To Get Trump’s Attention, Hit Him in Pocketbook
As activists figure out how to impact a president unconnected to political and human reality, one Trump vulnerability stands out: his love of money. No prior President has been so economically vulnerable to activist attacks. Trump prides himself on having his name on buildings, and has his daughter using the Trump name to advance her clothing career.
Trump does not want to see his presidency destroy the Trump brand for generations, which is why activists should include targeting Trump business enterprises among their many resistance strategies.
UFW Boycott Revisited
Many, including celebrities like Lebron James, are already boycotting Trump hotels and restaurants. But there is no organized or formal boycott as the UFW waged against non-union grapes and lettuce in the 1960’s and 1970’s. With the President as the target a Trump boycott campaign would be far easier than the UFW effort, both because of its higher profile and the millions who already have a visceral hostility to Trump.
A Trump boycott would have to extend to Ivanka Trump’s clothing lines and Jared Kushner’s business ventures. It would target golf courses, restaurants and anything connected to the Trump name.
A rousing January 15 protest at New York City’s Jean-Georges restaurant inTrump Tower is an example of what could be happening daily at Trump venues around the world. What the group Rise & Resist did in that protest is easily replicable in other Trump restaurants.
The huge protests seen at airports this weekend shows that plenty of activists would love disrupting Trump restaurants, hotels and other venues. And unlike the airport conflicts, Trump’s business interests would be dependent on enforcement by local police. Many officers may not want to go all out for a man busy attacking vulnerable immigrants.
Going on Offense
What’s also great about a campaign to destroy Trump’s businesses is that it enables activists to be on the offensive. So much of Trump resistance is naturally defensive that the campaign needs an offensive component that puts Trump on the defense. An economic boycott and disruption of Trump, Inc. accomplishes this.
Will even conservatives want to stay in a Trump hotel when loud protests go on all night? Even if sympathetic judges issue injunctions against outside protests, there are ways to disrupt hotel guests that court orders cannot stop.
I discuss in my book Beyond the Fields how UNITE HERE has been particularly creative extending the UFW boycott strategy to deterring guests from staying in viciously anti-union hotels. I can see activists using similar tactics to deter hotel stays in Trump lodgings worldwide.
Done right—and I note in my book that many are done wrong—a broad Trump economic boycott could be an incredible vehicle for organizing and resistance building. Even people with little available time can join in the boycott campaign.
Trump Cares About Money
An economic boycott against all Trump family economic ventures could well be the single most effective strategy to influence the President. He’s already made it clear that he doesn’t care what any of the public thinks that disagrees with him, but he pays no direct political price for ignoring them.
Should the bottom fall out of Trump’s business dealings, and the Trump names comes to have the negative connections like that of South African businesses in the apartheid era, the president will care. His personal fortune is his family legacy, and he does not care enough about the presidency to lose this legacy.
Boycotts also have the advantage of bypassing Congress.
For all of the incredible resistance during the first week of Trump’s presidency, Congressional support for Trump’s policies could leave some resisters feeling powerless. Trump and GOP congressional leaders recognize that the best way to slow dissent is to send a message that it is pointless.
But politicians can’t stop boycotts or other grassroots tactics that hurt Trump enterprises. People will feel a sense of accomplishment as Trump businesses falter.
As I described about the rise of the Tea Party in my book, The Activist’s Handbook, unpredictability is often key to activist success. The Tea Party primarily succeeded because the media had not previously seen August Congressional town hall meetings disrupted. Similarly, economic warfare against Trump, Inc. is a new strategy to challenge presidents, and it is the type of guerrilla resistance that has already become necessary in the Trump presidency.
On a final note, Uber’s breaking of the New York City taxi strike over Trump’s ban puts that company in the Hall of Fame of irresponsible corporations. This January 28 tweet said it all:
“congrats to @Uber_NYC on breaking a strike to profit off of refugees being consigned to Hell. eat shit and die.”
The hashtag #DeleteUber soon followed, as word spread that in connection to its drivers breaking the principled taxi driver’s strike, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was on Trump’s business advisory council.
Targeting Trump enterprises could soon expand to those servicing those businesses, such as boycotts of stores selling Ivanka Trump clothing. With anger growing and emotions high, the Trump family need to learn that they will pay a steep price for their war on immigrants and other attacks.
Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San FranciscoNational Politics