- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2017

At this rate, you may need to churn your own butter, brew your own beer and cobble your own shoes to avoid violating the boycotts organized by opponents of President Trump.

Don’t shop online at Amazon or Zappos. But don’t buy goods at Wal-Mart or Kmart, either. Don’t drink Miller or Coors beer, and don’t eat See’s candies. Don’t buy clothes at Macy’s or T.J. Maxx.

And whatever you do, don’t watch NASCAR races or UFC fights.

More than 250 companies and products have landed in the Democratic crosshairs. That’s a lot for even the most politically motivated shopper to remember, especially as confusion arises with sporadic pro-Trump outbreaks such as #BoycottBudweiser and the ongoing Breitbart advertising boycott and counter-boycott.

Having too many targets is one reason some analysts predict the anti-Trump effort may be destined to collapse under its own weight.

“The sheer number of boycotts targeted against companies by both pro-Trump and anti-Trump activists would seem to significantly weaken the impact of any given boycott,” said Brayden King, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “The news cycle is moving at such a rapid pace right now, it’s hard to know if they even register on the average person’s radar anymore.”

Irma Zandl, the Opinionator blog’s trend forecaster and branding specialist, described the widespread Trump-inspired consumer boycott as unprecedented in her experience, but she gave it little chance of making a lasting impact.

“As a rule, I have not seen boycotts work — they get lots of media attention and for some short period of time, people stop shopping, buying, using certain brands, but in general, people rarely change their preferences or behavior,” said Ms. Zandl. “Plus, boycotts and hashtags are so often based on emotion and misinformation. Eventually, as more details come out, it all fizzles out.”

If the boycotts flop, it won’t be for a lack of effort on Shannon Coulter’s part. A San Francisco technology and media specialist at DoubleKnown, she launched the Grab Your Wallet campaign in October and continues to update regularly her spreadsheet of verboten brands.

Her campaign targeting 75 companies has emerged as the most prominent of the boycott efforts, along with that of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, which identifies 250 brands. The two lists contain significant overlap.

“Economically, the people who voted against Donald wield a lot of power, and we understand that we have a moral obligation to use that power right now,” Ms. Coulter said in an email.

It doesn’t take a fierce devotion to Mr. Trump to make the enemies’ list. Some companies are obvious targets, such as the Trump hotels, but included are stores that carry Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories line or businesses that have advertised on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” of which Mr. Trump is executive producer.

Ms. Coulter credits the campaign with a string of successes, such as decisions by Tyra Beauty and Kawasaki USA to drop their sponsorship of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“The majority of U.S. citizens voted against hate in November, and now we vote with our cash,” said Ms. Coulter. “We’ll continue voting this way every day until our favorite companies sever ties with the toxic Trump family.”

But chaos already is afoot amid debate over how to apply the Trump purity test.

Some companies have landed on both sides of the Trump debate. Macy’s, which stopped carrying Trump menswear in August 2015 — prompting the billionaire to issue a call on Twitter to “boycott @Macys” — but appears on the Grab Your Wallet list because the stores sell Ivanka Trump merchandise.

Ride-hailing rivals Uber and Lyft perplexed passengers after Trump foes first turned against Uber over its alleged breaking of a taxi work stoppage — before realizing that shunning Uber was sending riders to Lyft, whose financial backers include Trump-advising billionaires Peter Thiel and Carl Icahn.

Uber Technologies CEO Travis Kalanick tried to make amends by resigning from the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum, while Lyft donated $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. Both are in the good graces of Grab Your Wallet, which has removed Uber from the doghouse and placed Lyft on its “brave brands” list.

Amazon presents another headache for politically correct consumers. The company made the boycott because it carries Donald and Ivanka Trump products online, but its CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, which enthusiastically endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Grab Your Wallet’s verdict? Go ahead and subscribe to The Post, but don’t use the Amazon app to do so.

‘Inevitably exhaust themselves’

Still in left-wing purgatory is Nordstrom, which sells Ivanka Trump products. The company said it would no longer do so as a result of the brand’s sales performance, but then kept her products online, prompting Grab Your Wallet to keep the retailer on its list.

Mr. Trump weighed in Wednesday against Nordstrom’s decision: “My daughter has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing. Terrible!”

Robert Kuykendall, spokesman for 2ndVote, which rates companies on their political activism, said the left’s targeting of Nordstrom comes as a head-scratcher, given its record of support for liberal causes.

“Nordstrom supports the Urban League, which is an anti-Second Amendment organization, and the YWCA. Both of those groups are members of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence,” Mr. Kuykendall said. “And Nordstrom is also a dinner sponsor of the Human Rights Campaign, which is a top supporter of same-sex marriage.”

His group launched a campaign Tuesday to keep Ivanka Trump products at Macy’s, blasting the “liberal bully campaign” to remove her line.

In the boycotters’ favor is their intensity. Ms. Zandl described Trump foes as “absolutely fervent in their opposition while those who support him are generally lukewarm.”

“I’m anticipating the boycotts and protests will continue for quite some time before they inevitably exhaust themselves,” she said, “or break into so many different factions that they lose their focus.”

Conservatives traditionally have been less likely to call for boycotts, which may explain the paucity of company-shunning activity on the pro-Trump right versus the anti-Trump left.

An exception: The hashtag #BoycottBudweiser went viral after the beer maker ran an ad during the Super Bowl about its founder, German immigrant Adolphus Busch, in what was viewed as a swipe at Mr. Trump’s temporary refugee ban.

The biggest conservative-backed boycott of the moment may be Breitbart’s #DumpKelloggs campaign, launched last year after the cereal giant said the news website was not “aligned with our values” and pulled its advertising.

#DumpKelloggs came in reaction to a boycott campaign against Breitbart led by the group Sleeping Giants, which has vowed to “stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars,” but the skirmish has a Trump connection. Former Breitbart editor Stephen Bannon is a top Trump adviser.

Conservative pundit Mark Steyn said in December that “the real target here is not Breitbart so much as the incoming president of the United States.”

2ndVote backed last year’s #AnywhereButTarget campaign over transgender bathrooms, but the group mainly encourages shoppers to frequent stores that take a neutral or conservative political stance, instead of calling for boycotts.

“We would mostly just like to see companies be neutral so that we would be comfortable doing business with them,” Mr. Kuykendall said. “And I think some companies are trying to figure out what the middle ground is.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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