Last Sunday, In-N-Out was a focus in the Famous Sayings post I published that day. The following Wednesday, August 29, 2018, the burger chain became the focus of voters in California because of the news that it donated $25,000 to the California Democratic Party.
How do I feel about this news? To put it bluntly, I don’t really care about In-N-Out’s donations given the circumstances. However, I feel that I must speak out about the boycott because I feel that it’s incredibly stupid.
Who Is Leading This Charge?
On Wednesday, August 29, 2018, a Washington, D.C.-based reported named Gabe Schneider shared a tweet that contained a screenshot of In-N-Out’s public filing records.
The records, which come courtesy of the California Secretary of State’s website, showed that the Irvine, CA-based burger chain donated $25,000 to the CA Republican Party.
The news was soon picked up by California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman, who made a tweet about the news. Bauman called for a boycott of In-N-Out Burgers and started the hashtag #BoycottInNOut.
How Have People Reacted?
Overall, there was a mixed reaction to Eric Bauman’s feeble calls to boycott In-N-Out. While Republicans seized the opportunity to express their support for such a popular California institution, not all Democrats were on board with Bauman’s call. Some Democrats saw boycotting In-N-Out as a worthwhile way to protest Donald Trump, but even John Vigna, a California Democrat Party spokesman, made it clear that Bauman’s comments did not reflect the views of most Democrats in the party.
Bauman was quickly rebuked by Jim Brulte of all people (who is currently the CA Republican Party chair) and Republican John Cox (who is running against Gavin Newsom in the CA governor’s race) used the opportunity to take a jab at his opponent. Brulte pointed out how In-N-Out donated to a PAC that donates to moderate Democrats.
How Does This Compare to the Chick-fil-A Controversy?
This controversy has drawn some comparisons to the Chick-fil-A controversy that arose in 2012, but there really is no comparison.
In 2012, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy sparked a controversy by expressing anti-gay views. It was also revealed that the company donated to organizations that opposed gay marriage and promoted gay conversion therapy. In the two years since, Cathy spearheaded an image makeover of the franchise founded by his father, S. Truett Cathy. The fast-food restaurant chain started in the South and was injected with the Cathys’ conservative values, but the younger Cathy felt it best to minimize his role in politics in order to expand to more states, particularly in urban areas.
In 2008, El Coyote, an L.A. Mexican restaurant, faced a boycott after it was revealed that one of its managers supported a bill to ban same-sex marriage in California. It’s still standing.
Basically, things have blown over with Chick-fil-A and El Coyote. In-N-Out should be fine because the burger chain’s founders and current owner have done nothing like the Cathys. Although the boycott against Chick-fil-A never really harmed the franchise financially, the reasoning was justifiable, and it pushed Dan Cathy to improve his company’s image.
Also: While In-N-Out has given money to Republicans, it has given to Democrats, too. Yes, the burger chain gave $25,000 to the California GOP this year, and it donated $30,000 to the California GOP in May 2016 and August 2017. However, In-N-Out donated to the moderate Democratic PAC called Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy in 2016 ($30,00), 2017 ($30,000), and May 2018 ($50,000).
Ultimately, it is clear that most people will put their stomachs and their taste buds over politics where In-N-Out was concerned. While the founders of In-N-Out, Harry and Esther Snyder, were Christian and Bible verses can be found on some of the burger chain’s packaging, this has never been a problem for the burger chain’s patrons. And the current owner and executives of the chain haven’t engaged in public political discussions. Even so, controversies like the ones involving El Coyote and Chick-fil-A eventually blew over.
What Do I Think?
As I said above, this dustup is stupid on Bauman’s part and on the part of Republicans who are making of show buying from In-N-Out just to “own the libs.” There have been more mature responses from people regardless of their political preference, though.
For one thing, people have pointed out that In-N-Out isn’t just known for its tasty menu, but how it pays its employees. As discussed in a January 2018 story for USA Today, the burger chain pays its regular employees with a starting salary of $13.00 an hour (CA’s minimum wage is $11.00/hour). Managers can earn around $160,000 a year, without a degree. Basically, a boycott of a company that treats its workers well is misguided, to say the least.
Also, this call for a boycott is stupid because this is an election year. As Sacramento Bee Associate Editor Erika D. Smith pointed out Democrats need to do all they can to flip Republican-held districts in the state.
Instead of pointing left-leaning Californians’ energy toward a meaningless boycott, it would make more sense to put energy into getting out the vote. That’s what “liberal” billionaire Tom Steyer, his group NextGen American, and a collection of labor unions were focused on doing. Although, Steyer’s group has shied away from helping Ammar Campa-Najjar, who currently trails the recently-indicted Duncan Hunter by 8 points.
Additionally, I wouldn’t want to follow Bauman’s lead on anything. I remember what happened last year and how the chairmanship was essentially stolen by superdelegates in the California State Party. Bauman is a corporatist with ties to the pharmaceutical industry and his opponent for the chair race, Kimberlee Ellis, was threatened if she continued to fight against the vote. In short, eff Bauman.
Boycotts must have good reasoning behind them and this boycott of In-N-Out just won’t cut it. It is petty and it will ultimately prove unsuccessful because the burger chain’s image and the tastiness of its food will win out.