Transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney started a firestorm of controversy in April of last year by partnering with Bud Light in a short video on Instagram. The company sent a can of its beer with Mulvaney’s face and the words “cheers to 365 days of womanhood.”
But Mulvaney is not a woman. He is biologically a man. Unsurprisingly, the reaction was swift and severe. Ten months later, Bud Light is still not back to where it once was, as the unassuming beer of regular, hard-working Americans. But former President Donald Trump wants to change that.
This week on Truth Social, Trump implored everyone to give Bud Light another chance, saying, in part, “Anheuser-Busch is not a Woke company, but I can give you plenty that are, am building a list, and might just release it for the World to see. Anheuser-Busch is a Great American Brand that perhaps deserves a Second Chance. What do you think? Perhaps, instead, we should be going after those companies that are looking to DESTROY AMERICA!”
As if on cue, Trump’s terminally online followers, who not long ago cheered Bud Light’s drop in sales and even recently welcomed the introduction of a non-“woke” beer called Ultra Right Beer, are rallying to Bud’s defense. The entire saga is further proof of two things: 1) Trump’s ability to sway his fans in any direction and 2) the fickle Right’s inability to make long-term dents in the ongoing culture war.
Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Mulvaney wasn’t just an ad featuring a celebrity whose personally held views are contrary to those of many of its customers. We see those advertisements all the time. Instead, it was an unbridled promotion of something clearly at odds with science and reality. It wasn’t an ad for beer. It was Anheuser-Busch telling us the company views Mulvaney as a woman, and you should, too.
It was a smack in the face, and it was an attempt to win over the militant transgender crowd and its allies while telling regular customers who just want beer that they must bend the knee. It’s no wonder traditionalists took issue with it. The Right put actions behind its cultural criticisms and caused noticeable disruption.
Trump wants critics to make nice with Bud Light. Why? Well, it could be his personal interest in the company. Trump reportedly owns stock in Anheuser-Busch InBev, the company that owns Bud Light. There is nothing wrong with that ownership, of course. But it makes at least part of his intentions clear. His son, Donald Trump Jr., called for the boycott to end right at the beginning. The former president has seemingly been silent on the topic until now. Whether or not his encouragement to forgive Bud Light works enough to move the needle, it certainly shows the power he holds.
The culture war is raging, and despite what others may think, it’s far more important than Trump’s social media whims. For decades, Bug Light has existed as a nonpolitical company. It has been patriotic and focused on celebrating the good times in life. Celebrating the “womanhood” of a man is shocking, to say the least. Last April, Bug Light’s CEO even said, “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.” The company should stick to that from now on. It’s alarming to see a company with a history of not choosing to showcase an extreme political agenda choose to do just that. It’s more concerning than if a more politically driven business went that route.
A case can be made for moving past the controversy and buying Bud Light again if consumers choose to do so. Should these boycotts last forever? That’s up to the individual customers. If Anheuser-Busch wishes to change people’s opinions, it’s going to take some time to rebuild the relationships. According to sales figures, Bud Light has still not recovered. As a result, other brands, including Miller Lite and Yuengling Lager, have benefitted. Those brands have also stayed away from being overtly political. It’s the wise thing to do.
Fighting against a culture that is increasingly at odds with what conservatives stand for is serious business. Companies should take note. Far too many play to the coasts at the expense of the millions who don’t align that way. Trump may wish for an instant turnaround back to Bud Light, but it’s not his call. Principles matter more.
Kimberly Ross (@SouthernKeeks) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog and a columnist at Arc Digital.