Fenika Miller, senior statewide coordinator for Black Voters Matter, sets up a table of free merchandise in the Winning Church parking lot in Warner Robins, GA. (Courtesy of Melanie Mason / Los Angeles Times)
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Opinion: New Georgia voting law spotlights partisan double standard on cancel culture

In the wake of a tempestuous election cycle intensified by unsubstantiated voter fraud allegations, Republican lawmakers nationwide are now working state-by-state to establish new voting laws to restrict African American access to the polls. On March 25, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a new voting bill, SB 202, which empowers state-level officials to control elections instead of local county election boards.

In turn, this law allows the Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature to gain authority over local election operations, replace election board members with partisan appointees and disqualify ballots in precincts statewide.

Since Georgia Republicans have long perpetuated baseless voter fraud accusations in majority-Black districts, many Georgians worry that this law could jeopardize Americans’ voting rights, particularly in regions like Fulton County that have a disproportionately Black citizenry.

The law also outlaws providing food and water to those in voting lines, which will likely contribute to reduced voter turnout among historically nonwhite precincts, as voters there have experienced infamously long waiting times due to a shortage of polling places assigned to majority-Black counties.

Just months after former President Trump illegally attempted to coerce Georgia’s election officials to commit voter fraud to flip the state in his favor, this bill has a clear intent to undermine burgeoning Democratic power in the state of Georgia by structurally disenfranchising Black voters. This piece of legislation is inherently anti-democratic, not just because it aims to disadvantage the Democratic party, but because its primary effect is to subvert the fundamental one-person, one-vote principle of American democracy.

Nonetheless, SB 202 is just one ripple in a larger wave of Republican state and federal efforts to erode American election fairness nationwide. The actions of Governor Kemp and Georgia’s state legislature reflect a broader movement gaining traction in the Republican Party: state and national politicians are systematically threatening Americans’ voting rights in order to diminish support for their political opposition. 

As a result of widespread public outrage about Georgia’s new restrictive voting laws, on April 2, Major League Baseball announced that this season’s All-Star Game and draft will no longer occur in Atlanta because the league’s values do not align with Georgia’s racist and anti-democratic voter suppression law.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred declared: “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box…Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

Georgia voting rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stacey Abrams said: “Republicans who passed and defended Senate Bill 202 did so knowing the economic risks to our state. They prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over the economic well-being of all Georgians … Georgia Republicans must renounce the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the harm they have inflicted on our economy.” 

“We’ve got to start here at the local level,” said Gloria “Miss Gigi” Johnson, shown rallying outside an early polling place in February. (Melanie Mason / Los Angeles Times)

In response to the MLB’s decision, Abrams’s former gubernatorial opponent, Governor Kemp tweeted: “Today, Major League Baseball caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies…Georgians — and all Americans — should fully understand what the MLB’s knee-jerk decision means: cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter.” 

Ironically, in the aftermath of the MLB’s decision, Republicans have simultaneously promoted and denounced cancel culture. While Kemp criticized the MLB for yielding to cancel culture by moving the All-Star Game, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted: “Guess what I am doing today? Not watching baseball!!!!”

South Carolina Representative Rep. Jeff Duncan also tweeted: “In light of @MLB’s stance to undermine election integrity laws, I have instructed my staff to begin drafting legislation to remove Major League Baseball’s federal antitrust exception.”

Chairwoman McDaniel publicly boycotting baseball and Representative Duncan authoring legislative retaliation against the MLB is the epitome of cancel culture, a phenomenon almost all prominent Republicans have vehemently opposed in recent months. In June of 2020, Duncan himself even referred to cancel culture as, “a dangerous path to go down,” and “as a continuation of the folly that…seeks to further divide Americans.”

Yet still, less than one year later, Duncan and many members of the GOP have invoked cancel culture as a shield against accountability for their party members’ blatantly racist and anti-democracy positions, thereby revealing a partisan double standard of Republicans resorting to cancel culture when it is politically convenient for them.

As a result of the backlash to SB 202, Republicans have bemoaned private organizations like the MLB “canceling” Georgia’s Republican state legislature by taking political stances against them; however, sports and politics have historically been intrinsically linked, often in favor of advancing civil rights in American society.

For example, in 1990, when Arizona’s citizens voted not to grant Martin Luther King Jr. Day the status of a state holiday, the National Football League decided to move the 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe, Arizona to Pasadena, California. Later, Arizona voters approved making the commemoration a state holiday, and the NFL moved the 1996 Super Bowl to Phoenix, Arizona.

Furthermore, in 2016, the National Basketball Association decided to relocate its All-Star Game from North Carolina to New Orleans, Louisiana due to North Carolina’s discriminatory transgender bathroom law. Once the law was repealed, the NBA decided to host the 2019 All-Star game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

These instances prove that the actions of private companies like sports organizations can effectively compel political action to advance civil rights and civil liberties for all Americans. Fairly protected voting rights are essential for the survival of democracy, so it is vital for the business community to take action when those in power attempt to undermine the voting rights of any Americans. 

In the contemporary digital age, the concept of privacy has almost completely vanished. As a result, private citizens and public figures alike are now more susceptible to experiencing backlash and potentially being “canceled” for their words or actions.

In many scenarios, victims of the so-called “cancel culture” rightfully deserve to face consequences for their inappropriate behavior. However, in some situations, a cancel culture can result in people being unfairly punished for misinterpreted words or out-of-context actions from decades ago.

Nonetheless, both Republicans and Democrats openly denounce people and corporations for their views and positions all the time, but Republicans have now transformed the idea of cancel culture into an excuse to absolve any of their personal or political misdeeds.

Therefore, if Republicans would like to object to the practice of cancel culture, they should start by not promoting the cancellation of those who challenge their political stances, especially when that opposition is rooted in the preservation of American democracy.