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How the Democrats Lost West Virginia and the Coal Miners To Trump


How the Democrats Lost West Virginia and the Coal Miners To Trump

Les Leopold

“C’mon, fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says? You’re going back to work.” ― Donald Trump on signing an executive order to reverse the Obama Administration’s rules on coal, March 28, 2017.


I'll bet these coal miners in West Virginia would rather be working on the tops of the mountains that have been removed, restoring them for uses that would benefit many, than working inside of them breathing coal dust and shortening their life spans, which benefit the few.

Installing possible solar fields and wind generators as Mr. Leopold implies, sounds awesome.

We need a party that is all about this type of idea to bring this to fruition.

The Democrats and Republicans are bought by Oil.

The Winds of Change are Blowing.


Thank God the DNC disabused the people of West Virginia of the notion that they are snobbish, out of touch elitist by telling West Virginians that they are just too damn stupid to know what is good for them!


The only problem is that this solution (while correct and reasonable) would require existing Dems to bite the hand that feeds their campaign coffers. That is the root of the ongoing decline, and appears insoluble until we can reverse Citizens United or get Bernie in charge. Suggestions welcome.


Good piece overall but there are not still 116,000 coal mining jobs in WV--recently there were 16,000, I think it's less now.


From the article:

Those are good ideas, but I fear they might be band-aids where major surgery is needed. At the risk of sounding terminally wonky, I think there's a more fundamental problem that is helping to bury us: Most of us don't understand the first thing about economics.

The problem is, that means it's awfully easy for us to "get played," and we have been, massively, for a very long time.

That's because the "science" of mainstream economics is completely bogus. How many here knew that "economic rent" is lumped-in with "productive income" in mainstream economics accounting? And that it could (should) instead be classed as "overhead?" And that if it were, then it could be taxed appropriately, instead of being treated as "earnings" of the 1%? And that it wasn't always that way?

I'm starting to learn this stuff from two people who I can't quite keep up with yet, but they sure sound like they know their stuff: Michael Hudson and Bill Mitchell.

Here's a 15 minute TRNN interview with Michael Hudson, who, by way of credibility, was one of the few economists who predicted the 2008 crash.

When you have 50 minutes, here's Bill Michell with even more shocking revelations.

Not that any of this is a cure-all, but it sure sounds compatible with the things Mr. Leopold has to say about runaway inequality.


I wonder if Mr. Leopold, of New York, has ever been to West Virginia? He seems to be regurgitating the same flawed analysis other distant "progressives" have made regarding West Virginia.

Sure West Virginians voted for Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, back in the day. Virtually all of the miners were staunch union-men back in those days too (before satellites and cable, when TV was only available in a few of the larger cities). But modern-day West Virginians, like USAns in all but the larger cities, have bought into the right-wing gospel. They don't like unions. They voted for Trump because he is pro "free market", anti-immigrant, anti-government regulation - especially environmental regulations. They especially despise the "socialistic global warming hoax".

Western and Northeastern USAns need to understand that dominant West Virginian ideology is pretty similar to the Bundy-style cowboys of Nevada, Idaho and western Oregon, sans the big sky and sagebrush. The would vehemently oppose any kind of the federal economic intervention Mr. Leopold is suggesting. They just want to be able to mine coal, cut down trees, and (in the E. panhandle) run their mass Pilgrim's Pride poultry operations and dump the waste into whatever creek or hollow they feel like dumping it.

And another thing: the levels of poverty in West Virginia tends to be somewhat exaggerated. Sure, as rural US goes, the statistics say they are above average in poverty, but whenever I'm in West Virginia - which is often for both work and recreation, I never see any poor people. The roads and the Wal-Mart parking lots are filled with expensive, deluxe late-model pickup trucks - nary an old dilapidated car or pickup to be seen like one use to in the old days. Very few mobile homes left on the town outskirts and along the rural roads, like the old days either. They have been replaced with modest sized but nice ranch homes. I have never see a homeless or even car-less person walking or hitchhiking down the road in West Virginia. And as the data shows, most Trump voters were these comfortable middle-to upper-middle class white people.

Overall, the poverty (and poverty-related social problems) in West Virginia is nothing compared to any of the 4 or 5 poorest neighborhoods in my large city - The trouble is, statisticians don't seem to parse data by neighborhood - even when those neighborhoods have populations greater than all but maybe 3 or 4 of the most populous West Virginia counties. Why didn't the poor in my city (including the half who are white) vote for Trump?


Bernie Sanders' event in McDowell County with Chris Hayes last month proved that even average Trump voters would support the programs talked about in this article if presented in an understandable, common-sense way that doesn't talk down to the populace. This is exactly what Hillary Clinton DID NOT DO! She is/was totally condescending to the "trailer park trash" of the region and they can smell it a mile away. Poll after poll shows that when the issues are presented to voters in neutral language they support broad social-democratic changes that will benefit them. This cannot be done by the Democratic Party as it is structured, because it is now totally beholden to a few super-rich people, like Haim Saban, who owns the Clintons and their faction.

It is time for the rest of us to abandon the Democratic Party and move with me to the Green Party, the party that actually can give these folks what they need to start doing better, because we are not owned by any wealthy interests, and will NEVER take their money. #Demexit 2017!


I agreed 100% with this article. For over 35 years the Democrats have adopted a neoliberal economic policy and for nearly 15 years a neoconservative foreign policy. While I don't think it is quite Twidle Dee and Twidle Dum I think the two established parties are too much alike with regard to economic (low tax and low regulation for Wall Street and big business / bad trade policies) and foreign policy (high military budgets and intervention in the Middle East). During the George W. Bush era the Dems gave him what he wanted with regard to tax cuts for the rich, the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, etc. In effect vote Democrat and get Republican policies. If the Dems are not willing to look out for the economic best interest of the middle and working classes the elections will then shift to "social issues" such as gay marriage, gun control, prayer in school, abortion, flag burning, etc. Unfortunately both the Clintons and Obama and the DNC adopted a go a long to get along mindset with regard to entrenched interests.

Having said all this. The coal miners in WV and their elected officials have in effect made their bed and need to sleep in it. Coal is a 19th century fuel that endangers the health of the planet and people. They supported and loved an industry that did not support and love them back (black lung, mine cave ins, water and air pollution, stiffing retired miners on pensions, etc.). Much like an abusive spouse. Don't like the situation but can't think of an alternative to it. Coal needs to go. WV can move on into the 21st century or stay stuck in the mid-20th. I have encouraged progressives to push for switching to electrical providers that have an renewable portfolio. Green Mountain and Arcadia Power come to mind. Especially in those states that rely heavy on power from coal (CO, NM, ND, OH, UT, WY, WV, NT, KY, IN, KS). Where this is not practical they should make an effort to purchase modern energy efficient appliances and LED lights for low to moderate income people especially in those states. Been with Green Mountain Energy for fifteen years. Good to be part of the solution instead of only the problem.


Part of the problem here is that Clinton is anti-Union. She was on Walmart's Board and she was when backing NAFTA or addressing Goldman Sachs.
And then there is the fact that many Unions are anti-worker.
It wasn't the right wing ideology that turned West Virginians against Unions but years of corruption, backroom deals with the employers, refusals to fight for jobs or wages and massive backing of right wing Democrats even when, as in 2016, pro Union candidates were fighting primaries on radical platforms.


It is worth recalling here that among Obama's first actions was the approval of all of the mountaintop-removal mining projects that were on his desk.