Earlier this month, executives at Anheuser-Busch partnered with a transgender social media personality to promote Bud Light, the most popular beer in America, and now the “king in the can” has a revolt on its hands.
The rebellion is another culture war.
After the corporation sent transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney a Bud Light tallboy with Mulvaney’s face emblazoned on the beer can to celebrate the TikTok star’s gender transition process, conservatives let out a primal scream of protest that begat a boycott. Country music stars wrote Budweiser references out of their lyrics. Wholesalers in red states, particularly in the Midwest and South, raised the alarm, and Kid Rock shot up cases of Bud Light and gave the finger to Anheuser Bush. The company’s stock plummeted to the tune of $5 billion.
The rebellion may also soon be a litmus in the divide between the GOP establishment and social conservatives ahead of a contentious presidential primary. Several candidates tell RealClearPolitics they back the boycott. Nikki Haley, for instance, said the Bud Light campaign “makes a mockery of women.” Others in the GOP wish the controversy would just go away already.
Money makes conversations over beer and transgender ideology uncomfortable. Anheuser-Busch has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years bankrolling Republican candidates, an inconvenient fact that was underscored when the National Republican Congressional Committee blasted the company publicly only to quietly delete a fundraising pitch mocking Bud Light for tasting “like water.”
As conservatives were cleaning out their coolers, Donald Trump Jr. urged caution while calling for an end to the boycott. “So here’s the deal. Anheuser-Busch totally shit the bed with this Dylan Mulvaney thing,” he said. “I’m not, though, for destroying an American, an iconic company for something like this,” the son of the former president said on his podcast Thursday.
“We looked into the political giving and lobbying history of Anheuser-Busch and guess what,” Junior said. “They actually support Republicans.”
Matt Walsh told RealClearPolitics that is exactly why the corporation should face backlash. The conservative pundit and Daily Wire host acknowledged that Bud Light caters to a middle-class demographic in middle America and that its parent company bankrolls the GOP. Bigger multi-national corporations like Nike, who partnered with the transgender influencer to model sports bras, he said, can “basically flip the middle finger” to social conservatives without losing marketshare.
“But there are other brands that are not in that position,” Walsh said pointing to Anheuser-Busch. “They really need us in a way that some of these other companies don’t.” The boycott of Bud Light, then, he continued, was “our chance to make an example of them and say that we are not going to take the insult lying down.”
Haley is one of the Republicans leaning into the controversy. The former ambassador to the United Nations has called preserving spaces once reserved for girls “the women’s issue of our time” as she travels across the country running for president. Haley condemned traditional women’s groups for sidestepping the issue.
“You have this man, who dresses up like a girl, and clearly makes a mockery of women – it’s just not right,” Haley told RCP. “Feminist groups who claim to be pro-women have gone silent. We need to use the power of our voice to call this out.”
Mike Pence, another favorite of social conservatives who is expected to make his own run for the White House, told RCP that the Bud Light boycott was merited.
“The gender insanity continues to poison our public discourse; it has infiltrated our schools and now the products Americans buy also come with a political lecture from the far left,” said the former vice president. “But we must continue to pursue the courage of our convictions and fight back against this radical gender madness that is being forced upon Americans.”
Companies that make a point of advertising liberal values, said Republican businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, shouldn’t be surprised when conservatives vote with their dollars in response. “If a company makes a disastrous marketing decision,” Ramaswamy told RCP, “I think it’s perfectly reasonable for customers to hold them accountable.”
The Republicans have learned to love the culture war, perhaps most notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who has battled with corporations like Disney over their “woke policies” and who dismissed on Friday the Bud Light partnership with Mulvaney as “annoying” and “grating.” Others, however, are notably quiet. No stranger to controversy, on the boycott former President Donald Trump is MIA.
The Trump campaign did not return repeated RCP requests for comment even though the former president has been outspoken in his opposition to transgender surgery for minors.
The top executive of Anheuser-Busch offered a tepid explanation for the ad campaign on Friday. “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Brendan Whitworth said in press release. The statement, titled “Our Responsibility to America,” made no mention of Mulvaney and concluded, “We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”
But showcasing a transgender activist was always going to be political. President Biden sat down for an interview with Mulvaney last October and celebrated the influencer’s 221st day of gender transitioning by saying “God love you.” Biden said of state efforts to ban sex-transition surgery for minors, “I just think it’s wrong.”
Conservatives are equally angry at what they see as the denial of objective biological reality. Walsh summarized the response on the right by saying “conservatives, in general, are sick and tired of living in a culture that’s been claimed by this kind of anti-truth madness.”
Walsh dismissed those calling for conservatives to abandon their boycott as “establishment-types” who are “incentivized to not see this as a big deal because they’re worried about the donor cash.” The conservative grassroots, like those that read his publication the Daily Wire, “are not worried about that especially because a lot of these Republican donors oftentimes are as worthless as the Republican they are donating to.”
This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.
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