Now that the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is officially in the rear-view mirror for Georgia, it’s once again time to start picking up the all-too-familiar pieces around here.
As Georgia’s lieutenant governor, I spent a great deal of time over this past week talking behind the scenes to many of the major stakeholders, trying to get MLB to reverse its decision. These conversations only confirmed my suspicions that this decision was based on fiction, not facts.
Unfortunately, the beginning of the end of the 2021 MLB All-Star Game being here in Georgia started in the wee morning hours of November 4, 2020. That’s when the “Great Hoax” supposedly began in this state. For nearly ten weeks, former president Donald Trump intentionally disrupted life here for the sole purpose of trying to overturn a fair and legal election. He spared no expense in his efforts, twisting, turning, stretching, and last but not least, ignoring the truth.
The deluge of lies started a chain reaction all over Georgia, on both sides of the aisle, focused on how we administer elections. It became obvious that folks on the far right wanted a massive overhaul of our election process — all the better to feed Trump’s “rigged” narrative, while folks on the far left wanted to ignore that our voting system needed upgrades to prevent future electoral confusion — all the better to feed Stacey Abrams’s “suppression” narrative.
The far right got its way the moment former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani walked into a Georgia state senate committee room and unleashed hours of testimony for the sole purpose of fanning the flames and revving up the base on some of the most far-fetched conspiracy theories ever heard inside the capitol. This caused some early knee-jerk legislation to be drafted and introduced that, unlike the voting bill ultimately passed, was a “solution” in search of a problem.
The far left also got its way the moment President Biden and Stacey Abrams started misleading the public concerning the details of Georgia’s voting law, SB 202. President Joe Biden made several dishonest public statements before MLB’s decision to move the All-Star Game that were just as cringeworthy as his predecessor’s wild assertions that the election was rigged. Biden’s deceptive comments generated a synthetic friction, based on fiction, between boardrooms and their customers, team owners and their players, and baseball fans and their league.
The timing could not have been worse. Republicans quickly struck out in this debate, losing to a concocted media narrative. This despite the fact that the legislative process actually worked this time, and an overwhelming majority of the knee-jerk-reaction language in the original version of the bill was removed. A combination of Democrat- and Republican-sponsored ideas made it into the final bill. This included an accelerated approach to processing absentee ballots, better signage in polling stations, and expanded weekend-voting opportunities. But nobody watching cable TV will ever know any of this, because it doesn’t fit the “world’s on fire” narrative.
Here’s who didn’t get their way: the overwhelming number of hardworking Georgians, on both sides of the aisle, who were excited to host the 2021 All-Star Game and to put the post-election debacle behind us. This was our year to honor our hometown Hall of Famer Hank Aaron’s life and legacy in baseball and, more importantly, in Georgia. We have so much to be proud of here, and we cherish every chance we get to put it on display for the rest of the world — whether it’s a Final Four, Super Bowl, World Cup, NBA All-Star Game, or even the Olympic Games. The civil-rights movement is woven into the very fabric of this state; without the efforts of a brave few, we wouldn’t be a fraction of the state we are today. Any attempts to use the disgusting reference “Jim Crow 2.0” in reference to the final, but not perfect version of SB 202 is the modern equivalent of screaming fire inside a movie theater for the sole purpose of getting everyone’s attention.
Georgia should not have lost the 2021 MLB All-Star Game because two sitting presidents weren’t willing to be honest with Americans for selfish political reasons. Georgians could have used a leader who was much more humble and courageous in such a big moment. Someone like Hank Aaron.