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, Wal-Mart'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, Wal-Mart 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.