Politics and Elections: Clinton’s Coal Country Conundrum

Hillary Clinton is trying to unite coal miners and anti-coal activists in Appalachia by offering  revitalization money to communities, but Donald Trump is winning hearts and minds by promising to bring back coal jobs.

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“If coal is becoming politically weaker, why is Hillary Clinton offering a $30 billion plan to revitalize Appalachian coal communities?” This is the question that begins a Washington Post article by Nives Dolsak and Aseem Prakash, two professors at the University of Washington.

No, simple fairness, or even humanity do not seem to be the answer, write the professors. The two academics say Clinton is acting as a rational politicians in “trying to strike a balance between two Democratic constituencies: environmentalists and people who depend on coal mining, including the unions that represent them.”

Clinton acknowledges that coal is losing out in a world worried about global warming and flooded with cheap natural gas. Clinton has proposed a $30 billion plan that would guarantee miners’ pensions and health care benefits, as coal companies descend into bankruptcy and would fund local schools and other public infrastructure as the coal economy suffers.

Some might say this is a kind of justice. The professors say it is good politics.

Not good enough, according to The Guardian’s Dan Roberts, who was in Eastern Kentucky last week, following former President Bill Clinton around the coalfields. Clinton was booed by miners in Prestonsburg, who blame Democrats for the decline in the industry.

Roberts says Appalachia is Trump country. Of the 420 counties in the Appalachian region, he writes, Trump won all but 16 in the Republican primary.

Meanwhile, some polls far in advance of November’s election finds that Trump is neck-and-neck with Clinton in Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all Democratic states in recent elections. Roberts argues this is because, in part, Trump does so well in these Appalachian counties.

(Roberts implies that President Obama did well in Appalachian counties in his elections. He did not.)

Why is Clinton lagging in these states? Roberts finds a lot of economic angst and a desire to return to better days, a promise Trump makes. Meanwhile, Roberts finds that Bill Clinton’s argument is not winning over many voters. He’s trying, though.

“I grew up in a place like this. I hope to be the last American president to grow up without an indoor toilet,” Bill Clinton told the miners. “Everybody believed they could make tomorrow better than today … but we are not going to get anywhere screaming at each other.”

Robert concludes: “The trouble is that tomorrow did arrive in many parts of the US, and not everyone liked what it looked like. For now, the voices shouting loudest about it – not just in rural Appalachia, but in cities across the US where the middle class is shrinking – are perhaps the ones more voters want to hear.”

Hillary Clinton is preparing for a battle in these states, writes Washington Post reporter Abby Phillip. And Trump thinks he will do better in some states because he has a stronger pull with rural voters.

Phillip writes:

“Low enthusiasm on the Democratic side, high enthusiasm on his side, winning over lots of men and winning over rural voters — that’s the case for Trump,” (Obama’s 2008 Wisconsin state director Dan) Kanninen said. But given the antipathy toward Trump among establishment Republicans in the state, he added that Trump will have trouble unifying his own party.

Finally, on another note, a Community College of Philadelphia professor writes about the “stigma” he and his students feel for not being at a four-year college or university.

Brian Goedde writes that there are 1,665 community colleges nationwide that are teaching just about half of all college students enrolled in public institutions. Many of those colleges, of course, are in rural communities.

Goedde notes that President Obama has been a cheerleader for community colleges. There was a White House Summit on Community Colleges in 2010 and the President described these schools as the “unsung heroes of America’s education system.”

But there is “one last, great thing Mr. Obama can do for us,” Goedde writes. “Speak at a community college graduation. The foundation of community college school spirit will certainly be one of his legacies, and the president should have a crowd robed in bright, bold colors to thank him in return.”

 

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