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Walmart is about to get a look at the legislative prize it has purchased, and it may not like what it sees.
The world’s largest retailer and taxpayer has gone woke. Its political giving, once solidly conservative, now has reached parity between left and right. Its corporate headquarters has stood up a vast diversity compliance operation with tentacles into every store and vendor in the Walmart family.
It has spent tens of millions of dollars to bring woke critical race theory educational techniques to its home base in Northwest Arkansas, and it has become generally hostile to conservative lawmakers.
Now Democrats, who control the Senate, are asking Republican senators for help to pass the Credit Card Competition Act, which would significantly help Walmart by imposing a government cap on interchange fees, the fees retailers pay to banks when customers pay with credit cards.
Walmart has lobbied for years for a cap on this fee, and it has a broad coalition of trade groups it funds and/or controls behind the proposal, including the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the National Retail Federation and the Merchants Payment Coalition. Their objective is to encourage Republicans to sign on.
Last year, one did – Roger Marshall of Kansas. But he has not joined the effort this year, and it is believed he has been swayed to the other side on this legislation.
Walmart has bullied its woke education ideas into deeply red Northwest Arkansas. It has gone from paying for diversity training sessions for teachers and administrators in Bentonville, Ark., to funding a 5-year “equity plan” for Fayetteville, Ark., public schools that includes a Diversity-Equity-Inclusion research institute at the University of Arkansas.
Teachers in Fayetteville say the training included the “six tenets of critical race theory,” which emphasized concepts such as microaggressions, intersectionality and “systemic inequality = trauma.” They say“restorative justice,” which means not punishing students for wrongdoing for fear of stigmatizing them, has left classrooms dangerous and unstable.
They’ve been cagey about it, too, refusing to comment and urging school systems they are involved with to resist freedom-of-information inquiries. And in their home area they are tough to stop because the community counts on them for jobs, flourishing and contributions to a vast array of community causes.
Walmart imposed on then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a leftist Republican, to veto a ban on transgender surgeries for minors, which the legislature overrode and signed into law. The current governor, former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has signed an executive order banning critical race theory in Arkansas, which will prohibit some of the programs the Waltons have underwritten.
So Walmart’s executives are about to find out if their leftist activism was worth it. They poked Northwest Arkansas in the eye, and they have made a lot of progress in a variety of areas in advancing their radical leftist views of education and community.
They have shifted their political giving strongly toward Democrats and seem to be trending toward becoming still more Democrat-heavy in donations. They have made their voices heard on social issues in a way that doesn’t agree with many of their customers and the lawmakers they now need.
And they’ve been warned. Even moderate Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., cautioned big business about the dangers of embracing radical leftist ideology.
“ … If they silence conservatives and center-right voters … if they discriminate against them in their company they probably shouldn’t come and ask Republican senators to carry the water for them when our Democratic friends want to regulate them or block their mergers,” Cotton said in an interview.
Republicans should remember what Walmart did – and now does – and it means to them. Walmart was generally a friend. It’s now an adversary – but one that needs Republican help to achieve a long-held political goal.
If there is no price to be paid for going woke, we will see more and more companies do it. But if the world’s No.1 retailer feels the sting of defeat – and a bad public policy goes down in the process – others may take notice. In other words, there’s a lot of conservative progress to be made out of withholding support for this one measure.
When Walmart looks at what it has bought with its wokeness perhaps it will notice more on the cost side than the plus side. And perhaps this will mark a return to sanity in corporate America.