Mitt Romney campaigned in Ohio today and launched an attack on President Obama’s coal policies, telling the audience that the president is waging a “war on coal.” The extreme left-wing environmental agenda is an obvious wedge in the Obama coalition and the president is on the wrong side.
The disdain environmentalists have for the coal industry is no secret, but nor can its economic importance be discounted. In portions of Ohio and Pennsylvania, the industry is vital, and in neighboring West Virginia coal is the lifeblood of the state. It’s worth pointing out that West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country, a fact that has not led the Environmental Left to show it any mercy.
Increased regulations have made it increasingly difficult for coal to be competitive. West Virginia admirably stood up for itself in 2000 and turned from its traditional Democratic pattern and voted for George W. Bush. Undoubtedly the fact Al Gore’s environmental extremism was well-known aided the Bush campaign and in the tight ’00 election, WVA tipped victory into the GOP column. West Virginia again went for Bush four years later.
The environmental agenda sets the financially comfortable liberals of the suburbs against the working-class Democrats in heavy industry. The Left has counted on a strategy of giving working people the rhetoric, while giving the well-connected the actual policy. Because Obama’s persona is not as elitist as the obnoxious Gore’s was, hammering home that disconnect is going to be tougher. But saying it’s going to be tougher is not a reason to give up on the attempt.
That’s why Romney was correct in making this point today even if the whole “war on” line put coal on an increasingly extensive laundry list of things or people that are apparently having a war waged against them this election season.
What’s more important is that on an issue where the left wing has to choose what’s more important to them, the agendas of the well-off or the needs of the working class, they choose the former. Obama has been no different in practice. If the voters of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania are bold enough to break ranks again in November, the GOP would be wise to remember what it was that motivated them.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com