Historical election was a long time in the making

By Don Blankenship | Nov 13, 2014

WILLIAMSON – The Nov. 4 election certainly was historical in West Virginia.

Just 10 years ago, most politicians would have laughed at the thought of having a Republican majority in the West Virginia Legislature.  Lots of things came together to accelerate West Virginia’s conversion to Republican although the journey already had begun years ago, and it was only a matter of time.

In fact, some of the things that made the Republican Party victory in West Virginia possible occurred before many of this fall's voters were even born.

The appearance of large, non-union mines in West Virginia such as Elk Run and Marrowbone in the early 1980s may have marked the beginning of a change in West Virginia politics, just as the Matewan Massacre had marked the beginning of a change in West Virginia politics in 1921.

The Matewan Massacre likely played a major role in creating eight decades of Democratic Party dominance of West Virginia politics and 60 years of dominance of the West Virginia coal industry by the United Mine Workers.

It was the removing of miners from their homes by Baldwin Felts agents using force that fueled the political conversion from Republican to Democrat in 1921, and ironically the removal of miners from their homes by the EPA that likely played a major role in a conversion in the opposite direction this year.

In fact, Democrats across the country should have learned on Tuesday that having a home is pretty fundamental to a person’s environment and people get angry when they lose their home, or their relatives do, or their neighbors do.  People love and want to protect nature but they have to have a home.

It is also ironic that the 1985 “war” between Massey and the UMWA essentially occurred at Matewan, the site of the 1921 Matewan Massacre.  Massey contract truck drivers were shot in 1985 in the town of Matewan just a short distance from the site of the 1921 Massacre.

This 1985 UMWA battle could also have been labeled a Massacre as 91 individuals were treated at hospitals, and at least a half dozen people were shot.  One – Hayes West – was killed.

After the 1985 strike, many non-union mines were put in throughout West Virginia, just as following the 1921 Massacre most all new mines from 1930 or so forward were essentially put in with union labor.  In essence, these two famous strikes were forerunners of a major change in coal industry labor relations which greatly influenced politics and West Virginia elections.

Prior to 1921, the West Virginia Supreme Court was so dominated by Republicans that Democrats sought to pass legislation that would prohibit all of the Supreme Court Justices from being members of a single political party.  But, by 2004, the West Virginia Supreme Court was fully dominated by five Democratic politicians.

A Republican had not been elected to the state Supreme Court in 80 years prior to Brent Benjamin’s victory that year.  Although West Virginia had elected two individuals as Republican governors during the 74 years prior to the Benjamin election, it is certain that the defeat of “unbeatable” Warren McGraw was yet another sign of political changes to come in West Virginia.

Perhaps it could even be said that the loss of state races during my failed efforts to gain seats for Republicans in the West Virginia Legislature in 2006 played a role in the winds of political change.   It was the first time in years that Republican candidates ran for office in most every race, and that funding was available to get out their messages.

West Virginia voters chose to remain loyal to incumbent Democrats, but at least the presence on the ballot of Republican candidates gave voters a choice, and in the years following Republicans were emboldened to show their faces i.e. to come out of the closet.

The presence of Republicans on nearly every ballot in subsequent years led to at least family and friends turning out to vote for Republicans, and most often these same voters voted for national Republican candidates as well.

Even though the strike of 1985, the election of Benjamin in 2004 and the failed efforts of 2006 had put political change in motion, the single biggest catalyst for Republican victory last Tuesday was clearly Barrack Hussein Obama.

His disdain for American founding principles; his positions on abortion, gun control and immigration; his war on coal and his failure to stand up proudly for America as he traveled the world all caused an acceleration of a change that was clearly already in motion and which led to the result last Tuesday November 4, 2014.

The biggest message in this essay is that Republican politicians have had little to do with the change that occurred on Election Day. If they don’t recognize that they did not cause the change and if they do not protect America and its borders, if they do not stop the war on coal and coal miners, if they do not allow people to work and remain in their homes, if they are not proud of Americas heritage and if they reach across the aisle to compromise with those that seek to destroy America their celebration will be a short one.

The people did not elect them so much as they fired the other fellas.

The Republicans are like new hires at any company.  They must now show they can do the job.  I am reminded of what a peer executive would tell his new workers – your friends and references and interviews can get you a job but only you yourself and your performance can keep it.

Blankenship was chairman of CEO of Massey Energy until his retirement in 2010. He now occasionally writes commentaries on his website – donblankenship.com – where he labels himself an “American competitionist.” 



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