April 17, 2023 - 1:00pm

It was all going so well. Just days ago, red state America was making a meaningful stand against the liberal elites — in this case the corporate clones who chose Dylan Mulvaney as the new face of Bud Light beer.

The ubiquitous trans activist identifies as a woman, but it soon became clear that an awful lot of Bud Light customers do not identify with Mulvaney. Attempts by the parent company, Anheuser-Busch (AB), to calm the situation only added to the outrage. A weak and gassy statement from CEO Brendan Whitworth — “we never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people” — was met with derision.

But, then, just as the boycott was hurting, an unexpected champion rode to the company’s rescue: none other than Donald Trump Jr, son of his more famous father.

Speaking on his Triggered podcast, Trump Jr tried to reason with his conservative audience. He began by conceding that mistakes had been made (“Totally shit the bed,” was his exact, if poorly conjugated, expression). Nevertheless, he argued, “I’m not for destroying an American, an iconic company.”

But what exactly makes it worth saving? Trump Jr’s argument was almost touchingly naive: it turns out that Anheuser-Busch gives money to the Republicans. “In woke corporate America!” he added, with wide-eyed delight.

But is this really so surprising? Many of the wokest corporations make sure to flash the cash on both sides of the aisle. For instance, Sam Bankman-Fried, the now fallen crypto king, cultivated a highly sophisticated progressive image, but according to reports he still funnelled money to Republicans as well as Democrats.

Not everyone on the US Right is impressed by Trump Jr’s intervention. Ian Miles Cheong was scathing: “Bud Light won. Conservatives just don’t have what it takes to cancel anything. Money talks louder in the end.” To underline his point he tweeted out a chart of AB’s recovering share price.

But the more important issue is whether conservatives will ever learn the real lesson here — which is that crony capitalism is not conservative and never has been. If the GOP were smart of brain and pure of heart then it would become the party of campaign finance reform. Indeed, nothing would do more to hurt the Democratic elites than getting corporate money out of American politics.

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be quite so despondent as Cheong. Though it’s in the nature of consumer protests to fizzle out — for instance, is anyone still boycotting Netflix over Cuties? — they leave scars in the corporate memory. After all, no executive wants to take the decision that crashes the share price (if only temporarily). Whatever happens to Bud Light sales now, AB won’t be in a hurry to alienate its customer base again. Other companies will have taken note, too. Wokeness will continue as a marketing strategy, but expect it to be targeted with greater care.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.