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Chris Hamilton: State Dems adopt national party’s stance on mining

From The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington:

The West Virginia Democratic Party recently announced its formal issue platform. One of the positions it will advocate for is a ban on certain methods of coal mining. The same position was adopted by the West Virginia Young Democrats Organization a decade earlier.

Despite claims to the contrary, this action is further evidence that the state Democratic Party is becoming a microcosm of the national Democratic Party. Its funders on the national level demand anti-mining positions to be taken and for the past decade have displayed a well-documented position of opposing mining in every form.

The differences between state Democrats and the Republican Party is widening, making the choice between candidates easier despite all the campaign rhetoric.

The state Democratic Party has moved away from its traditional values, evidenced by its current position against mining, one of the state’s bedrock industries that is responsible for thousands of high-tech and high paying jobs and the infusion of millions of dollars into state, county and municipal budgets.

Given West Virginia’s budget challenges, the fact we are leading the country in jobs lost and have the lowest workforce participation rate makes this anti-mining position nothing short of irresponsible.

The state Democratic Party has clearly left or is quickly leaving us, and the ideological gap between state Democrats and their national counterparts is narrowing. In the state legislature, we’ve witnessed a growing number of elected Democrats who routinely take positions counter to mining and business interests. The fact that the party has transitioned away from its history of supporting mining in every form is unfortunate for those Democrats who are more balanced and conservative, for they will now get painted with the same extremist brush.

You can trace the evolution of this trend over the past decade or perhaps to when the Young Democrats Organization voted to accept this position and those members who comprised the group are now in mainstream party leadership positions. This was also around the same time that West Virginia began to transition into a two-party state.

As evidence, a decade ago, when West Virginia was predominately a one-party state, the Democratic Party represented a variety of philosophical positions. The party used to be comprised of a solid, pro-business, conservative segment, a relatively large moderate core and a small liberal component.

But this has changed as the state Republican Party began to win elections and gained a more prominent standing in our state. And with this transition, more and more business-friendly or conservative members of the state Democratic Party simple decided not to be part of the state party leadership. The vacuum this left has been filled by Democrats with more liberally extreme ideologies.

It should come as no surprise that business organizations, like the West Virginia Business & Industry Council, are cited as choosing to support a growing number of Republican candidates for state office. Based on the underlying rationale set forth above, what choice do we have?

It is not just coincidental that President Obama and Hillary Clinton have adopted anti-mining positions like their Democratic contemporaries heading up the Democratic leadership in Congress. Despite the campaign rhetoric and the fact that state Democratic Party leadership wants to see Hillary Clinton prevail, Mrs. Clinton doesn’t have the independence to decide her position on coal and energy.

The reason is simple – the National Democratic Party has already predetermined that issue. And, given some of the party’s funders that position isn’t going to change. The issue of removing fossil fuels from America’s energy supply by any means necessary and at any cost has become a principal. For the majority of West Virginia voters the state Democratic Party has left them. It’s a shame, but it makes for easy choices at the ballot box in November.

Chris Hamilton is chairman of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council, headquartered in Charleston.

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