A month ago, Nordstrom told Ivanka Trump it would no longer be carrying her clothing line. “We made this decision based on performance,” Nordstrom stated. “Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now. We’ve had a great relationship with the Ivanka Trump team. We’ve had open conversations with them over the past year to share what we’ve seen and Ivanka was personally informed of our decision in early January.”
Ivanka Trump’s team said this was false – that the brand had sold briskly, and that Nordstrom caved to political pressure from the left. Nordstrom maintains that it will continue selling Trump’s clothing inventory, and won’t be pulling remainders from the shelves.
Nordstrom isn’t the first company to move away from Ivanka Trump since her father’s presidential run: Neiman Marcus pulled her jewelry from its website, and this week TJ Maxx pulled down Trump signage and instead re-racked Trump’s clothing alongside other clothing.
First things first: private businesses have a right to do whatever they want to do with regard to the products they buy and the suppliers with whom they choose to do business.
Now: it’s really stupid for businesses to boycott businesses of relatives of politicians because they are afraid of blowback. Boycotts simply do not work as a general matter. If Nordstrom was truly afraid that people would stop going to their stores thanks to the presence of Ivanka’s clothing, they’re jumping to conclusions not based on evidence. Virtually all customers of stores like Nordstrom, which offers tons of brands, do not care that Ivanka’s is one brand among many. They’re not going to skip buying a Versace product from Nordstrom just because Trump has a product in the same aisle. If Ivanka’s products really stopped selling, that’s one thing; if they didn’t, this precipitate fear that Trump’s brand will poison theirs is over-the-top.
It also makes for an uglier country. So long as the person who owns a clothing line isn’t doing anything truly immoral – and sorry, having your dad elected as president doesn’t count – it’s ridiculous to boycott the brand. This is the same tendency from the left that led to the firing of Brendan Eich from Mozilla Firefox for the great sin of once having given money to a traditional marriage cause, or that led to the failed boycott of Chick-Fil-A over the owner’s traditional marriage stance.
Now, President Trump.
Trump immediately took to Twitter to smack Nordstrom, tweeting, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person – always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” The @POTUS account on Twitter then retweeted this. Trump pursued this same sort of line during the campaign when Macy’s pulled his own brand.
But he didn’t stop there. He deployed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to rant, “This is a direct attack on his policies and her name.” Kellyanne Conway went on television and stated, with the White House logo in the background, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. I hate shopping but I’m going to go get some for myself today.”
This is a move that should have come from outside the White House. It’s utterly absurd for the president of the United States and his lackeys to use the weight of their authority to boost the brand of a family member of the president. It’s junta-style politics. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had been elected president, and had told people to give more money to Chelsea’s foundation. The right would have correctly gone nuts.
This dramatically undercuts Trump’s claims that he’s separated off from his business interests or those of his family. It may even be illegal (under federal law, employees are not supposed to use public office for endorsement of “any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives.” None of this does Trump himself any good.
This is the biggest problem with Trump’s combative philosophy: it calls for punchback even when such punchback is counterproductive. He has plenty of allies who will line up to do this work, but Trump feels the necessity to turn the power of the presidency on his daughter’s enemies. That’s foolish and corrupt.
Everybody needs to take a step back. Ivanka isn’t some enemy to be destroyed in the marketplace just because some people disagree with her politically. And the presidency ought not become a bully pulpit for the businesses of relatives in response.