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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

It was a pathetic scene, coal miners flanking President Donald Trump as he signed an order to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Trump’s imagineers have turned coal miners into a Madison Avenue version of the besieged American working man, the pretty wrapping on a toxic package of environmental delinquency.

This event, held tragically at the Environmental Protection Agency, was almost as celebratory as the one in which Trump called for ditching a rule that would have stopped coal companies from dumping waste in streams. Some waters in coal country are so polluted they run orange.

One forgets that there are only about 80,000 coal mining jobs left in America, and nearly 40 percent of them don’t involve the dangerous work of going underground. The solar power industry employs twice as many people.

Anyhow, Trump insists that his rollback of Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan will do two things — make the U.S. energy-independent and “put our miners back to work” — to which informed observers respond, “Has already happened” and “Won’t happen.”

Thanks to shale oil and natural gas production, U.S. imports of oil have shrunk from 65 percent in 2005 to around 25 percent today. Add in the rapid growth in wind and solar power and America has already approached energy independence, and that occurred under Obama.

As for mining jobs, they’re not coming back, certainly not in numbers that would remotely merit what America and its mining regions give up in pursuit of coal. The demand for coal has plummeted as cleaner, cheaper natural gas replaces it.

Weakened regulations may cause some utilities to delay switching out of coal. Certainly, none is going back. Even companies that did not support the Clean Power Plan are staying the course.

One was Entergy, a large supplier of power in the South. CEO Leo Denault told the media that thought he objected to the Obama agenda, “The potential of it rolling back does not change our commitment to being environmentally responsible.”

Many states have their own mandates for increasing use of renewable energy. They’re not backing down, either.

Automation, meanwhile, continues as a major threat to coal jobs. Even mountaintop removal — the environmental obscenity of shearing off mountains to get at coal — provides little employment. Explosives do the blasting. Earth-moving machines remove the coal and debris.

Mountaintop removal has leveled majestic landscapes in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. One can clean up a polluted river, but these mountains are gone forever.

Tossing environmental protections into a giant dumpster is both a lazy and a counterproductive way to spur economic development. Note that some of our fiercest competitors in manufacturing, such as Germany, have environmental laws that match or exceed ours.

Earlier in American history, coal powered the nation. To provide this energy, coal country gave and gave. There was a nobility to the grueling work of digging for coal — and to the people who performed it.

But America has moved on. Coal mining employment has plummeted, and the decline in demand for coal is irreversible. Even industry leaders concede that. Thus, the tiny Trump base of coal workers finds itself in the undignified position of trying to push a product on a nation that no longer wants it.

At the same time, the Trump administration pursues plans to strip them of coverage for black lung disease. And his budget would defund a program to spur economic development in Appalachia — a program that could open opportunities for 21st-century employment

Despite all this, Trump remains coal country’s guy. Let others explain. Most of America looks on the sad scene, scratching its head and wondering what’s in it for the miners.

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]