Dave Weigel's return to the Washington Post finds him out and about, reporting instead of just opining. His visit to West Virginia this weekend for Bill Clinton's speech to Democrats in Charleston led to a story out of Morgantown as well: "In rural America, a startling prospect: voters Obama lost look to Sanders."
Shelley Brannon, 62, can sum up the Obama presidency with three words. Well, three words and an exclamation.
“He screwed us,” said Brannon, a coal miner from Wise County, Va., as he sat outside a rally for the United Mine Workers of America. “Man, he screwed us.”
He shook his head under a camouflage hat that matched his camouflage UMWA T-shirt, and he described his fantasy of dumping nuclear waste in the yards of environmentalists, “if they think coal’s so bad.” He mulled over the mistake UMWA had made in 2008, when it endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Then he explained why he would probably be voting for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the next Democratic primary.
“For one thing, he knows what union is, and he respects it,” said Brannon. “That’s all we need is respect. He’s just a likeable fella, trustworthy. I don’t think she has the same respect for the union, and she really shot herself in the foot over, you know, all that secretive stuff.”
West Virginia has rejected the Obama-era Democratic Party more dramatically than any state outside the South, with Appalachian counties that voted for Mike Dukakis and Walter Mondale turning blood red over the past eight years. But if you think it’s in places like this that the insurgent Sanders campaign faces its most formidable test, here’s what he thinks: It is also one of his greatest opportunities.I think Weigel confuses the primary election with the general election. Or maybe the headline writer did. Surely he seems to over-estimate the pull of the mine workers union. Today, it represents widows, retirees, and less than half the working miners. The mine workers union endorsement and 99 cents still leaves you a penny shy of a dollar. The union endorsed Obama last time. Romney took all 55 counties in West Virginia. I find it extremely difficult to imagine a scenario in which the state suddenly reversed its 15-year move to the Republican Party. Republicans regained control of the Legislature last fall after 82 years of Democratic Party rule. The Republican legislators (except Frank Deem, 87) are younger than the Democratic legislators and more in tune with the public.
I doubt the 19th century socialism of Bernie Sanders will attract enough votes to carry West Virginia. When you consider 41% of the Democratic voters voted for inmate Keith Russell Judd over Obama in the May 2012 primary, the message should be clear that West Virginia Democrats do not like being in the party that is to the left of Stalin.
(Keith Russell Judd. OK, maybe it was the mullet.)