Is it okay to ask small business owner if they support Trump?
November 18, 2016 7:44 AM   Subscribe

"Vote with your dollars" they say - how to go about doing that if I want to as much as possible avoid patronizing businesses (small & large) who's owners support Trump?

I do actively try to support small local businesses, so I feel like it is at least possible to know "who's in charge" as opposed to a megachain. It seems awfully tacky to bring politics into a conversation as a condition for car repairs. Suggestions?
posted by H. Roark to Law & Government (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It seems awfully tacky to bring politics into a conversation as a condition for car repairs.

It is.


posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:47 AM on November 18, 2016 [44 favorites]

I'm about as angry about this election as I've ever been about anything in my life, and I'm really struggling with how to deal with Trump supporters in my life. I feel like I'm going off the deep end a little bit, and even I think this is inappropriate. If people advertise their political views, that's one thing. But it's weird to ask them about it if they don't bring it up.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:51 AM on November 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

You vote with your dollars by making contributions to organizations who fight the good fight (as an aside, boycotts aren't especially helpful most of the time anyway).

It's one thing if a business has endorsed Trump publicly with something like a sign in the window. But asking is overly combative, and actions like that will only add to civil disharmony. Give people the benefit of the doubt until they explicitly show you otherwise.
posted by veery at 7:54 AM on November 18, 2016 [15 favorites]

Nth'ing the above. Don't ask, but if they tell, do what you gotta do.
posted by Etrigan at 7:55 AM on November 18, 2016

As with the previous question about this (how to figure out if someone is a Trump supporter before hiring them for something like a home repair job), I think your better course of action is to be proactive in finding local small businesses you *do* want to support, rather than looking for reasons to avoid giving your support.

Look for businesses that prominently advertise that they are LGBT-friendly, businesses that are owned by immigrants and people of color, and businesses that are active in the kind of local politics and causes that you think are worthy. Look for people who are actively doing good in the community and contributing something.
posted by Sara C. at 7:59 AM on November 18, 2016 [45 favorites]

Do with this information what you will, but the Federal Election Commission keeps records of every donation made to all political action committees. You can filter this data to your state and dump it into a spreadsheet. I may or may not have done this >__> <__<
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:59 AM on November 18, 2016 [12 favorites]

Next time you go on a job interview, do you want people asking you political questions that have nothing to do with the job?
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:04 AM on November 18, 2016 [18 favorites]

South African here. I've lived in a country where people are ruthlessly divided from each other, where communities are split and tribalism is deeply entrenched, and it is absolutely horrendous. Lives are stunted; people on both sides are killed. The other side will react as strongly as you do, boycotting Dem-supporting businesses, and then throw in a bit of extra punishment on top. Things begin to spiral: businesses aren't just boycotted, they are burnt. Human bodies become targets: someone with a 'Stronger Together' badge gets spat at; a kid gets beaten up at school because his dad voted for Trump. In the words of Yeats, things fall apart:

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . ."

Please don't be the person that widens the divide: don't emulate Trump, don't be a wall builder; be a Desmond Tutu or a Nelson Mandela instead. What we have learnt from this election is that the unthinkable can happen, just as it happened in the Balkans and Rwanda. We cannot afford to lose America to hatred.

I would recommend Desmond Tutu's book 'No Future Without Forgiveness', it has all the wisdom you need to find a road ahead. The world needs a strong, unified America, and you can help to make that happen.
posted by matthew.alexander at 8:14 AM on November 18, 2016 [90 favorites]

My wife and I own a shop in North Carolina, and as civil rights issues have come into contention, our door has gotten more and more filled up with stickers like rainbow flags, Black Lives Matter, an Arabic welcome, Breastfeeding welcomed here, living wage certified, shop local, etc (we even have a MetaFilter sticker). We live in a town where that probably gains us more business than it loses us. We've also had young people come in from out of town and express how happy they are to be in a place that is welcoming and safe, because NOWHERE is like that in their town. It can feel very risky for business owners to take a stand and possibly alienate half or more of the potential market. But I feel like this has gone way beyond simple politics: taking a stand that people of all kinds have equal rights and should be publicly welcome is not controversial to me. I hope you can seek out likeminded business owners and support them, without worrying too much about the ones you can't tell about. If you can't tell one way or the other, they may just be among the 40% of non voters (who are problematic in a totally different way).
posted by rikschell at 8:17 AM on November 18, 2016 [19 favorites]

I would never ask. But I live in a small enough town that you generally get to know the people who are active in one or the other party. Assholes who display various repugnant candidate signs at either their businesses or their homes, we boycott as much as one is able. (One problem becomes the choice between "keeping it local" and punishing someone for their political behavior. Also, sometimes there really is only one place in town to get X.)
posted by RedEmma at 8:46 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're not being divisive by choosing which business to patronize. Your fellow Americans were being divisive when they decided to throw all non-white, non-christan, non-heterosexual, etc. people under the bus because of "economic anxiety".

I'm pretty fucking tired of people telling us that we need to come together when they the underlying implications is that THEY don't have to worry about their own physical safety under Trump. Meanwhile I am working on contingency plans for leaving the country. Because while they may not coming for me first, we're at this point just debating my position on that list.

I can donate money to all the progressive causes I'm donating to now, in a country where I don't feel physically threatened. If you feel safe enough to stay (or maybe more likely, you can't leave), anything you do to slow down the machine that is coming for people like us would be greatly appreciated. I don't see any moral or ethical problem with being conscientious about whose livelihood (and capacity for political donations) you support.
posted by danny the boy at 10:57 AM on November 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

FWIW, I recently asked the related question "Can I ask people if they voted for Trump before hiring them?" (mentioned upthread).

Since you are asking for subjective opinions, I'd like to add support to the position described eloquently by matthew.alexander above. I'm angry and distressed by the outcome of the election and the entire campaign waged by Trump and his supporters – and I'm a member of a privileged demographic that will not lose much personally, and may even gain economically (at least in the short term). Yet I am I coming around to the belief that actions like you describe (and I described in my own question) do not address the root problem, and are more likely to cause damage to our society.

Right now, I feel a better approach is not to ask, and instead (1) do some due diligence ahead of time and avoid businesses that make it a point of having supported Trump, (2) seek out women- or minority-owned businesses, and (3) boycott known Trump-supporting businesses. (Here is a spreadsheet of such.)

(On preview, I am torn when I read danny the boy's comment. I feel the same way, for different reasons but from the same place. This is so very difficult...)
posted by Another Sock Puppet at 11:01 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Shop black-owned businesses and you'll drastically reduce the chances that you're putting money into the hands of a Trump supporter. Even more so if you patronize black woman-owned businesses.
posted by sea change at 11:05 AM on November 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

I forgot to mention something else: it is quite possible that even if you were to ask, you wouldn't get an honest answer. In other words, the approach of asking is probably not going to work anyway.
posted by Another Sock Puppet at 11:10 AM on November 18, 2016

For questions like this one, I always advise reversing the roles for your answer. Do you think it would be okay for a conservative person to ask a small business owner if they approve of homosexuality, and then refuse to do business with them if they do?

It should go both ways, in my opinion.
posted by tacodave at 11:55 AM on November 18, 2016

If it helps you re-frame this in your head a bit consider: Small businesses are going to get screwed by Trump's economic policy, most likely, since it is much more prone to benefit the bigger businesses. Small businesses may have gotten suckered into his plan, and will come out worse in the end. Your patronage won't make up for the degree to which they get dinged by this - but, your patronage will make them consider who is really on their side (Trump, or their neighbors) and that may cause them to reconsider all on its own.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:03 PM on November 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Small business owner here. (Dogwalker.) I would be mortified if a potential client asked me if I voted for Trump. The thought that it could even be possible!
Please don't put person-like-me in this position.
posted by BostonTerrier at 1:19 PM on November 18, 2016

Thanks green for providing your perspective. I'll go with consensus here.
posted by H. Roark at 2:32 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a prefeence not to do business with assholes whenever possible. It covers all the bases.
posted by spitbull at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I believe that boycotting businesses is probably the last best hope we have for getting positive change. Maybe you don't do that at the small business level, but I really think we have to do that at the large business level.
posted by xammerboy at 7:09 AM on November 20, 2016

Seconding Xammerboy - the boycotts that are going to matter are about things like Citibank or Macys or New Balance, not Sid's Hardware down the block.

I mean, if you walk into Sid's Hardware and hear Sid berating a woman in a hijab or trash-talking a gay couple, then you can tell Sid to go fuck himself and bring your business elsewhere, but that would also eliminate your question about Sid's stance on social issues anyway. But if Sid voted for Trump but is a perfectly decent guy otherwise, Sid's gonna get screwed and is going to have a rude awakening.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on November 20, 2016

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