It used to be that if the presidential candidate you favored lost the election you sulked a bit, regretfully tore your candidate’s sticker off your car bumper and moved on.
Now you’re expected to scream in dismay, post diatribes on every possible social media channel and boycott a mind boggling array of businesses that have even the slightest connection with the winner and his or her family.
So here we are, politics intruding in every aspect of our lives. All this foolishness, this symbolic act of frustration, is really getting out of hand.
Shannon Cuoulter, the 45-year-old owner of a small marketing firm in the San Francisco Bay area, is a key instigator in all this. In October 2016, she found herself increasingly upset with Donald Trump’s comments about, and behavior toward, women. Deciding to take action, she first created a #fashionnotfascism hashtag and urged people via Twitter to avoid stores that carried Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories.
Later changing her campaign hashtag to #GrabYourWallet, she created a website with a spreadsheet people could use to avoid transgressing businesses. The spreadsheet starts with a short list of the “Top 10 Companies We’re Boycotting.”
The list includes 9 retailers that sell Trump family products (Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Dillards, Zappos, Amazon, Hudson Bay, TJ Maxx, Lord & Taylor and Bed, Bath & Beyond) and one retailer where a board member contributed to the Trump campaign (LL Bean). “LL Bean: official winter clothing of the New Reich,” one critic tweeted.
But Cuoulter doesn’t stop there.
The spreadsheet goes on to list 46 more companies to boycott, including:
- Trump-owned, branded, or operated businesses, including Trump hotels and Trump golf courses
- More retailers that sell Trump family products, including Overstock.com, Ross, and Walmart
- Companies that advertise on Celebrity Apprentice (Donald Trump is Executive Producer)
- Companies with CEOs who raised funds for Trump and or a Trump PAC, including LendingTree and New Balance.
- And Yuengling Beer. GrabYourWallet says Yuengling should be boycotted because its founder donated to Trump’s campaign. But the founder, David G. Yuengling, died in 1877. Presumably, the donor was the company’s current president, Richard Yuengling.
With such a wide net, GrabYour Wallet goes through some convoluted explanations for why the list isn’t even longer.
The website includes a lengthy explanation, for example, for why Facebook is not included on the boycott list:
“Given its massive international user base and high levels of daily engagement, the ways in which Facebook contributed to the distribution of propaganda / fake news during the election is of serious concern in our democracy and in the world. That Trump surrogate Peter Thiel is on the board of Facebook doesn’t help matters much. After extensive discussions w/ Grab Your Wallet participants, Facebook is NOT being placed on the boycott list at this time for several reasons: (1) it’s a vital tool for self-organizing, particularly Pantsuit Nation & its local chapters (2) Mark Zuckerberg has made formal statements acknowledging the problem of propaganda & fake news on the Facebook platform as well as a committment (sic) to addressing / fixing it, although these statements did not represent as strong a committment (sic) as we would have liked to have seen and (3) the media category (which is what FB is, a media outlet) is the one we are most conservative about adding new companies to the list b/c of the importance of free expression.”
Other sites urging shoppers not to buy Trump-related products include Boycott Trump (with little or no explanation of why particular companies are targeted), and the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, which offers an app that allows users to identify over 250 companies and people to boycott because they’re directly connected to Trump. “Make Trump and his allies pay, literally, for their hateful rhetoric and regressive policies,” the app promotion says.
Some companies have encountered boycott threats just for executives making positive statements about Trump. After Under Armour CEO and Chairman Kevin Plank made some favorable comments to CNBC about Trump’s impact on business, boycott threats popped up all over Twitter. “Businesses who stand up for this madness will be starved out one by one. #GrabYourWallet,” said one tweet.
Then there are the calls to boycott the United States itself because of Trump’s actions.
The new target of the academic boycott movement is the United States. According to Inside Higher Ed, at least 3,000 academics from around the world have signed on to a call to to boycott international academic conferences held in the United States in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s executive order barring entry by nationals of seven countries.
Frankly, this whole exercise in condemnation is as arbitrary as can be.
The boycott of LL Bean, for example, is justified on the basis that Linda Bean, an heiress to the Bean fortune, a member of LL Bean’s board and one of 50 family members involved in the business, made donations to Trump’s campaign.
If mere donations to Trump’s campaign from some odd associates with a business are to be the justification for corporate boycotts, potential targets are legion. Just review the Federal Election Commission’s data on campaign contributors and you will likely find that somebody at just about every major company in America contributed to Trump’s campaign or said something complimentary about him.
All this is poisoning and polarizing public debate, exacerbating division, undermining relationships, and inserting politics into daily life to an unsettling degree,
And if you think about it, the way things are going the boycott Trump folks are going to be insisting that you stop buying anything online or in brick-and-mortar stores, and that you make your own beer in the basement.
My thinking? This is all getting out of hand. It’s time to boycott boycotts.