Consciously Sidelining Ourselves

Though Walmart remains fixed in the American conscience as Sam Walton’s business, it is less and less that. Walton was folksy and relatable to the Americans who shopped at Walmart. Everyone could imagine Sam Walton shopping there too. But over the years, Walmart’s management has passed out of the direct hands of Walton’s family.

A few of the Walton clan remain on the Walmart Board of Directors, but now its board also includes Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, and Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram. One would be hard pressed to imagine either as regular shoppers at Walmart. For that matter, former counselor to President George W. Bush, Dan Bartlett, is now the Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Walmart. It may be hard to imagine many of Walmart’s executive leaders being regular shoppers at Walmart.

To his credit, Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon started out as an hourly employee within the corporation. But in the last few years, Walmart has seemed less and less the story of Americana and more and more the story of a group of elites posing as Americana.

In 2009, Walmart championed Obamacare. In fact, Walmart went so far as to sign a letter with the Service Employees International Union, a major player within Democrat politics. After Obamacare passed, Walmart promptly declared it would no longer offer health insurance to many of its part-time employees.

Recently, Walmart also led an effort to pass the so-called “Main Street Fairness Act,” which is actually legislation that would allow states to tax the internet. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The drivers of this rush to tax are Wal-Mart and other big retailers that can more easily absorb the costs of collection than can smaller competitors.”

Walmart has, over the years, become disconnected from its shoppers. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has the support of a majority of Americans. In Arkansas it was backed overwhelmingly by the public. But Walmart has hitched its wagon to a left-leaning social agenda and intervened in Arkansas to try to kill its religious liberty legislation. Walmart hopes its shoppers will not notice and, even if they do, it is not like their shoppers can afford to go elsewhere.

That is, frankly, true. Walmart has low prices and now has rolled out grocery stores in areas of the country closer to those who need low priced groceries. But in doing so, Walmart has an Achilles heel that its shoppers and supporters should consider.

Walmart signed on to support Obamacare to keep unions at bay. When Walmart enters a market it is never conservatives or the poor who oppose Walmart. It is inevitably rich liberal environmentalists and unions. More often than not, Walmart’s grassroots strategy is to turn to preachers and conservatives to lobby on the company’s behalf.

When the environmentalist shows up to lament water runoff from all the paved surfaces in a Walmart parking lot, Walmart can send in a conservative to talk jobs, investment, and increased tax revenue. When the union comes in to lament Walmart’s labor relations, Walmart can send in the preacher to talk about the poor and the needs of the community. They have been quite effective.

Many conservatives, myself included, cancelled their accounted to Angie’s List when the company came out vocally against religious liberty legislation. Its CEO was publicly critical of Christians. The financials of the company suggest it may not be long for the world. Walmart also opposed religious liberty legislation, but did not behind the scenes with lobbyists and letters hoping the public would not notice.

Angie’s List may be impacted by a boycott. Walmart will never be hurt by a boycott and a boycott would be silly anyway. But conservatives and pastors might want to remember the next time Walmart asks them for help that Walmart has no intention of reflecting their values or helping them. Time and time again, we help Walmart only to see it back policies that hurt the middle class. We don’t need to boycott Walmart. But we don’t have to help them grow. We can consciously sideline ourselves and let Walmart figure out who its friends really are.

To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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