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The Parthenon

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Editorial: State’s chances for progress could plummet at hands of Blankenship

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If there’s one thing West Virginia has come to realize, it’s that we need progress—we need to move forward into the twenty-first century if we are to survive the times ahead.

West Virginia was the only state in the country to lose population last year, and there is not much to suggest that this trend will stop, with a consistent lack of economic opportunity, an aging population and a major drug epidemic.

What could help to turn the waning tide around for the state would be progressive measures from the state’s legislators in both the West Virginia Legislature and the United States Congress.

Recently, many West Virginians have turned their heads toward the impending U.S. Senate election for the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, particularly toward the entrance of a former coal executive into the race Nov. 28.

Don Blankenship is staking his claim to the Senate seat that will be up for grabs Nov. 6 of next year in hopes of both saving his reputation from his conviction of conspiring to violate mine-safety laws prior to the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that took the lives of 29 miners, as well as perhaps to save the industry he has championed through several other mishaps and disasters: coal mining.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, nine of the 10 West Virginia counties that lost the most population were southern counties where the coal industry has suffered a significant decline.

To many, including President Donald Trump, the obvious solution to the problem is to bring “beautiful, clean coal” back and revamp the mines.

However, the probability of such a comeback is highly unlikely, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Energy Information Administration have both found a decrease, not only in coal mining employment, but also in the consumer demand for coal among other forms of energy.

In other words, bringing coal back is not the answer to West Virginia’s problems, for many reasons other than what could fit in this editorial.

Instead, we need someone who is willing to let go of an industry that peaked in the 50s and has never risen to the same levels again. We need someone who is willing to go beyond his or her own interests to provide for the interests of those who often go unheard.

We need someone who truly takes value in West Virginia’s potential.

While Blankenship could certainly make a shift in his perceptions and choose to focus on how he might fight for those whose friends or family were lost because of his mines, or how he might work with fellow senators in Washington to move on from coal in search of a more sustainable industry to employ West Virginians in, such a shift is not likely.

It is concerning to wonder what could happen if a man who oversaw a mine that experienced what the U.S. Department of Labor found to be the worst mining disaster in 40 years was elected to oversee an entire state’s representation in our national government.

Blankenship once proudly described himself as, “the most hated man in Mingo County,” because of his profit-hungry mining practices.

If he was proud of this title then, what’s to stop him from claiming the title of the most hated man in West Virginia should he win its seat in the Senate?

A Blankenship win is not out of the question now with politicians like Roy Moore of Alabama still leading in the polls. Moore has somehow batted away the underage sexual accusations that continue to pile up against him.

As the 2018 midterm elections approach, voters need to be aware that any legislation from Don Blankenship will be a regression for this state.

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