Con­sciously sidelin­ing our­selves

The Covington News - - OPINION - ERICK ERICK­SON COLUM­NIST To find out more about Erick Erick­son, visit the Cre­ators Syn­di­cate Web page at www.cre­ators.com.

Though Wal-Mart 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 Wal-Mart. 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 Wal-Mart 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 Wal-Mart. For that mat­ter, for­mer coun­selor to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, Dan Bartlett, is now the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of cor­po­rate af­fairs for Wal-Mart. It may be hard to imag­ine many of Wal-Mart’s ex­ec­u­tive lead­ers be­ing regular shop­pers at Wal-Mart.

To his credit, Wal-Mart’s CEO Doug McMil­lon started out as an hourly em­ployee within the cor­po­ra­tion. But in the last few years, Wal-Mart 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, Wal-Mart cham­pi­oned Oba­macare. In fact, Wal-Mart 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, Wal-Mart 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.”

Wal-Mart 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 Wal-Mart has hitched its wagon to a left-lean­ing so­cial agenda and in­ter­vened in Arkansas to try to kill its re­li­gious lib­erty leg­is­la­tion. Wal-Mart 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. Wal-Mart 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, Wal-Mart has an Achilles heel that its shop­pers and sup­port­ers should con­sider.

Wal-Mart signed on to sup­port Oba­macare to keep unions at bay. When Wal-Mart en­ters a mar­ket, it is never con­ser­va­tives or the poor who op­pose Wal-Mart. It is in­evitably rich lib­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and unions. More of­ten than not, Wal-Mart’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 Wal-Mart park­ing lot, Wal-Mart can send in a con­ser­va­tive to talk jobs, in­vest­ment and in­creased tax rev­enue. When the union comes in to lament Wal-Mart’s la­bor re­la­tions, Wal-Mart 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 ac­count 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. Wal-Mart also op­posed re­li­gious lib­erty leg­is­la­tion, but did not when be­hind the scenes with lob­by­ists and let­ters, hop­ing the public would not no­tice.

Angie’s List may be im­pacted by a boy­cott. Wal-Mart 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 Wal-Mart asks them for help that Wal-Mart has no in­ten­tion of re­flect­ing their val­ues or help­ing them. Time and time again, we help Wal-Mart only to see it back poli­cies that hurt the mid­dle class. We don’t need to boy­cott Wal-Mart. But we don’t have to help them grow. We can con­sciously side­line our­selves and let Wal-Mart fig­ure out who its friends re­ally are.

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