Meet Brian Sims, member of Pennsylvania’s state House of Representatives and a Democrat. He gets a lot of attention nationally because he’s also openly gay and an activist in the gay community. He’s been serving in office since 2012.
Now meet Dick Yuengling Jr., the elderly proprietor of Yuengling brewery in Pennsylvania. Donald Trump’s son, Eric, visited the brewery on Monday and promoted it as a great business success, promising there would be more companies like it if his dad were president. Yuengling (the man, not the brewery) is a Trump supporter and told Eric, “Our guys are behind your father. We need him in there.”
Apparently that some people at a brewery support Trump as president has resulted in some outrage within the gay community, and this has led to a call for gay bars to dump Yuengling’s beers as a protest. Sims is a loud proponent of such a boycott. He posted on Facebook:
GOOD BYE, Yuengling Brewery: I’m not normally one to call for boycotts but I absolutely believe that how we spend our dollars is a reflection of our votes and our values! Supporting Yuengling Brewery, that uses my dollars to bolster a man, and an agenda, that wants to punish me for being a member of the LGBT community and punish the black and brown members of my community for not being white, is something I’m too smart and too grown up to do.
D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. believes that an agenda that is anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, anti-racial minority and anti-equality is best for them and that tells me all I need to know about what they think is best for their own customers.
I won’t reminisce about your product or lament any losses. Goodbye Yuengling and shame on you.
A former customer of 17 years!
Now, this initial post is simply Sims saying he’s not buying Yuengling anymore because of the owner’s politics, and, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. Many people have made choices like this. But a subsequent post took it to the next level and called on gay bars in the Philadelphia area to dump the beer. And because of Sims’ position as an elected official, this call is getting media attention.
Claire Sasko over at Philadelphia magazine notes that Dick Yuengling is a well-known conservative who holds conservative views and has been such for years, so Sims acting like he’s just discovering the man’s politics is a bit rich. If true, it kind of shows how unaware Sims is of his state’s own political landscape.
I’ve been critical of previous LGBT-centered boycott calls as misguided and ineffective (consider the absurd and pointless of boycott of Stolichnaya vodka in order to attempt to punish the Russian government for treating gay people there badly). We should be even more critical of this call from Sims.
Sims is not just a gay activist. He is an elected official of the Democratic Party. He is calling for citizens to punish a business for supporting the presidential candidate of the political party that opposes him. He is not Dan Savage. He’s an elected office-holder attempting to punish a supporter of another political party. He can couch it in terms of gay issues all he wants, but he is still calling for the economic harm of a man and a company over support of a Republican.
This is grotesque and needs to be pushed back. This is an unhealthy attitude for a politician in a country that values free and open elections. The response from a Democratic politician to Trump’s campaign should be to make a better case for Hillary Clinton, not to try to hurt citizens within his own state who support the Republican.
Furthermore, this is an effort that can so clearly and obviously backfire terribly. A good, huge (yuuuuge!) chunk of Trump voters are motivated by the belief that they are victims and that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., are “out to get them,” to hurt them by handing their tax dollars to illegal immigrants, to steal their money with Obamacare, to ship their jobs to China, and to line the pockets of their friends and donors. Where on earth do they get these paranoid ideas? Well, I’m sure a Democratic lawmaker literally calling for economic retribution against a conservative business owner probably plays a role there.
And the final killer here is that if Sims supports using ones political influence to punish adversaries, well Trump is willing to do that in spades. He’s threatening lawsuits left and right and his campaign rally rhetoric is ominous for its “strongman” undertones. Sims’ behavior serves to enforce Trump’s crass “I’ll show them” mentality. The way Sims has approached political disagreement in policy makes it clear that he supports punishing one’s foes. He just has a different vision of who those foes are than Trump’s.
This is an election whose narratives revolve around punishing our political, cultural, and (because so many people are ignorant about how markets and trade work) economic enemies. Sims is more than willing to play his role in that story and get right down into the gutter with Trump. Whenever anybody complains about a third-party voter like me believing that the Democrats are just as awful and bad as the Republicans, these are the kinds of stories I’ll be pointing to.