Pledge to grow economy for miners, everyone else

A Gazette editorial from the Charleston Gazette-Mail 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — We like Jim Justice, but an appeal he sent out Tuesday asking other candidates and leaders to sign a “2016 Commitment to Coal and West Virginia Miners” is not leadership. It’s more of the same pandering that has gotten West Virginia where it is.

Of course, candidates and leaders support the state’s miners. Of course, people wistfully recall past boom times — and have every reason to be proud and celebrate past accomplishments. But the pressing question now is what is going to be done to expand the economy past coal? West Virginia needs to be more than a one-industry economy.

By all means, commit to the state’s miners, and its nonminers, too, while you’re at it. Commit to a more vibrant, diverse economy. Commit to putting people to work doing mine reclamation and saving some of West Virginia for tomorrow.

We know Jim Justice thinks about diversifying the economy. He talks about it. It is evident in his own businesses — The Greenbrier, agriculture, tourism.

 But this ploy on Tuesday is like all the others intended to make candidates dance to coal’s tune, to force them to compete with each other to see who can pander most to the interests of the shrinking industry.

It’s the campaign-consultant equivalent of a traveler who ventures to a beautiful vista, and then looks at it all through his cellphone, instead of perceiving the experience through his senses in the moment.

Justice’s campaign advisers should take their noses out of the dated, narrow polling data that allow them to sell the same repackaged snake oil to candidate after candidate, voter after voter. They should look around and notice what’s going on.

More West Virginians are wising up to the change that is happening. They don’t all live in Southern West Virginia, but plenty of them still do.

People like Jim Justice because he thinks big. He dreams big. Things sound possible when he says it, and he seems like a nice guy. Setting up this false pledge with a tone of “you’re either with us or against us,” is not leadership. Come on.

To see more from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, click here. 

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