Nov 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trumpworld gets behind a MAGA-friendly shopping site

Photo illustration of a hand cursor with a MAGA hat resting on the index finger.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Pool/Getty Images

Former President Trump's MAGA flock now has its own shopping platform, where like-minded conservatives can snub what they see as "leftist" businesses and buy things "from people who respect life, family and freedom."

Why it matters: The platform — dubbed PublicSquare and backed by investors including Donald Trump Jr. and his fiancee, Kimberly Guilfoyle — is part of a growing crop of companies riding a backlash to what some conservatives see as corporations and retailers that promote overly progressive social agendas.

Zoom in: PublicSquare says it doesn't endorse political candidates, but its most prominent supporters, its products and its mission statement can seem like they just stepped out of a Trump rally.

  • Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.), both Trump loyalists, have begun promoting the site in town hall-type events.
  • On Wednesday, featured items on the site included Christmas decorations, boxes for storing firearms, and goods from a coffee company called COVFEFE, named after an odd late-night tweet by Donald Trump in 2017.
  • Among COVFEFE's offerings: "Drain the Swamp Medium Roast" and "MAGA Dark Roast."

PublicSquare's mission statement hints at the frequent tensions between the former president and his allies on one side, and Trump critics and fact-checkers on the other:

  • "We will NEVER deem or label an opinion, thought or fact as "misinformation," it says. "We are a technology company, not the arbiters of truth."

What they're saying: "This is very much a forgotten man and woman working-class concept — giving a voice to small business in general ... while also giving conservatives a place where they feel good about actually spending their money" Trump Jr. tells Axios.

Between the lines: PublicSquare CEO Michael Seifert tells Axios his target audience is tens of millions of Americans "who don't feel celebrated in our marketplace, and feel ostracized."

  • The platform, launched in July 2022, now claims to host about 71,000 small businesses and has a customer base of 1.6 million, according its latest SEC filings. The company also says it's on track to turn a profit next year.
  • Its board includes former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Blake Masters, an Arizona Republican who lost a bid for Senate last year and is running for a House seat in 2024, and Nick Ayers, a former top aide to then-Vice President Mike Pence.
  • PublicSquare says it's gotten a boost each time conservatives have launched social media-driven boycotts of prominent companies because of the companies' diversity and inclusion efforts.
  • Those episodes include Bud Light's partnership with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney, and Target's Pride Month merchandise.

The big picture: Many of the more popular products sold on PublicSquare tap into conservative Republicans' social agenda:

  • Everylife Diapers, advertised as the product of the seller's partnership with pro-life organizations, are pitched as alternatives to Huggies.
  • Faith Friends Dolls are touted as a "Christian alternative" to 18-inch American Girl dolls that don't "indoctrinate your children with harmful gender ideology" or "in appropriate style."
  • Rifle-adorned onesies and hair scrunchies with pistol patterns are sold by a brand called "Moms Who Carry."

The bottom line: Conservative-driven e-commerce "is just scratching the surface," says Omeed Malik, CEO of Colombier Acquisition Corp., which earlier this year agreed to merge with PublicSquare.

  • "I don't want to boycott," Malik said. "I want to give people choices, so they don't go back to places like Target."
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