AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
In the three weeks since beer giant Bud Light launched its partnership with transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, the company has lost more than $5 billion in value, ignited outrage from bar owners and rock stars, and even led one country music singer to change the lyrics of one of his songs. But while the Bud Light saga has marked a high point for conservatives flexing their cultural influence, the brand’s PR crisis is just one prominent example of the right turning the cancel culture tables on the left in recent months.
The Bud Light controversy began on April 1 when Mulvaney, an internet influencer who boasts 10.8 million followers on TikTok and 1.8 million followers on Instagram, posted a video advertising the beer that featured a can with his face on it. Mulvaney has become something of a celebrity on the left following a series of videos documenting his “transition” to “girlhood” – even taking part in a special live performance at the Rockefeller Center to “celebrate” one year of “being a girl.”
After many observers initially speculated that the video was some sort of ill-formed April Fool’s Day joke, Bud Light confirmed that it had indeed launched a partnership with Mulvaney, drawing immediate backlash from the beer’s largely blue-collar, working-class fans. In an interview from March 30 that went viral following the announcement of the partnership, Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, even openly disparaged Bud Light drinkers, saying, “Bud Light had been kind of a brand of fratty, kind of out of touch humor, and it was really important that we had another approach.”
In response, conservatives took to social media to blast the brand and rally support for a boycott. #BoycottBudLight and similar hashtags trended on Twitter for several days thereafter.
Celebrities also got in on the trend. In a viral (and explicit) video that racked up millions of views, Kid Rock showed his displeasure by eviscerating several cases of Bud Light with a machine gun. Country music star Travis Tritt announced that he would be “deleting all Anheuser-Busch products from my tour hospitality rider” in a tweet that garnered 24 million views. During a live performance, fellow country singer Riley Greene also changed the lyrics of his 2019 hit “I Wish Grandpa’s Never Died” from “I wish coolers never run out of cold Bud Light” to “I wish coolers never run out of cold Coors Light” – to raucous applause from the audience.
It soon became clear that the backlash wasn’t just an internet phenomenon. Dozens of bars reported a drop in Bud Light sales of between 50 and 70 percent almost overnight. Although the company won’t report earnings until May, its stock price dropped 5 percent in a week.
The entire episode has invigorated conservatives and proven – after years of the left targeting companies and forcing them to submit to their woke edicts – that the right can still wield cultural influence when it rallies around a cause. Despite the tight hold that the left still has over almost every major American institution, those institutions can experience serious damage to their brand and image if just a few courageous individuals with a platform are willing to speak up.
This has been demonstrated in other recent cases as well.
In March, Tirien Steinbach, Stanford Law School’s associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, led a protest against conservative judge Kyle S. Duncan, effectively shouting him down before his scheduled speech at an event hosted by Stanford’s Federalist Society. In response, a growing number of conservative judges have announced that they will no longer hire clerks from Stanford. Without securing these prestigious clerkships – which in part help determine the all-important national law school rankings – Stanford risks jeopardizing its status as one of the nation’s elite law schools.
Disney has also suffered blows to its brand and reputation following an embrace of wokeism. Last year, the company openly criticized a Republican parental rights bill and waded headlong into divisive social issues under the leadership of then-CEO Bob Chapek. Disney’s stock price soon tanked amid a push by Florida lawmakers to revoke the company’s special tax status and parental backlash to the blatant left-wing messaging in children’s programming.
Ultimately, the company fired Chapek and brought back former CEO Bob Iger, who subtly indicated that he would move the company away from strong stances on divisive political questions.
To be sure, there is still a long way to go for conservatives to secure any lasting victories. Bud Light has yet to issue a full rebuke of transgenderism and apologize for its partnership with Mulvaney. Stanford has placed Steinbach on leave but refused to fire her, and though the school issued an apology to Judge Duncan, it declined to pursue any disciplinary action against the students who hurled personal insults and threats at him. And Walt Disney has thus far shown no signs of backing down from infusing far-left ideology in its children’s programming, despite Iger’s promise to “quiet things down.”
But the right has nonetheless finally put some action behind the slogan “go woke, go broke.” Perhaps more importantly, conservatives have sent a message to other brands and institutions that they will no longer sit back while woke executives and administrators trample traditional values and beliefs.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.