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An Open Letter to Anheuser-Busch

“We like to say that beer is bipartisan…” 

Cesar Vargas, Chief External Affairs Officer, Anheuser-Busch 

“… Anheuser-Busch is committed to uniting our communities, strength­ening our democracy and encouraging even greater participation in the political process.”

Cesar Vargas, Chief External Affairs Officer, Anheuser-Busch

Mr. Vargas,

Congratulations on your company’s recent effort to support the election cycle by providing hand sanitizer to keep our polling places safe. It’s encouraging to see private businesses lend a hand, an idea, and even resources to benefit the American people. 

And, in the wake of a partisan, destructive, and corrosive election cycle, I’d like to appeal to your business sensibilities to ask you to go a step further with your idea that beer is bipartisan. 

Anheuser-Busch’s ongoing support of the Commission on Presidential Debates is a boon for the two major political parties in America. Through the company’s 24-year support of the CPD, Anheuser Busch has, perhaps unwittingly, helped the two major parties legitimize their effort to exclude other parties from the political conversation. Instead of expanding public participation, the CPD has constrained the political conversation in this country by raising the barrier to entry so high that it excludes all but the most powerful voices: Republicans and Democrats. 

Consider some facts about the two major parties that exist in a bipartisan scenario.

  • The Democratic National Committee apologized to Bernie Sanders in 2016 for the “inexcusable remarks made over email” and for its failure to remain neutral during the primary, to the benefit of Hillary Clinton.
  • President Donald Trump threatened to run as an Independent candidate in 2016 because he believed the Republican National Committee wasn’t treating him fairly. 
  • A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of voters consider themselves independent of a political party, with the majority being males under the age of 50. Independent voters outnumber both Republicans and Democrats.
  • The two major parties worked together to create the Commission on Presidential Debates in 1986, which is headed by leaders from each of the two major political parties. No independent candidate has met the threshold to participate in the presidential debate since 1992.
  • Our existing system allows a donor to contribute $847,500 annually to a national political party, but only $5,400 per election cycle to an independent candidate committee.
  • A 2017 report from Harvard Business School found that overall, average voters (as opposed to sharply partisan voters) and non-voters represent up to 70% of citizens eligible to vote—the majority. (It’s noteworthy that this study was carried out by business leaders rather than political experts.)

To their own benefit, and at the expense of American voters, the two parties have excluded all other parties from the current debate process, and the CPD has made it possible. 

As an experienced businessman, you certainly understand the power of competition. In a crowded field of craft and non-craft beers, Anheuser Busch maintains its popularity and its market share, not by crowding out competitors, but by serving its customers. 

The political parties should be required to do the same: to engage with the people they are seeking to serve and earn their trust.

The easy first step for Anheuser Busch is to go beyond bipartisan and choose to be non-partisan. Use your significant influence and resources to push our political system in a direction that benefits voters. Explain to the CPD why you refuse to continue legitimizing the existing debate structure, and consider how you might share your influence and your resources to truly strengthen our democracy and increase voter participation by ushering in change. 

Powerful organizations are shaping the political landscape in this country, and the American people are being left out of the conversation. Anheuser Busch has the opportunity to demonstrate meaningful leadership to a country that is weary of a broken political system, and to begin the work of returning voters to this very important conversation.

“Anheuser-Busch is here for the times that matter. The moments where we celebrate, defy challenges, dream of the brighter future we are building today– and all the moments in between. We are a company that brings people together for richer conversations, sweeter celebrations and stronger communities… We are business partners, collaborators and community leaders working to make a difference around the corner and around the globe.”

Based on your website’s description of your team, I’m optimistic that you’ll see the need for exactly this kind of leadership.


Shannon Rasmussen