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The Bud Light boycott is a prime example of the right finally taking some cues from the radicalism of the left, and using those tactics to win. It’s about time.
Since at least the mid-2000s, conservatives – especially social conservatives – have been utterly befuddled at how to approach an increasingly socially liberal business world. Woke capitalism, driven by a combination of a consortium of left-wing nonprofits, ESG investing, and professional-class ideological dynamics, has driven a wedge between conservatives and their longtime allies in business.
Sometimes this alienation manifests in self-destructive policy proposals that would empower organized labor, a result conservatives of the past would reject. Some conservative circles insist unions would protect workers from management’s woke fads.
This is an illusion. Big Labor funds the liberal nonprofit institutional complex, helped invent contemporary ESG investing, and marches in lockstep with the most fervently woke professional-class ideological dynamics. With the classical “three Bigs” of Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Business arrayed against them, no wonder other conservatives speak of a wholly united left-wing “Regime.”
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Regime: Bud Light lost nearly one-third of its market share after doing what the Regime wanted. The brand partnered with transgender TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney, and its now-benched marketing lead, Alissa Heinerscheid, vowed to end her predecessors’ “fratty, kind of out-of-touch humor” in favor of a younger, woke-er “campaign that’s truly inclusive.”
And then, splat. The keg ran dry.
Conservatives boycotted, ordinary people joined in and made Bud Light a punchline, and now Anheuser-Busch almost literally gives Bud Light away. Bud’s rivals gained market share, to the point that the consumer shift now is putting strain on the beer supply chain.
How did it happen? Simple: Conservatives applied the Saul Alinsky rules favored by the left, even if they haven’t read him and didn’t know that’s what they were doing. Alinsky, a radical-left organizer favored by 1960s boomer counterculture agitators, famously wrote as one of his “Rules for Radicals”: “Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
And so it happened to Bud Light, which was perhaps exceptionally vulnerable given its more Republican-leaning consumer demographics and the public nature of most beer drinking.
The third point of vulnerability was the commodity nature of mass-market beer, which made switching to some other brand easy for Bud Light consumers.
But the Regime had thought of that: Bud Light should have enjoyed safety in numbers. After all, Miller and Coors have LGBT-themed and “woke”-aligned marketing campaigns of their own. Any ideologically consistent boycott would have to target them all, and would surely fail. The rainbow stripes of all would hide everyone from backlash and protect them, like stripes hide a herd of zebras from hungry lionesses.
Except their adversary wasn’t a pride of lions but Richard Nixon, who famously espoused the “madman theory” of geopolitics. To wit: make your adversary think you’re crazy and that you will make irrational decisions. Channeling Alinsky, the conservative boycotters laid aside their ideological consistency and took on Anheuser-Busch pour encourager les autres.
For years if not decades, corporations had to mollify social liberals and their nonprofit legions. Careful management of left-wing interest groups distracted liberal governments from anti-corporate legislation and won over otherwise corporate-skeptical left-wing consumers. Meanwhile, conservative legislators advanced pro-business legislation and conservative consumers opted out of the “politicized life,” taking their money where their tastes lay.
But as woke capitalism made clear, opting out of politicized life was functionally impossible. Conservatives needed a new strategy to direct companies back to social neutrality. And facially hypocritical boycotts, like the one against Bud Light, may prove an important part of that new strategy.
Bud Light tried blending in with the corporate herd to hide it from right-leaning backlash while it courted favor with left-wing LGBT-interest groups like the Human Rights Campaign. But then the “madmen” chose to make an example of it; the herd’s stripes failed.
This has a positive and culturally significant effect beyond any lessons Anheuser-Busch might learn for the future. The possibility that Bud Light will not be alone – that the madmen might strike again and other products may suffer the same fate – can create general deterrence against brands, especially brands that are relevant to conservatives’ lives, taking political stands outside their core business.
In the long run, conservative institutions, and where proper and relevant, conservative-led governments, will need to develop formal vehicles for pushing back against liberal campaigns like ESG investing and business “scoring” that encourage or compel businesses to take liberal social stands. But until then, the madman consumer, channeling Nixon, can do his own bit to strike second thoughts into the woke-capitalist Regime.