The new NYC Target is open for business, much to the pleasure of many a New Yorker who no longer has to transfer boroughs for their cheap bulk items. But perhaps we should not be so fast to be smug with our “getting a good deal” and “shopping somewhere other than the much-maligned Wal-Mart” faces. As City Pages reports, “GLBT groups were pissed off last week when they learned that Target Corp., which they thought of as gay-friendly, was backing anti-gay marriage Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer through $150,000 in seed money to MN Forward.”
Not only that. Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel and his wife have also “personally donated tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Republican Party of Minnesota,” as well as to Michelle Bachmann, Erik Paulsen, John Kline, Norm Coleman, and George W. Bush.
Per City Pages,
Target’s public support for Emmer is merely a mirror of its CEO’s private preference for Republicans, including Crazy Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Okay, so the Target CEO likes Republicans. So be it. That’s his right, in so far as it goes. We’re not going to deny that there’s a line between what a private citizen (even a CEO) and a corporation does, and certainly a private citizen can spend his money any way he wants — although he shouldn’t be surprised when there’s public backlash, being a CEO and all.
But what about public companies (and probably even some private ones) who take a stand, or what seems like a stand, on either side of the political spectrum? Right now we’re at a time when journalists (people who are paid to have opinions — based on facts — for God’s sake) are taken to task, or even fired, for having “unpopular” ones (see Dave Weigel, Octavia Nasr, Helen Thomas).
We’re also at a time when information like where, exactly, X company donated last year and why, is easy to find, and easy to publicize to large groups of people. Beyond that, there’s a whole mess of folks who will use that information to promote whatever political argument they want to make, or to make out a case for the opposite.
But personally, I don’t want my vanilla-scented candle to come with an opinion about gay marriage — and if it does, I damn well want it to be an opinion that I share.
Target is a public company on the New York Stock Exchange, and as with any business, its goal is to make money. The store is now facing boycotts and backlash from the gay community as well as from people who just don’t want to take morals home with their discount merch. The beauty of that, though, is that it’s exactly how a capitalist system should work, for once. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, and if you don’t like their politics, don’t buy them either.
As for not liking politics, note that Emmer is not just anti-gay marriage. He’s also pro Arizona’s immigration law, has declared health care reform unconstitutional, and thinks the minimum wage for service workers who receive tips should be cut.
Target protests charges of an anti-gay agenda by saying its support goes to business-minded politicians, and according to an email from Steinhafel reported by the AP,
“We rarely endorse all advocated positions of the organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda.”
He added: “Let me be very clear, Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company.”
But…then…why fall in the category of supporting someone like Emmer at all?
As for how the brand new New York Target falls into all of this, we’re wondering: Will this situation contaminate New Yorkers’ desire for cheap, somewhat stylish goods and send us all running back at the KMart at Astor Place? Or will we just join the Boycott Target Facebook Group, and hide beneath large hats while shopping under the shadow of the bulls-eye?
The point may be moot. We’re pretty much all Duane Readers over here anyway.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 27, 2010