Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Voting with my dollars

After last year’s election and seeing the two campaigns that I felt passionately about both lose, Measure 36 and John Kerry, I came away saddened, disheartened, beaten, battered, let down, shocked and disgruntled. I let myself feel that for about a day. And then I got mad.

Measure 36 was really personal. The presidential campaign was just shocking. My partner and I got together with some friends and talked about what we could do (after commiserating on our defeats first, of course). We talked about what the other side does as standard practice. And what we saw on the other side was the good ol’ boys and their network.

The good ol’ boys buy each others services, make sure they help their friends in the “magic circle”, and give business to each other to ensure their mutual success. Before the election I had somewhat followed the concept of voting with my dollar. But after the election, I held onto it as a course of action and empowerment for something I could do to ensure my voice was heard and to keep fighting the good fight.

And I love that phrase. Voting with your dollar. My vote didn’t count for jack shit on those two campaigns I mentioned above. (If I was a more positive person I could argue that of course it did). But one of the most powerful statements you can make is where and how you spend your money. Since last November we’ve really thought twice about where and how we spend our money. We needed a new porch railing: I went to the Portland Gay Yellow pages to find a fellow queer or queer supporting business. Same thing with landscaping help. We buy with confidence at Costco, knowing they’re one of the largest “Buy Blue” supporters. We support local businesses that give back to the community.

Do I research every single purchase I make? No. Do I refuse to buy from a business that doesn’t make any statement whatsoever? Of course not. But why should I give my money to a business that will use a portion of my money to fight causes that I give money to support? And after having my personal relationships out there on the line for people to squabble over and seeing the environmental protection laws going to hell in a handbasket, among other things including going to war, I want to say I have hope and faith in our government and our governmental system, but I don’t.

But I do have a job, and I do spend money. And I hold the power for where I spend it. I have options and I utilize them. If you’re a business that supports causes that I believe in, I want to know about it. Because I’ll support you. But if you use your dollars to support discrimination or fight environmental regulations or to make money from poor people like gambling, I hope my money never gets you one cent.

I talked this over with a friend at lunch today. He’d much rather buy things from people he knows. Being a foodie, he frequents restaurants where he knows and likes the owners. He knows where they buy their produce from. He likes the knowing. And I think that’s a lot of what this is all about: being aware of what you’re supporting when you buy a product or service. And feeling okay with it. Certainly the voting with your dollar may not be the right thing for everyone to do, particularly when it comes to accessibility, budget, quality etc. But being aware that every time you spend your money you hold the power to make a statement of what you believe in, that’s pretty cool. The difference between the new “vote with your dollar” mentality eschewed by the left is no different than the long held beliefs in the good ol’ boy network on the right. We’re just being upfront and vocal about it.

So what if you want to vote with your dollar?
-Look at groups or memberships of the company you’re purchasing from;
-Check out on-line resources like Buy Blueto check political donations of companies you’re supporting;
-Pay attention to in-store signage, newsletters and affiliate programs of the stores or organizations you support;
-If you patronize a business that you see is participating in sponsorship of a program or project that you disagree with, let the business know your position and ask them to stop. Let them know why and tell them you’re a customer.
-Websites such as www.followthemoney.org and www.opensecrets.org allow you to see what individuals or businesses support what campaigns.
-Talk with friends and family about your choice to vote with your dollar and why. Share with them information that you find along the way: for many people it can be shocking to discover your favorite clothing store, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologe, for example, is owned by a huge right wing supporter. Or that your health club, Curves, is owned by a born-again Christian and supporter of anti-abortion initiatives . Often just sharing the facts is enlightening enough.
-Clarify what you will and won’t support. Often the chain of support can be complicated. Don’t feel it’s all or nothing: if it means starting with a simple weekly decision, start there.
-Up the ante and revise your Vote With Your Dollar manifesto yearly. For example, we’re now looking beyond services and local goods: what’s the political stance and record of our mortgage company? And what’s our option in this regard? If I can get comparative rates and quality of service from a company that provides the same thing yet supports my political beliefs and the community organizations I support, I’d much rather see my dollars go there. And the big ticket items are key: mortgage, autos, insurance, appliances etc.

And finally, this whole post stemmed from a little scofflaw that broke out about where to eat for dinner over at Metroblogs and then continued into to its own post and topic (thanks Betsy for capturing that). When there are hundreds of options in this great foodie town, you can bet I won’t go to one that actually resides inside of a Shilo Inn. That’s akin to walking into the lion’s den. I can get the same, if not better quality food, in a kajillion other places and know that my $25 is not supporting political action that’s geared at discriminating against me. That, is a very easy decision.
About the owner of Shilo Inns…He has been a longtime funder and vocal supporter of conservative politics in Oregon. A 5-minute websearch also pulled…

- Most recently he was cited for poaching and illegal hunting activity

- He’s the second greatest beneficiary of state-sponsored video poker

- He’s supported the scandals of Bill Sizemore

- He supported the Bush campaign.
-
And in most circles, he’s referred to as “ultra-conservative.”

12 comments:

The Recovering Straight Girl said...

very good post Lelo and something to keep close in mind. I will check out your links...

BTW, e-mail me at recoveringstraightgirl@verizon.net and I will give you the low down on Double Down and the other lesbian event I try to attend regularly.

Betsy said...

Really nicely done - I've updated my Metblogs post to point to this.

Leslie Carlson said...

Lelo, I'm glad there are other people who think like I do. I've broken a bad Target habit (I'm down to one trip every year or so) because they support causes and candidates I don't believe in. And you know what? I don't really miss it that much.

The Recovering Straight Girl said...

Oh no. Target is BAD??? I heart Target and I boycott Wal-Mart.

Now what am I going to do????

Anonymous said...

People say they are Democrats, and they shout to stop the Republican terror. And then every month the same people pay more money to fuel the fascist fires. Every month, when they pay the cable TV or dish TV corporation. While we keep buying them more rope, they keep lynching democracy on TV. Duh!!

BOYCOTT bundle-TV packages, which have in them FOX fear flinging. And Khristian broadcast. Brain-sick liars. And straight-out psycho's. If you don't watch, you still pay. FOX nickels: They steal, you don't feel.

So cut 'em off !! You're getting NEWS HERE, aren't you? Cable TV BOYCOTT does not fix everything, I know, but it's a start. It is something one person CAN DO. A cable channel collects about a billion dollars a year in cash, and "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon we're talking about real money," in a slushfund for fascism. From our entertainment dollar.

Now, whatever little it pains cable TV when a subscription cancels, it helps millions of subscribers big-time to keep $600 a year or more in their family budget. And. you. don't. miss. a. thing. Except Bush propaganda lies in your face.

Without cable TV poured thick on Americans, we could have 2000 soldier-neighbors here alive with us, and 50,000 more healthy and whole. Them, I miss.

We sign the soldiers' death warrants on every check we write for more TV propaganda -- lies that say war sacrifice saves us. Nope. Lies kill us. Small personal sacrifice by millions of people saves us.

Cancel all cable and dish TV subscriptions. It drives a dictator crazy when people shut him off and don't listen. Vote NO -- NO Dollars for Murdoch Murder.

Notorious J.E.S said...

Lelo,

What a great subject thanks so much for writing about it! This younger generation that doesn't care so much about voting for candidates or traditional civic behavior, is a growing generation of consumer activists: we often vote with our checkbooks. Maybe it's too avoid bad business, support good businesses, those owned by people we like, or those that use local products, either way, we think about how we spend our money. We can't spend 100% of our money in this fashion -- it would be an overwhelming burden. We can and do, however, get close (my wife will verify that I am rather obnoxious in this personal quest). I once wrote a paper about this in school -- using really sound data -- I want to go re-find and read it again.

I do have a question to pose to you and your other readers, if I might: what happens if there is a really great, one of a kind restaurant housed in a hotel that is known for it's poor business practices and political giving. You of course avoid patronizing the hotel, but the restaurant, while they pay rent to the hotel, is technically a seperate business. What do you think? Avoid the restaurant altogether, eat there and think nothing of it, or just go have a good guilt meal?

Rozanne said...

Excellent post.

I'm surprised that Costco turns out to be Blue--it sure seems like it would be red somehow.

LeLo in NoPo said...

Oh Leslie, I'm so sad to hear about Target. Because RSG, I too am a lover of the Target. I'll have to research the Target stuff...

Yes, Rozanne, I'm surprised too about Costco, and while we aren't regulars there, I know I can spend with a clear conscience.

As to the question notorious j.e.s. poses, it's a good one. And it's pretty close to the original scenario that started this whole thing (a chinese restaurant in a Shilo Inn), if it's Shilo Inn, I still won't do it. Shilo is just bad bad bad. And it requires me to be under their roof. Shudder. But remove the Shilo aspect from it, and I have to say I'd patronize the restaurant, and I would rave to the owner about their food. It's one of a kind, and it's really great (in your words). But I'd also tell them that it's really too bad where they're located. For all I know their lease is up tomorrow and he/she hasn't decided what to do. They may not even be aware of the hotels poor business practices and political giving. And their response may make the world of difference.....

Rigo said...

It's very hard to do that here where I live. It is very republican and christianm and it is hard to shop somewhere that openly supports gay causes. I assume the Daily Bagel is gay friendly because occasionally they carry Just Out, I guess whenever someone goes to PDX. and I've seen plenty o lesbians in there.

Ja'AmLo said...

Its next to impossible to do that here, so we grow our own food, and give birth in our living room. Also shop online with responsible vendors.

Have you done ant research on Ebay, Amazon, Yahoo, Google, microsoft, Apple etc? It would be very interesting to find out who's who and where the money is going. I can pretty much guarantee you that Dell and HP are not the kind of companies you want to buy computers from if you are voting with your dollar.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the local.. Jake's rest. and McCormick&schmicks,,, Extreme RW supporters. Also, this is "living" involvement... it's a good thing. Get involved. if you read this you have computer access. Hammer your legis. reps at state and federal, senators. That is so easy to do. send them an email of a current topic.. they will respond.. thanks.

Casey said...

Awesome post, Lelo. As a NoLo NoPo newbie (moved here earlier this year from the hell that is Gresham) it's good to know we have like-minded neighbors out there. Voting with our money is something we try to do but definately need to make more of an effort.