Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar backed Major League Baseball’s decision to move its All-Star Game to Georgia for a new restrictive voting law. But in doing so, he took on another leading progressive, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams.
Abrams, who suffered a narrow loss in Georgia’s gubernatorial race in 2018, praised the MLB decision on Friday but said she was disappointed that the game was relocated.
“I respect boycotts,” he said, “although I don’t want Georgia families to be hurt by the loss of jobs and events. Georgians targeted by voter suppression will suffer as opportunities shift to other states. We must not abandon the victims of [Republican] malice and lies, we must stand together. “
On Saturday, the PGA Tour and the PGA of America made similar arguments when they said they would not move events scheduled for Georgia this summer. The Masters, perhaps the largest golf event, begins this week in Augusta, Georgia.
Many observers question the accepted wisdom that big sporting events bring economic benefits, but on Sunday, on CNN’s State of the Union, Omar was asked if he agreed with Abrams.
“We know that boycotts have allowed justice to be served in many spaces,” said Omar. “The civil rights movement was based on boycotts. We know that apartheid ended in South Africa because of boycotts.
And so our hope is that this boycott will result in changes to the law because we understand that when people’s voting capacity is restricted, a democracy is created that does not fully function for all of us, and if we are to continue to be a hope for all the democracies of the world, we must stand firm ”.
Conservatives have protested MLB’s decision to take the All-Star Game from Georgia. On Friday, Trump told supporters that they should “boycott baseball” in return.
Among other measures, Georgia law places restrictions on early voting and by mail, measures that are likely to affect minority participation.
Republicans have countered Democratic protests by saying the law simply seeks to prevent voter fraud, which Donald Trump says was rampant in his loss to Joe Biden in Georgia and elsewhere – a lie repeatedly laughed out of court.
Omar was asked if other states that don’t even allow early or mail voting should examine their own laws.
“They certainly should,” he said. “I mean, Minnesota is not number one in voter turnout and turnout because we are special, even though we are. It is because we have made voting accessible to the people. And it’s really important that in every state, we look at their voting laws and make sure that voting is accessible to everyone. “
Omar also touched on pending federal legislation that seeks to counter moves by Republican-led states. The For the People Act, technically known as HR1, has passed the House, but it seems unlikely that it will pass the Senate 50-50 unless Democrats reform or repeal obstructionism, under which bills must attract 60 votes to pass.
“It will also be very important for us to keep pushing HR1,” said Omar, “what it does [voting] accessible throughout the country and strengthens our democracy ”.