GOP transitioning over the past decade from a political party devoted to advancing particular policies to more of a “lifestyle brand” whose leaders spend lots of time channeling the base’s rage by yelling about things in front of cameras without ever doing anything meaningful. (Matt Gaetz is a supreme example.) A lot of angry words were written and spoken by righties about MLB’s Georgia pullout — again, Trump himself called for a boycott. But just as Trump doesn’t seem to be following his own boycott advice with respect to Coca-Cola, no one’s really expected to follow his advice with respect to MLB. His statement was a simple matter of signaling contempt for an enemy, not a bona fide call to take sustained economic action. And in the modern GOP, signaling contempt is all that matters.