West Virginia is an interesting place. Despite its poverty and widespread jokes about incest and missing teeth, the real West Virginia is diverse, beautiful, and filled with culture — a paradox, in some ways, with most if its people clinging to strong conservative Christian views but often voting Democratic because the state is strongly pro-union. Its major production, coal, and the manufacture of contributing key element, klinker, all adds up to the economic success of the state, located in Appalachia.
The people of West Virginia are proud of their main industry, the backbreaking work, and sometimes the danger of the job. Coal miners are proud of what they do, and their state is proud if its coal miners. So it was a little surprise when Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton managed to anger West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, and the entire state of West Virginia, when she stuck her foot in her mouth about the state’s oldest and most valuable resource, according to the Wall Street Journal. Note to Hillary: do your research about what industry supports an entire area. Think beyond your privileged life. Listen to John Denver maybe? I don’t know what exactly you should have said, but it was definitely not this. Addressing a town hall symposium, she brightly informed a crowd that has been struggling to feed their families in a sluggish time for the coal economy,
“We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
How…kind. Perhaps burn their homes as well? Take their farms?
Senator Joe Manchin, who supported Clinton’s bid for presidency a year ago, was so offended that he said he is going to cut ties with the would-be president hopeful. Two days after her comments at the CNN town hall event on March 13, Joe Manchin was on the phone with Mrs. Clinton.
“It was horrific. I called her. I said, ‘My God.’ We can just part ways. I said, ‘Hillary, listen. You probably don’t need West Virginia. Maybe you don’t even think you can win it and don’t need to win it. I really don’t know how your team is evaluating our state.’”
And that’s why Hillary Clinton’s knife cut West Virginians both ways: not only does she threaten the livelihood of West Virginians, but she also took no time to even pretend to invest in what West Virginians care about. She doesn’t know them — know the pride of the industry, the culture of the industry, the proud folks of West Virginia who spend daylight to dusk mining coal the way their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather did. She doesn’t know a region of undeserved people, and she has no plans to know them, either.
Senator Manchin says that “D” beside her name for Democrat is likely to bounce all over the ballot when West Virginians head to the primaries on May 10, and everyone who has that “D” might not get a vote. This is worrisome for Manchin, who is a Democrat.
“Mrs. Clinton’s comments will be plastered and re-plastered and used against her. It will be used against me and everybody else who has a ‘D’ by their name. We’ve gone to more hardship and more poverty under this (Obama) administration. A lot of things have happened that doesn’t make the Democrats popular in the state of West Virginia on a national level.”
Senator Manchin said Hillary Clinton tried to “clear the air” — an appropriate euphemism being that her coal comment had been related to air pollution — and that she didn’t want to sever ties.
“She said, ‘Joe, no. I don’t want to do that. That’s not who I am. I understand what the hard working coal miners and the hard working people of West Virginia have done for their country. I’m writing to clarify what I said recently regarding coal communities at a CNN town hall. Simply put, I was mistaken in my remarks.”
Mistaken, or foolish enough to show your hand to proud people deeply entrenched in coal mining culture? Her comments showed little homework on The Mountain State, so it’s unlikely she cares, but it looks like West Virginia and its five electoral votes might be kissing Clinton goodbye.
Are you a proud West Virginian? Come from a coal mining family? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via Joe Raedle/Getty]