L.L. Bean is in a tough spot. It was recently revealed that Linda Bean, a board member and co-owner of the famed Maine-based retailer, donated $30,000 to a PAC supporting Donald Trump last year, prompting talk of a #GrabYourWallet boycott. Then, Trump went ahead and stuck his twitter fingers in it, which publicized the potential boycott all the more:
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
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
The company's done its best over the years to distance itself from Bean, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1988 and 1992. After the #GrabYourWallet boycott rumors started circulating Shawn Gorman, L. L. Bean’s executive chairman, posted a message to Facebook separating L.L. Bean from Bean's donations:
A couple points. Though the #GrabYourWallet initiative—which has also targeted DSW, Amazon, Bed, Bath & Beyond, New Balance, and like practically every other company in the country—is admirable in its intention, boycotting retail stores is going to hurt the employees more than the CEOs themselves, at least in the short term. Losing your job because a bunch of employed liberals are mad about Trump isn't going to do much to sway you toward the light, especially considering the role income inequality played in this election. Linda Bean is very rich and she's not going to be affected by or learn a lesson from a boycott. LL Bean's employees, on the other hand, are not rich, and will probably suffer if enough people stop shopping there.
The other thing is that for a protest to be successful, it has to be highly visible and specifically targeted, like the lunch-counter sit-ins in the 1960s. You're not making a big, photographable splash by refusing to order bean boots online, plus there are so many retailers on #GrabYourWallet's list, that it's unlikely enough people will boycott all of them and cause enough damage.
Where there is a problem, though, is Trump urging people to purchase stuff from L.L. Bean because he likes that they backed him. The President of the United States is not Kim Kardashian, and using social media to promote favored products is wildly inappropriate. It politicizes businesses that aren't asking for it, and it conflates the private and public sector even more than this Capitalist Presidency already does.
"It’s rare, if ever, that presidents do this," Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, told the Times of Trump's push for Americans to shop at a particular store. "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."
In Trump's American Dream, though, the power is absolute: we will shop where he wants us to shop, and retailers better stay in line. Chew your Trump Steak ration carefully; if you choke and need to go the the E.R. the hospital bills will bankrupt you for good.