Don’t give corporations credit for dissing Trump, but be happy that they are

Over the last few days, Corporate America has come to the conclusion that Nazi apologism isn’t a good look. And these days, rebuking Nazis apparently means you have to distance yourself from the president of the United States.

The response of major U.S. companies to Trump’s latest affront to basic human decency says much more about their pragmatism than it does about any supposed “company values.” Corporations are not people. They don’t have consciences.

But corporations rely on people who do have consciences. Their shareholders, their workers and, above all else, their customers.

Take Walmart. A couple days after Trump equated anti-racists with racists, its CEO, whatever his name is, released a stern, “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed” sermon to our nation’s collective child. Just enough to get him credit for rebuking Trump from the media but gentle enough to avoid antagonizing the #MAGA base.

If you think about Walmart’s business model, the strategy makes perfect sense. Although it is often caricatured as an institution of white, rural America, Walmart is — like any major retailer — deeply reliant on minority employees and customers. The company’s workforce and customer base spans the political spectrum, encompassing millions of low to middle-income whites who probably lean heavily for Trump as well as millions of low to middle-income African Americans and Latinos who overwhelmingly oppose Trump.

Unlike Trump, Walmart isn’t in a good situation if it offends half of the country. Skating by in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania isn’t enough. Every customer you piss off means less money. Every employee you piss off makes it that much more likely that a union organizing campaign will be successful.

We may not know it, but we’re the reason that Walmart acted the way it did. Its profits depend on us, and by voting with our labor and our dollars, we can shape its actions. There’s no way you can gerrymander your way around a boycott or a strike.

Walmart defended itself before we got the chance to put its feet to the fire, but its preemptive surrender is an encouraging reminder of how workers and consumers can exert power when their political leaders fail them.