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Sanders Poised To Win West Virginia, Despite Opposition To Coal-Powered Energy

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Sanders Poised To Win West Virginia, Despite Opposition To Coal-Powered Energy

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S., May 8, 2016. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

In the 2008, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary, taking 67 percent of the vote and 20 of the 28 delegates up for grabs in the state. Eight years later, she looks set to lose the state’s primary to another challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But how is an avowed opponent of coal mining and fossil fuels set to win the vote in a state defined by its coal mining industry?

Part of the answer could be that Sanders has appealed to white, working-class voters who could be convinced to support a Democratic platform more in line with their values than that of the Republican Party. “We have millions of working-class people who are voting for Republican candidates whose views are diametrically opposite to what voters want,” said Sanders to The Washington Post last fall. “How many think it’s a great idea that we have trade policies that lead to plants in West Virginia being shut down? How many think there should be massive cuts in Pell grants or in Social Security? In my opinion, not too many people.”

During an interview with The Charleston Gazette-Mail, one of the state’s biggest papers, Sanders further outlined how he would bring economic vitality to regions facing deindustrialization and economic malaise. “We are going to create an economy that works for all people by providing affordable loans for small and medium-sized businesses, by investing in the most hard-pressed communities throughout this country,” he said.

And in an interview with NPR, Sanders made it clear that the Democratic Party needed to be an ally of working class Americans who were losing their jobs in a rapidly changing economy. “I think one of the challenges we face, what my campaign is about, is making it clear that the Democratic Party must be on the side of working people and low-income people,” he said. “And the stand we gotta make is the stand with the people in McDowell County, W.Va., and poor people and working people all over this country.”

The contrast between Sanders and Clinton grew starker after Clinton was forced to apologize for the sound bite “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” made in reference to her plans to bring renewable energy jobs to the state. Her full remarks, made in a CNN town hall in March, were:

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.

Despite agreeing with Sanders on the need to pursue green energy, Clinton’s phrasing of that sentence has made her unpopular among the state’s Democrats, to the point that she wasn’t welcomed into the town of Logan, West Virginia. “Bill and Hillary Clinton are simply not welcome in our town,” wrote local officials in a letter to Senator Joe Manchin, who has endorsed Clinton and is a Democratic super delegate. Clinton has proposed a $30 billion stimulus package to aid Appalachian mining communities reeling from mine closures as part of her platform.

The state’s residents are already aware of the numerous challenges facing West Virginia’s coal mining industry. The decline has eaten away at the industry’s workforce, its production levels, and its financial contributions to the state. More power plants are switching over to natural gas, which has seen its prices drop as fracking has taken off around the country. Coal mining output has dropped by 15 percent in the state since 2008 and coal-fired power plants account for just 33 percent of the country’s total energy output today, compared with 50 percent half a century ago. Global demand has gone down too. China’s sudden economic slowdown created a surplus of raw materials, from iron ore to coal, leading to a collapse in commodities prices.

“Forget the clean power plan. You cannot build a coal plant that meets existing regulation today that can compete with $5 gas,” said Charles Patton, president of Appalachian Power, at a state energy conference recently. “It just cannot happen.”

“In the past we always knew that the demand for coal would rebound and the jobs would come back,” said Cecil E. Roberts Jr., the United Mine Workers of America president, in a speech reported by The New York Times in June 2015. “This time, there is no such certainty. Fundamental changes are underway in America and across the world that will have a lasting impact on the coal industry and our jobs.”

Along with his focus on taxing the wealthy and denouncing Wall Street’s reckless behavior, Sanders has dedicated part of his fiery speeches to the threat of global warming, one that must be countered by a green tech revolution. The same message isn’t as closely associated with Clinton’s candidacy, leading to confrontations like the one between her and coal miner Bo Copley last week.



  1. Siegfried Heydrich May 10, 2016

    So Sanders can win Dogpatch. Big deal. Look, West Virginia is a basket case. It’s like their entire economy is based on buggy whip manufacturing, and cars are destroying buggy whip industry. Coal is going away. It’s never coming back. And the sooner those people can wrap their heads around that simple fact, the sooner they’ll be able to figure out how to deal with it. It’s not the gov’t that’s putting them out of business, it’s the simple fact that something has come along that’s far, far better than the rocks they dig up, and the market for dirty rocks is shrinking.

    Sorry, all of Berries promises are pure pie in the sky. That state bet its entire life and future on coal, and now coal is dying. Bernie can’t overcome reality.

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    2. Independent1 May 11, 2016

      And the Dogpatch you’re referring to is just one more red state, or GOP-governed state, where it may well have been Republicans who have voted for Bernie with enough votes to actually push him to the wins (at least 50% of Bernie’s wins have been in GOP-governed states). And wins, which in almost 75% of them, were in caucus states where probably less than 10% or 5% of the voting electorate were taking part.

      1. Otto T. Goat May 11, 2016

        WV has had Democrat governors since 2001.

        1. Independent1 May 11, 2016

          Here’s a 2016 electoral map. What color is WV??

          And note that New Mexico is colored Blue even though it’s had a GOP Governor and legislature for more than the past 8 years.

          1. Otto T. Goat May 11, 2016

            You should look up what a non sequitur is.

  2. Dominick Vila May 11, 2016

    Let’s not confuse Bernie’s victory in West Virginia, with the probability of that state turning blue again. WV is as Republican as it can get, for reasons as diverse as trying to revive a dying industry, to overt hatred of ethnic minorities and immigrants.
    WV is one of several states that will make congressional gains extremely difficult for Democrats in November. The fact that Republicans have made tremendous gains in Governorship, state legislatures, local governments, and in Congress, is not a chimera, and it is something that is not going to change overnight.
    Until we realize that the political changes that have been taking place throughout the South and the Bible Belt are not caused strictly by prejudice, the status quo will prevail, and may continue to grow. Interestingly, what may change things may be none other than Donald Trump. His attacks against the GOP establishment and Republican policies in general, are likely to cause more people in red states to reconsider their choices, than anything our pathetic Democratic strategists may come up with.
    In this specific case, the angst shown by most West Virginians is not caused by Hillary’s unfortunate sentence, but by the realization that the industry that has provided the bread and butter to them for many decades, is a dying industry that is not going to recover. Sadly, instead of focusing on ways to bring new technologies and job opportunities, they are focusing on platitudes or empty rhetoric that will only prolong their agony.

    1. Independent1 May 11, 2016

      Dominick, have you noticed that over 50% of Sanders wins have been in red states or GOP governed quasi red states like Maine and Wisconsin and I believe a couple others? And a number of the states he’s won have been open states where it could well have been Republicans who actually voted for him with enough votes to have him win those states. And about 75% of his wins have been in caucus states where less than 10%, maybe less than 5%, of the voting electorate take part? In reality, once again, we have a minority of the American electorate driving our election process – as neither Sanders or Trump has as strong a backing among the American people as one would surmise based on the media driven hype being given to both of these candidates.

      1. Dominick Vila May 11, 2016

        I am not a fan of polls, but one conducted in West Virginia indicates that Trump would easily defeat Hillary or Bernie in that state.
        Yes, our voting record is dismal. Let’s hope that changes in November because Trump supporters are energized and determined to vote for him, regardless of how destructive his proposals are, how inconsistent with conservative values they are, and the insults and threats he directs to the Republican party and its members. Masochism seems to be in vogue…

        1. A_Real_Einstein May 11, 2016

          As long as we insist on running establishment candidates in an outsider cycle we are going to get destroyed in November. What are we doing differently than what we did in 2014? If you think Trump is going to save us think again. Perhaps you are not aware of the record breaking turnouts the GOP primaries. Trump is expanding the party and they will all rally around him in the end. We are in big big trouble.

          1. Dominick Vila May 12, 2016

            At this point, our only hope is a Clinton-Sanders alliance, and ticket. If our party is split, or a large number of Democrats decide not to vote because their preferred candidate did not get nominated, everything is lost. Trump is already making inroads with blue collar Democrats, and I am not so sure about the overwhelming number of women that oppose his candidacy. We must unite – and vote – to prevent one of the greatest calamities in U.S. history.

          2. A_Real_Einstein May 12, 2016

            Agreed. I don’t think that Sanders needs to be on the ticket but she will need to make some serious concessions for the progressive base. Moving her to a $15 minimum wage,changing her position on fracking , laying out specifically how she will build on Obamacare etc……
            Otherwise it is lights out. The Senate will be close and the House is not in play with Hillary at the top of the ticket. If she moves hard right in the General we get crushed.

          3. MV May 15, 2016

            Dom! where are your fellow supporters? The reason you are alone here, is testament to why republiKKKlans have gotten away with such Brainwash & Gerrymandering, which led us to bushDumb! What did bush leave us with again?

    2. MV May 15, 2016

      Again, whatcha’ want from me, an argument? You & “Independent” better get a fan base Damned Quick! As Brainwash obviously works! Call Me!

  3. Otto T. Goat May 11, 2016

    White liberals like Bernie, blacks don’t. Celebrate diversity.


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