Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned, but I’ve always considered boycotts as something you choose to participate in because the targeted company or organization is accused of some sort of abusive behavior. A movement criticizing Nike for its labor practices in foreign countries began several years ago, and while I was attending college several students boycotted Coca-Cola for similar reasons.
When did we get to the point where simply disagreeing with a business’s politics became sufficient reason to take their money elsewhere?
The most visible example of this is the bizarre conversion of Chik-Fil-A into a Southern-fried battleground over same-sex marriage issues, which led the even stranger incident of a man torching a bowl of cereal outside of General Mills. No doubt both places have employees with a wide range of opinions on same-sex marriage, but once the company leadership made a statement on it all hell broke loose.
A similar incident occurred more recently. When President Barack Obama visited a Florida pizza shop, he got lifted off the ground in a bear hug from the owner, Scott Van Duzer. The photo shows that president and the patrons clearly got a kick out this greeting.
It should have just been an amusing incident, but the fact that Van Duzer is a registered Republican who voted for the president in 2008 and plans to do so again enraged hardline party readers across the country. The shop’s business listing got flooded with negative reviews on the review website Yelp.com. Was it because of poor service or overcooked food? Don’t be silly, most of the reviewers never even knew about Van Duzer's business before the photo hit the wire. Some people living far, far away didn’t like Obama and demanded that people stay away from the restaurant to make a show of solidarity against the president.
The campaign signs haven’t started to sprout up in New London businesses, but a few remarks last year suggested that some residents chose to employ this practice in that election season. Several stores put up signs for their preferred mayoral candidate, and some business owners were openly supportive of a candidate. Among the heated comments and arguments in that election, some people huffed that they were going to stop supporting businesses that liked a candidate different from their preferred one and encouraged others to do the same.
Everyone has the right to choose where they want to take their business, and they're free to stop going somewhere for political reasons if that's their inclination. But trying to organize a concerted effort against a business because an owner expressed his or her opinion is ridiculous. Are we going to have to start screening every place to make sure they’re in perfect alignment with our own political beliefs? Are we going to have to start prefacing any purchases with an inquiry on whether the person in the manager’s office is going to vote for Obama or Romney or, God forbid, use a fraction of the money I’m turning over to support a campaign instead of pay the numerous bills incurred in running a small business?
I’m sure there are places in New London where the business owner has a different political stance than me. And frankly, I don’t care. Maybe I don’t like what your preferred candidate is selling. But as long as I like what you’re selling, I’ll recommend you to my friends.