The Great Yuengling Spit-Take and other unintended consequences of 2016
I'm not a big fan of boycotts, but it's going to be really, really hard to ever drink Yuengling again because of its owner's enthusiastic support for Donald Trump.
I like beer. I've lived nearly half my life now in Pennsylvania. So I've frequently enjoyed a Yuengling Lager, especially on tap. Of course, as a member of the news media, I also belong to an effete corps of impudent snobs, so I'm even more inclined to order some strange craft beer with some word like Satan in the name (or with a high alcohol content) on the three or four times a year that I leave my blogging cave. But when there's just a menu of more conventional beers, I'd often order a Yuengling.
EAST NORWEGIAN TOWNSHIP, PA
-- If Donald Trump were president, there'd be a lot more places like D.G. Yuengling & Son, the Pottsville, Schuylkill County-based brewing company.
So said Eric Trump, son of the Republican Party nominee for president, Monday during a whistle-stop tour of Yuengling's brewery in East Norwegian Township.
OK, so Trump's kid toured a brewery, that doesn't mean...actually, OK, it does mean that: Yuengling supports the short-fingered vulgarian:
Dick Yuengling welcomed Trump, thanking him for taking the time to visit the brewery.
"Our guys are behind your father," Yuengling said. "We need him in there."
Ugh. Not that this is a big surprise. Not only is a Dick Yuengling a longtime backer of conservative causes, but his road to becoming a billionaire has been paved with crushing the former union at his brewery. As the ace labor writer Mike Elk explained:
It turns out that the company had petitioned for a decertification election to kick the union out of the brewery when the contract of the union expired. Dick Yuengling, the owner of Yuengling Brewery, gathered all the workers and told them that "the writing was on the wall". He said that if they didn't vote to kick the union out, he would close the plant, and ship the work to a non-union facility in the South. The workers, scared of losing their job in a region with high unemployment, voted to ditch their union and save their jobs.
So, yeah, it does seem like Donald Trump's America would be Dick Yuengling's kind of place. That said, a lot of Pennsylvania beer drinkers -- especially here in Southeastern Pa., proud bastion of anti-Trumpism -- seemed shocked today to learn about Yuengling's bitter taste in presidential candidates. My former Temple student (and former Daily News intern) Pat Madej did a good job capturing some of the online outrage.
I'm not 100 percent against boycotts -- under the rare right circumstances, they can be necessary and effective. However, boycotting every product whose owner's politics might disgust you is a silly and counter-productive exercise. Boycott Domino's Pizza because you don't like the owner's stance on reproductive rights? OK, but then every conservative can boycott Ben and Jerry's for backing Bernie Sanders...and where does it stop? Do you run out of gas if the loathsome ExxonMobil is the only station in town? Like I said, the whole exercise devolves into parody.
And yet....Trump feels like a game changer. This endless campaign has mercilessly exposed The Donald's unacceptable views on the treatment of women, on Muslims, on Mexican migrants and basic constitutional rights like freedom of the press. For a businessman like Dick Yuengling to enthusiastically back such a person at this late date doesn't feel a political disagreement as much as a punch to the gut of human decency. I won't "boycott" Yuengling -- but why on earth would I buy his beer when I know my money might support the next alt-right candidate in 2020, or get spent on lobbying to overturn Pennsylvania's labor laws?
All of which got me to thinking...a lot of us want to believe that we're going to wake up on Nov. 9 and this will all be over, like it was a bad 5 a.m. nightmare. But it's not going to be like that. How many folks like Dick Yuengling (and things like Yuengling beer) will you never be able to look at the same again -- knowing that they're capable of supporting someone as reprehensible as Trump? (And obviously, similar passions and resentments have been stirred up on the right.) How long into the future will we still be waving the bloody shirts of the 2016 election? Probably longer than we realize.