It's an ungodly amount of pressure for a single community to bear, but nothing less than the fate of the planet will be decided Tuesday by approximately 10,000 residents of Inglewood.
They won't just be voting on whether they want a Wal-Mart Supercenter the size of an aircraft carrier. They will decide whether there's any role for government now that the largest company in America has taken over the world.
In one community after another, the discount giant has crushed opponents like cockroaches. But in Inglewood, rather than battle obstructive public officials and squawking union bosses, Wal-Mart has pulled an Arnold Schwarzenegger and appealed directly to the public in a $1-million initiative campaign to win hearts and minds.
Assuming the turnout Tuesday is 10,000, Wal-Mart would need just 5,001 residents of Inglewood to say yes to Measure 4-A. That's $200 a vote, a small price to pay for the right to do virtually whatever the chain pleases without city interference.
Routine traffic and environmental reviews will be tossed aside, and a three-point shot away from the hallowed ground where the Lakers once played, Wal-Mart will reign.
While we're at it, why not shut down Inglewood City Hall and have Wal-Mart outsource the few remaining municipal jobs to Guatemala? In an initiative-happy state like California, we could have weekly Supercenter elections until no other store is left standing.
If you're looking for predictions as to the outcome, it's a tough read even for those in the middle of the fray.
"I think it will pass," said author and commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who has an office in Inglewood.
"We've gone door to door and people are saying 'No' by almost 67%," said Keisha Krumm of Los Angeles Metro Industrial Areas Foundation.
They're saying "No" even though they like the idea of quality goods at low prices, but I'll get back to Krumm in a minute.
Hutchinson believes that for a silent majority in Inglewood, this isn't about the decline of American manufacturing, the exploitation of cheap foreign labor, or the union claim that Wal-Mart is driving down wages and benefits.
First and foremost, it's about rock-bottom prices. It's also about the fact that Sears, JC Penney and Montgomery Ward abandoned Inglewood years ago, and now here comes the world's largest company saying the predominantly minority community ought to have the same options as everyone else.
"There's been a direct racial pitch," Hutchinson said, noting that pro-Wal-Mart advertisements have been filled with African American faces.
Wal-Mart took out a newspaper ad thanking the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund, the Magic Johnson Foundation and other groups for their support, noting that the chain had made charitable contributions to one and all.
Speaking of Magic Johnson, I couldn't get hold of the ex-Laker star. But as a businessman and real estate developer, it's no surprise he'd be on board for Wal-Mart. It turns out Johnson has Wal-Mart as a tenant at properties he owns in Milwaukee and Cleveland.
"To him, it would be an absolute travesty" if Wal-Mart and the Inglewood community can't work out their differences, said Ken Lombard, president of Johnson's development company.
Lombard doesn't buy the argument that Wal-Mart sucks the life out of nearby merchants. The exact opposite is true at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, he claimed, where business at the Magic Johnson Theatres jumped 10% after Wal-Mart came in.
"They went into a mall that was in serious trouble and gave it a huge shot in the arm," Lombard said. Walk into that Wal-Mart, he said, "And it's just packed."
But when I mentioned Wal-Mart's end-run around Inglewood City Hall, Lombard said it could be a huge tactical mistake.
That brings me back to Krumm, who's been knocking on doors in Inglewood for weeks.
"People say they have no problem with Wal-Mart," said Krumm, an African American who lives in Los Angeles. "Some of them want the store. Their issue is that they don't want to lose local control and sell away their rights as citizens just so they can be consumers."
Krumm said she's insulted by the suggestion that Inglewood ought to forget concerns about living wages, gladly surrender local control, and be grateful to have "a company that makes a living off the backs of its employees."
Well said, but Tuesday won't be our last chance to cast ballots.
Even if Wal-Mart prevails, we can always vote with our feet.
Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.