It is a happy coincidence — or, dare we think it was planned this way? — that the baseball All-Star Game comes to town within days of Jared Polis’ announcement that he is getting out of the, uh, tyrant business.
The game brings with it a dual message — the need to get vaccinated (Colorado being one of only 20 states to have successfully reached President Biden’s 70% vaccination goal), and the offense that caused an organization even as basically conservative as Major League Baseball to take a stand against the nation’s contagion of discriminatory voting-suppression laws in red-led states.
Boss Polis, now just regular Gov. Polis, is lifting the state’s health emergency orders that were put in place upon the arrival of the coronavirus all those months ago. And in lifting the orders, he also rescinded a whole raft of pandemic-related executive orders. An emergency disaster declaration does remain in place, however, as the economic recovery continues.
The idea that Polis overstepped his powers as governor in dealing with the pandemic is absurd, nearly as absurd as all those Colorado Republican legislators who refused to wear masks. You can argue the merits of various Polis positions, as I certainly did, but virtually all governors took unilateral action at some point. In fact, you could even argue that Polis is acting too soon, given that in some Western parts of the state like Mesa County, where the vaccination rates are far too low and Delta variant cases are far too high, the emergency is working overtime. We’ve seen the same disturbing pattern — those places with low vaccination rates seeing higher case rates — across the country.
By the way, I don’t want to say that getting vaccinated should be a no-brainer, but even Mitch McConnell, in another moment of high-level, McConnell-like disingenuousness, says he can’t understand why so many people still refuse to get their shots. On the other hand, in response to Joe Biden’s idea to send volunteers door to door to try to persuade people to get vaccinated, Lauren Boebert called the door knockers “needle Nazis.” Of course she did.
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And yet it is political — because everything’s political — when invoking a health emergency just as it is political when lifting one. Just as it’s political that the All-Star Game is coming to Denver.
In case you’ve forgotten, the game was scheduled to be played in Atlanta this year. The fact that it’s making its unscheduled stop at Coors Field on Tuesday night is a gift from Donald Trump, his acolytes and those benighted Georgia state legislators who passed one of the nation’s earliest voter restriction/suppression laws. A suddenly offended Major League Baseball establishment decided Georgia’s actions — described at times by some Democratic politicians as Jim Crow 2.0, which it’s not — were an attack on voting rights, especially minority voting rights, which they are.
Now that’s what I call — as Major League Baseball did — an abuse of power.
In any case, the game would be moved, and Colorado, with rightful pride in its widely praised voting laws and with rightful concern about the number of empty hotel rooms in Denver, leaped into action and offered to host All-Star weekend despite being in the midst of the pandemic. You can give credit, in varying measures, to Polis, to Michael Hancock, to Rockies’ management.
Or you could, as many did, jump on baseball for its alleged wokeness, which is funny because baseball has basically been in snooze mode since 1947 when the then-Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson integrated the game. Getting at the wokeness issue, you might want to note that it took baseball 50 years before officially celebrating Robinson’s game-changing days of courage.
In 1947, when Robinson first took the field for the Dodgers, Jim Crow’s version of apartheid was still very much the law in the South. In fact, the Dodgers had to build their own Florida spring training complex because Blacks couldn’t stay in the segregated hotels. Black sportswriters couldn’t sit in the press box. That same year, 1947, when it was actually illegal in many states for whites and Blacks to play checkers in a public square, six Black World War II veterans were lynched in a three-week period.
The late Robinson biographer Jules Tygiel once told me that in the 19th-century there was a movement of those who wanted “to get right with Lincoln.” Of the 50 years it took to celebrate Robinson, Tygiel said people finally wanted to “get right with Jackie.”
Baseball was right to act then when finally integrating the game. Give it credit for acting now.
The spotlight that the game brings with it gives Colorado the chance to inform anyone who might want to visit the mountains next ski season that the state is open for business. At the same time, you should hear a lot of plugs for the vaccine. The CDC just announced its advisory that vaccinated school kids and teachers shouldn’t have to wear masks in classrooms. In Maryland, where they’re apparently keeping score, every person who died of the virus in the entire month of June was unvaccinated.
It’s also an opportunity for Colorado to showcase its model voting laws, where mail-in voting and other voting reforms have been safely employed for years and where the state has the nation’s second highest rate of voter participation. Colorado’s liberal voting laws and successful elections are a working antidote for the Big Lie and should be a push for Joe Biden and Senate Democrats to find a way, some way, to pass new voting-rights laws now stalled by the filibuster.
Oh, and there’s another message, too, one I’ve forgotten to mention. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, the baseball All-Star Game — I saw my first in 1968 — is the best all-star game. So, play ball.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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