Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Democrats and the DH

By Shawn Healy
Kudos to Christopher Zorn and Jeff Gill for adding levity desperately wanting in the field of political science in an article published this summer titled "The Etiology of Public Support for the Designated Hitter Rule." As a lifelong fan of the greatest game ever invented and a budding political scientist myself, I feel compelled to provide a peer review of their findings.

The authors find a statistically significant correlation between political ideology and support for the designated hitter used in Major League Baseball's American League. Political liberals, and adherents to the Democratic Party, are more likely than independents and Republicans to defend the DH. They control for age, geography, and race/ethnicity (not clear why, although this is standard fare in the field). The authors anticipated (correctly) that older respondents would be less supportive of the DH as many of them lived prior to its installation in 1973. They also took into account geographical association with a given team of either league as we defend our local nine first and foremost (states with AL teams will support the DH, for example).

Zorn and Gill attribute the difference to the "tension between tradition and change." While political conservatives revere tradition and resist change, liberals welcome the latter, "...particularly when those changes can be shown (or are believed) to yield tangible benefits." Conservatives arguably see the pitcher's abdication of his hitting role within the realm of the larger "decline in the culture of personal responsibility in America over the past several decades."

I must begin by congratulating the authors for their compelling narrative before pointing to the potential holes in their logic. I'll begin with a few anecdotes and will later identity methodological limitations.

I am a native of Milwaukee and a lifelong Brewers fan. The Brew Crew moved to Milwaukee in 1970 from Seattle and was a member of the AL through 1997. They subsequently switched leagues in 1997 to balance the number of teams in each league with the entrance of two expansion teams (Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks). I have since moved to Chicago, and for the past 5 years, have been a White Sox season ticket holder. I love the AL, its teams, and most of all, the DH. From Paul Molitor to Frank Thomas to Jim Thome, the thousands of hours I have spent and spend at baseball games are remarkably enhanced by these current and future Hall of Famers, all of them taking the majority of their AB's as DH's.

My dad is also a Milwaukee native. He was born one year prior to the arrival of the Braves from Boston in 1953. They played in "Bushville" (Casey Stengel's description of Brew Town) through 1965, winning one World Series and losing another. He was thrilled when the Brewers switched to the NL, for he now watches the teams of his youth and relates to the managerial strategies that defined his education in the nuances of the game.

Both of these anecdotes serve to illuminate the power of the control variables the authors employ. In the case of me and my dad, our respective ages and geographic attachments are complicated by franchise moves, league switches, and yes, the adoption of the DH. Moreover, we Americans are a mobile people. I, for instance, live only 90 miles from home, but reside in a different state. This muddies their geographic control variable.

Furthermore, what about citizens in states with dual allegiances? The authors account for split loyalties like Cubs-Sox in Chicago, but what about those from downstate Illinois who live and breathe Cardinals red? How about Northeasterners who live somewhere above or beneath the Munson-Nixon Line (draw at roughly Hartford, CT), many of whom have no team at all, but are lifelong devotees of the Red Sox or rival Yankees?

My criticisms have narrowed in on potentially mitigating factors related ton the control variables. I'll resist the temptation of delving into the other implications of this study and my dual passion in life, politics. On the surface, I feel as if baseball trumps political ideology, with our allegiance to the former outpacing the latter. If I was a lifelong Red Sox fan and a died-in the-wool conservative, I would defend the DH despite its attack on tradition and personal responsibility. On the other hand, if I was a Los Angeles fan and a bleeding heart liberal, Dodger blue would mask the progressive promise of the DH as a part-time job for aging heroes.

Wasn't this the point of moving the Montreal Expos to our nation's capital? The Washington Nationals were supposed to bring a bitterly divided company town together, unified in their opposition to the DH across the party aisle.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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