A lot has been said about Democrats perceived neglect of the white working class, and how it left them susceptible to being flipped over to the GOP, and while that criticism isn’t completely without merit, and does indicate ways that the Democratic Party (and liberals in general) should reach out to more rural areas, it also advances something of a false narrative.
The real story is how the Democrats (led by Clinton) lost the region by being honest, and the GOP won it over by lying.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in coal country.
You may recall the news some months ago where Hillary Clinton told a bunch of people in West Virginia that she was “going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” which is a gaffe any way you slice it? It was a gift on a sliver platter to conservatives looking to paint a candidate as unfriendly to a population enduring some hard times.
But what wasn’t reported was the rest of her statement: “So for example, I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?
And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.
Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.”
That’s about as honest an answer as one could give to the question of what to do about jobs in Coal Country. The coal industry is all but dead, killed off by automation and by better, cleaner and cheaper options becoming available. That may be a tough reality for many people who tie their identities to Coal Mining, but that’s the reality of the situation.
We can mourn the passing of the industry, and lament that this generation of coal miners will likely be the last generation of coal miners, but it would take a major effort to actually bring back the coal industry.
Contrast that with Trump’s statements on bringing back coal, which, by any stretch of the imagination are promises he cannot keep. Government didn’t kill coal, technological advancement and the market are what killed coal, and all the photo ops in the world aren’t going to change that.
It’s ironic in many ways that the people of coal country, hard-working folk who value honesty above all else seem to have been duped into voting for a man who told them the lie that the wanted to hear rather than the woman who told them the truths they didn’t want to hear.