Anti-gun rights liberals are attempting a boycott against Florida-based grocery store Publix after news reports about their contributions to the campaign of Adam Putnam, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Florida governor, but it’s already shaping up to be far more of a blip of social media static than a tidal wave.
The kerfuffle began with a May 15th Tampa Bay Times article with this dramatic headline: “Publix is supporting Adam Putnam’s run for governor like no politician before.” The story describes how Publix, along with its corporate leaders and family members of the company’s founder, George Jenkins, have donated $670,000 to Putnam during the past three years.
Cue the outrage alarms. Several liberal activists took to Twitter to denounce Publix’s support for Putnam, focusing on his support for the NRA and Second Amendment rights, and declaring an intention to #BoycottPublix.
This is typical of the tweets — labeling Putnam a “gun nazi” and insinuating that shopping at Publix supports the NRA and gun violence:
— Amy Tidd (@AmyTidd) May 21, 2018
Others tweets included ridiculous, unfounded accusations that by supporting Putnam, Publix was supporting “racism” and “bigotry” — without any proof, of course — just dragging out the tired liberal trope of All Republicans Are Racists Because We Said So.
Ever since the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 students and teachers dead and an additional 17 wounded, liberal gun control activists have sought to place the blame on the NRA and Republican politicians, literally accusing them of profiting from murdered children. Of course, this rhetoric ignores the long, long, long list of failures by the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward County School District.
And so, liberal activists found a new target for their attacks: Publix.
Never mind that Publix sells zero guns, zero ammunition, zero gun accessories, and does zero lobbying on gun issues; the mere fact that they donated to a Republican politician is enough to draw the ire of the gun control advocates.
As Publix explained on Twitter, they have supported Putnam as their “hometown candidate” — Putnam hails from Polk County, the site of Publix’s headquarters — since he first ran for the Florida House of Representatives in 1996, when he was just 22 years old.
As one of the largest employers in the state of Florida, and with the majority of our stores and our corporate headquarters located here as well, we have a significant interest in our home state. As the hometown candidate, Publix has supported Commissioner Putnam since he… 1/2
— PublixHelps (@PublixHelps) May 15, 2018
…ran for the state House of Representatives. ^Caroline 2/2
— PublixHelps (@PublixHelps) May 15, 2018
After his tenure in the Florida House, Putnam successfully ran for Congress in 2000, becoming the youngest member of Congress for several years. He then ran for Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner in 2010 and easily won reelection in 2014.
Beyond the fellow Polk County roots, Publix has a lot of reasons to support Putnam. While guns have nothing to do with their business, the grocery chain is most certainly interested in agriculture, transportation, business regulations, taxation, labor laws, etc. — all topics where Putnam has been influential, from his time in the Florida Legislature and Congress, to his current position as Agriculture Commissioner.
There is a fair debate whether Putnam is too conciliatory to the agriculture industry (sugar subsidies being one main topic of concern for limited government advocates) but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why his consistent and longstanding pro-agriculture, pro-business record would earn Publix’s backing.
Logic has little use to online outrage merchants, as we well know. But how successful is the #BoycottPublix effort?
Not very, by all indications — a mere twitterstorm of trivialities, and one that’s already fading.
The Tampa Bay Times provided another dramatic headline yesterday — “Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor” — but the article itself was only able to find “about two dozen people” who had tweeted photos of their receipts showing that they had done their shopping at one of Publix’s competitors.
My own review of the #BoycottPublix hashtag shows similar results. More importantly, many of the claimed boycott announcements aren’t the type to have a major impact on Publix’s bottom line: one involved getting a morning coffee to-go at a local gas station instead of Publix, for example.
A review of Google trends shows a similar drop off in interest in “publix boycott” — a search term that historically wobbles up and down and is now back to where it was before the original May 15th Times story about the donations to Putnam.
As a comparison, searches for “publix subs,” the grocery chain’s famously well-beloved deli sandwiches, have always beaten “publix boycott,” even at the peak reaction to the Times story. And as a practical note, the vast majority of people interested in Publix subs have little reason to Google about them — they already know how to find the delicious subs at their local Publix.
Here’s the reality check: the many consumers who have been doing their regular grocery shopping for years at Publix’s hundreds of stores across the state are unlikely to change their habits. In a state where the legislature has been dominated by Republicans since the nineties, only the most hardcore Democrat activist would consider boycotting a business merely for donating to a Republican candidate — an impractical idea at best.
As Stargel noted, Publix has a long history of charitable community support, one of the top ranked companies in America for social responsibility, and is viewed as a positive work environment, providing a generous employee stock program to even entry level workers and consistently polling as one of the best places to work.
Long live the #PubSub!
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.