According to figures from the Federal Election Commission, presidential campaigns spent a total of $30.33 every second between January, 2011 and November 6, 2012. U.S. corporations in general, and some of the largest U.S. retail chains specifically have contributed a record number of consumer shopping dollars to support - and annihilate - political candidates in 2012. And consumers who have been blindly shopping that whole time have literally been voting against themselves in many cases with every dollar handed over to a retail company that supports opposite political views.
So in an emotionally charged political election cycle with more tools of political spending transparency at their disposal than ever before, why haven't more consumers consciously shopped in alignment with their own political philosophies?
There are many reasons, to be sure. Some consumers make their shopping choices unaware of the retail Super PAC political funding machines (a/k/a campaign funding ATM machines) created by the leaders of the retail stores where they shop. Some consumers shop unaware of the retail political affiliations that were established in the last presidential cycle. Some consumers shop unaware because some of the largest U.S. retail chains engage in secret political spending, which their shareholders and customers don't hold them accountable for.
Some consumers shop to escape being aware of anything.
Of all these scenarios, the one that consumers will hopefully determine is the most unacceptable in the near future is the secret political spending. If a retail organization is not willing to say how much it is spending in the political arena, and it's not willing to say which candidates and policies are being supported by the dollars of its customers, doesn't it make you wonder what they have to hide? And doesn't that also make you suspicious about whether they might be hiding other things that you might not be happy about as well?
For example, Wal-Mart (WMT) is the second worst retail company for political transparency, according to a report from the Center for Political Accountability (CPA). So if you shop at Wal-Mart, you might as well write a check to the political candidate you most despise because Wal-Mart could be using your money to do exactly that without ever telling you about it.
Besides its secret political spending, we also find out quite regularly that Wal-Mart has been trying to hide illegal business practices and unfair workplace practices as well. This is not surprising because the same leaders who find hiding to be an acceptable business philosophy in one area, probably adopt hiding as an acceptable strategy in other areas as well.
Here's a list of major U.S. retail chains with active Super PACs funded by consumer dollars. Do you shop at these chains? Do you know which political candidate will be claiming victory today because you indirectly supported their campaign via shopping at the stores that funnel campaign dollars through these Super PACs? Does it bother you that you don't know? Shouldn't it?
Before waking up and starting to read today's election news stories, most consumers have already made the decision about who they're going to vote for, or whether or not they intend to vote at all. But the politics of retailing won't end with the results of today's elections and neither will consumer support of ongoing retail political maneuvers.
From now until the next Election Day on November 8, 2016, consumers will be voting with every purchase they do and don't make. That is the indisputable reality of the inextricably enmeshed corporopolitical system that we live in.
The only question is whether consumers will be voting with their eyes open for the next four years, or whether they will keep their consuming blindfold on, allowing their hard-earned consumer dollars to be funneled to the political process in ways they may find personally offensive.
This is a time of unprecedented consumer empowerment. While your political vote might not seem to matter if you happen to live in a state that was filled in with the wrong color from the beginning of the campaign cycle, your consuming vote will always matter to a retail company that exists to collect consumer dollars and make a profit in order to exist.
Because we the consumers are the ground zero source of corporate political funding, we the consumers have ultimate authority about how the corporopolitical process will evolve from this point forward. It won't even take extraordinary effort to consciously vote with our shopping dollars. We just have to make the decision that it matters when we do.