The left, as is its wont, has organized a politically-motivated boycott against L.L. Bean, the outdoor gear and apparel company. The pretext for the boycott is that the Federal Election Commission charged Linda Bean, a granddaughter of the company’s founder and a member of its ten-person Board, with contributing more than the legal donation amount to a political action committee that supported Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. (The company itself did not endorse or contribute to any candidate).
One strongly suspects, however, that the left is angry that Ms. Bean backed Trump at all. The organized boycott is the idea of an operation called the Grab Your Wallet campaign which, according to this report, publishes a list of companies that backed Trump and urges consumers to withdraw their financial support from them. Being accused of violating election law does not appear to be a prerequisite of being targeted for a boycott.
I should also note that Linda Bean denies wrongdoing. She says she was told by the PAC chairman that his group was a super PAC (meaning that she could make a large donation). Bean also says she donated significantly less money that the amount she is charged with giving, and that she received no notice from the FEC that she broke any law.
Whatever the merits of the case against Ms. Bean, many will find it offensive that Grab Your Wallet organized a boycott against L.L. Bean because her personal decision regarding a political donation. I know I do. This sort of boycott has become a common left-wing bullying tactic.
Donald Trump also found the boycott offensive. He responded by tweeting: “Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean. @LBPerfectMaine.”
The tweet has produced much hand wringing. Noting the obvious, presidential historian Michael Beschloss said “it’s rare, if ever, that presidents do this.” “In general, presidents who have a sense of limited presidential power do not want to extend that power to the point of suggesting to Americans which products to buy,” he sniffed.
True. But what president has ever seen his financial donors subjected to politically-motivated organized boycotts? “In general” shouldn’t apply when the left (or the right) engages in this kind of warfare.
Some have suggested that Trump is “picking winners and losers.” Conservatives often rail against the government doing so.
Trump is not a conservative, at least not a typical one. He does seem willing to pick winners and losers. When he does, barring special circumstances, free market conservatives should criticize him.
In the Bean case, though, Trump isn’t picking winners and losers in the traditional, offensive sense. He is simply trying to help defend a company that has come under economic attack for the politics of someone associated with it.
Trump isn’t offering L.L. Bean a subsidy, a tax break, or a monopoly. He is basically offering it moral support in a fight started by others.
The company’s competitors may not see Trump’s tweet this way. I assume, however, that they were happy enough to reap whatever economic gain the organized boycott of L.L. Bean might confer. It doesn’t bother me much that they will live with the consequences of the backlash.
Mass boycotts like this one are a nasty proposition. If Trump’s tweet helps L.L. Bean’s business, it may put an end to this sort of practice. In that event, the president-elect will have performed a public service.