You Can’t Accept Part Of Trumpism Without Endorsing The Entirety Of Trumpism
Donald Trump is a complete package, you can't support part of it without at least implicitly endorsing all of it.
Later today, Stephen Ross, the billionaire owner of the Miami Dolphins who also owns the company that runs Soulcycle and the fitness club chain Equinox, will host a high-dollar fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign and the Republican National Committee, and that isn’t sitting well with potential and actual customers:
WATER MILL, N.Y. — Dressed in workout clothes, Lulu Hall hovered by the front door of the SoulCycle studio while fighting back tears.
She had already signed up for Thursday’s 10 a.m. indoor-cycling fitness class when she learned that Stephen Ross, the chairman of the Related Companies, whose principals own majority stakes in SoulCycle and the fitness club chain Equinox, was planning to host a fund-raiser at his Hamptons home for President Trump on Friday. Different levels of access will be offered to donors, including a photo with the president for $100,000.
Ms. Hall, a stay-at-home mom who lives in Brooklyn and nearby Sag Harbor, N.Y., is a regular SoulCycle customer who has found inspiration in the brand’s message of sweaty spirituality and community. But she is not a supporter of Mr. Trump’s, and was alarmed to realize the money she spends at SoulCycle, where 45-minute classes held in the Hamptons cost $42, was profiting a Trump booster who would be hosting the president at his home on Friday, just a few miles from her morning ride.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said as class was about to begin. “Part of me feels like a hypocrite for going.”
Briggs Coleman, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., and spends summers in the Hamptons, had no such concerns. “I don’t want to hear about politics while I’m working out,” she said. “There is a lack of respect. People should just respect the president,” she said, adding an expletive.
Amid a summer of division and dissent over treatment of migrants, political rhetoric and gun safety, the anger that has roiled 2020 campaign events and social media feeds has landed with a barbell’s thud on the fitness studios, where the well heeled pay for expensive club memberships and boutique classes to release tension and burn fat.
The controversy may seem trivial in the scope of things, especially to people directly affected by the news of the past week: mass shootings, large-scale arrests of immigrant workers. But many bystanders, engaged or enraged by those events, were troubled by the financial connection to SoulCycle and Equinox and a president whose policies they do not support.
Political fund-raisers hosted in the Hamptons by wealthy New Yorkers are an annual August rite. Yet news that Mr. Ross is supporting Mr. Trump’s re-election efforts was met with a swift outcry on social media, with indoor cyclers and club members vowing to boycott. Both companies have significant customer bases in liberal cities and promote themselves as safe havens for the L.G.B.T. community and stalwarts against bigotry.
Equinox, a fitness club with 100 locations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, and SoulCycle, which has 94 studio locations, released statements distancing themselves from Mr. Ross. “SoulCycle in no way endorses the political fund-raising event being held later this week,” the company said. “Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of SoulCycle.” Equinox’s statement also referred to Mr. Ross as “a passive investor.” It added, “We want to let you to know that Equinox and SoulCycle have nothing to do with the event and do not support it.”
Management is struggling to control the damage. On Wednesday, SoulCycle’s chief talent officer sent an email to instructors providing “talking points” to share with customers. They included, “At SoulCycle, we believe in diversity, inclusion, and equality. All souls are welcome” and “None of the money you spend at SoulCycle will go to this event.”
Meanwhile, people who work for the fitness company are organizing to register their anger. On Thursday, emails from an anonymous Gmail account went out to some Equinox employees calling for a strike. “If we do not show up to work, the clubs can not function,” the email read. “We are the cleaners, the managers, the trainers, the group fitness instructors, the sales reps, the shop salespeople, the spa professions and the gatekeepers. Our collective efforts will have results.”
Inside the 10 a.m. class at the Water Mill studio on Thursday, it was entirely perspiration and no politics. All but a handful of the nearly 70 bikes were occupied by ponytail-wagging, sports bra-wearing riders who had shown up for a workout led by Mireya D’Angelo, one of the company’s most popular instructors. As “Havana” by Camila Cabello and Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” blasted in the dark room, the mostly female cyclers swayed and bopped like dancers at a club exclusively for stationary bikers.
Toward the end of the class, the staffers who had been working at the check-in desk skipped in and sashayed across the studio, wielding flashlights and positive attitudes. Many bikers swung hand towels above their heads.
In the parking lot after class, the feel-good endorphins turned to agitated adrenaline as some riders realized a reporter was present. “Are you here to ruin people’s day?” shouted one woman wearing a baseball cap with the word “LOVE” written in rainbow letters. Her friend called out, “I love you, SoulCycle!”
Jared Epstein, who lives in New York City and Water Mill, was circumspect. “All Americans are entitled to their own opinions and their own political views,” he said, calling Mr. Ross “a great human being.
Mr. Ross, the man whose political fund-raising is at the center of this tempest, is a billionaire who owns the Miami Dolphins and has a wide range of business interests anchored by the Related Companies, one of the most powerful real-estate interests in New York. (Related Companies retains a majority stake in Equinox, of which SoulCycle is a subsidiary — the holding is divided among the firm’s partners, of which Mr. Ross is only one, making him a minority investor.)
Mr. Ross issued a statement on Wednesday noting that he had known President Trump for 40 years. He said he agreed with him on some issues, but “strongly disagreed” on others. He also said he has always “been an active participant in the democratic process.”
Mr. Ross has primarily been a donor to Republicans, though he has given to Democrats as well over the years, including Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Mark Warner of Virginia, as well as Representative Lois Frankel of Florida.
So far in 2019, Mr. Ross has contributed $150,000, topped by $50,000 to the Republican National Committee and $33,600 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In the 2018 midterms, Mr. Ross’s largest contributions were $155,000 to the political committees of then-Speaker Paul Ryan and $150,000 to the R.N.C.
We’ve seen this kind of thing before, of course. Several years ago now, Brendan Eich was forced to step aside as Chief Executive Officer at Mozilla when it was revealed that he had donated to the effort to pass Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage after the state’s Supreme Court had ruled otherwise. In this case, though, Ross is saying that he does not support the President’s racially tinged rhetoric but he is supportive of generally conservative causes such as tax reform and other issues and that it is because of this that he’s hosting the fundraiser tonight.
The question that this raises, of course, is whether it’s really possible for someone to back part of Trump’s agenda without at least implicitly endorsing the rest of the package that comes with it, including the xenophobia, the racism, the vile personal attacks and everything else. People in Ross’s position would say that you can, but that position would be far more credible if he and people like him were willing to stand up and criticize the President when he steps over the line or when, as he often does, he fans the flames of racial or ethnic discord. If they did this, then it would be a lot easier to accept the argument that Ross and others like him make.
The problem is that this isn’t happening. With very few exceptions, the people who back Trump are silent even when he says something utterly outrageous, something that has been a part of his personality going back more than forty years. It’s not as if these people can plead ignorance, all they needed to do was look to the President’s rhetoric and actions to see what kind of man he really is.
After all, this is the same man who started out his campaign by attacking Mexicans, Muslims, disabled people, a Federal District Court Judge who happened to be Mexican-American and a Gold Star Family who happened to be Muslim. In response to N.F.L. players who were peacefully kneeling to protest racially biased police violence, he responded by calling the largely African-American players “sons of bitches.” He responded to the racist rally that resulted in a murder in Charlottesville by essentially excusing the rhetoric of the white supremacists who organized the rally. And, of course, most recently he has spent the last three weeks engaged in racist attacks on four minority Congresswomen and on House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings. This week, that target list expanded to include CNN anchor Don Lemon, who is African-American and who Trump once again described as “one of the dumbest men on television,” something he has said about the CNN host in the past.
It was also apparent long before he became a candidate for President, Trump engaged in housing discrimination in the 1970s. In the 1990s, he took out a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the death penalty for the so-called Central Park Five, a group of five African-American teens who were falsely convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park. Even to this day, Trump refuses to apologize for that position and refuses to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of their innocence. Finally, and perhaps most infamously, he first dipped his toes in 21st Century national politics by embracing the racist birther conspiracy.
To say that they didn’t know what they were buying into is quite simply a lie. You can’t treat Trumpism as a cafeteria where you select some of Trump’s ideas without being responsible for the others. You can’t just support him for the tax cuts, or the judges, or the deregulation and say you don’t support his racism. It’s all part of the same package. If you don’t like that, then maybe you need to reconsider your support for Trump to begin with.