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Can a charity softball game save democracy? it’s a question that’s more than rhetorical.
Delayed by late budgets and the pandemic, some 70 members of the General Assembly will take to the field at FNB Field in Harrisburg on Tuesday night for the 6th annual Capitol All-Stars Softball game.
Since its founding in 2013, the game, pitting Team Yinz against Team Youse has raised more than $300,000 for its two charitable partners, Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, organizers said in a statement.
“We play nine innings of slow pitch softball, everyone mixed together – Democrats and Republicans, House members and senators, men and women — on City Island under the lights at FNB Field, and it is a rare and welcome moment of unity,” House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, who co-captains Team Yinz with Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny.
And it couldn’t have come along at a better time.
With the 2022 midterm elections less than two months away, and with nationally watched races for U.S. Senate and the Governor’s Office on the fall ballot, the results of a recent NBC News poll are particularly worthy of attention.
A plurality of voters (21 percent) listed threats to democracy as their most important issue this campaign season, followed by the cost of living (16 percent) and jobs and the economy (14 percent), according to The Hill, a publication that covers Congress.
Voters’ concerns aren’t without basis in reality.
Before they left town earlier this summer, the Republican-controlled General Assembly pushed through a multi-pronged constitutional amendment package that would, among other things, impose voter identification requirements and rewrite the commonwealth’s foundational document to declare there is no constitutional right to abortion.
Republican gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, a noted election-denier who has said he wants to void Pennsylvanians’ voter registrations and make them register again — in clear violation of federal law, as WHYY-FM reports.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling returning abortion to the states, whoever wins the governor’s office will have a major say over reproductive freedoms. Mastriano has said he’d oppose exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of a pregnant person. Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro has said he’ll defend abortion access.
There’s also the threat of a nationwide ban at the federal level, further elevating the already crucial consequences of the U.S. Senate contest between Republican Mehmet Oz, who, like Mastriano, has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and Democratic nominee John Fetterman.
The stakes are indeed high — and the partisan divisions could not be more sharply defined.
So perhaps lawmakers really could use, as Costa observes, a “reminder to all of us of why we ran for office in the first place.” To unite, not divide. To provide opportunity and expand possibility — not restrict it.
Though we live in one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, hunger is real and ever-present for too many of of our friends and neighbors.
“Soaring food prices are putting a serious strain on our food banks right now
and many Pennsylvanians are facing impossible choices between buying food and paying for other necessities like rent and medicine,” Feeding Pennsylvania CEO Jane Clements said in a statement.
The game “will help support our network of food banks as we continue to work toward ensuring that every family in Pennsylvania has access to healthy, nutritious food,” Clements said.
And at times when we’ve needed to come together, games that take place around a diamond have provided us with that badly needed bridge across political, economic, and social divides.
Twenty-one years ago this fall, the underdog Arizona Diamondbacks bested the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series, giving us all some badly needed water cooler chat at a time when Americans were still trying to process the massive shock and trauma of the Sept. 11 attacks.
So I’ll ask it again: Can a charity softball game save democracy?
But maybe, just maybe, for a couple of hours on Tuesday night, Teams Yinz and Youse (co-captained by Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia,) will be reminded that they’re working in service to something larger than themselves.
And maybe they’ll be reminded that their actions on the field, like their actions on the floor of the General Assembly, have real-life implications for 13 million Pennsylvanians — beyond mere partisan gain and political advantage.
And that certainly can’t hurt.
(This year’s game will be played on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at 5:30 PM at FNB Field on Harrisburg’s City Island. It will be carried live by the Pennsylvania Cable Network.)
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