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“A change of direction”: State lawmakers express hope as Trump takes office following inauguration



The Daily Athenaeum

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — At noon today, Donald J. Trump will stand on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building with his left hand on the bible and his right in the air, as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers to him the presidential oath of office.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito speaks to West Virginians Thursday at her inauguration open house at the Everett Dirksen Senate Building.
(Photo by Andrew Spelling)

This moment is the culmination of what many are calling an unconventional presidential campaign, and it will be the beginning of what many are predicting to be an equally unconventional term in office.

“I think one of the things that came out of the election, too, in the process, is tahe lack of trust of public figures. He ran as an outsider,” said Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). “He’s going to be an unconventional president, certainly for one way–the way he communicates–but for other reasons (as well).”

In November, West Virginia was one of two states (along with Oklahoma) to see Trump dominate every county within its borders. Of the 55 counties in the Mountain State, only three (Kanawha, Monongalia and Jefferson) supported Trump with less than 60 percent of the vote.

As early as December 2015, a study by Civics Analytics, a democratic data firm, claimed West Virginia held the highest support for Trump in the country. During campaigning, Logan County was dubbed “the heart of Trump Country” by The New Yorker and several other publications, including Vanity Fair, The Guardian, HuffingtonPost and Politico used West Virginia as the destination on a roadmap of “Trumpism.”

While Trump support thrived in the Mountain State ahead of the election, an unpredictable four years lay ahead for legislators and citizens alike, as Trump’s campaign promises of job growth for West Virginians inspire their hopes for the future.

“I think everybody has big hopes. He’s promised a lot and I think he’s getting some leeway but he’s going to have to deliver, too,” Capito said. “We’re going to have to help him deliver.”

A promise that means a lot to West Virginians was Trump’s call to revive the coal mining industry. While this could potentially ease economic troubles for some, “we know not everybody is going to get back to work (in coal),” Capito said.

Evan Jenkins (R-WV3)—whose district includes some of the highest unemployment rates in the state as of November 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—believes current economic struggles are largely due to eight years of environmental regulations under the Obama administration. While Jenkins concedes that market forces, like the rise of the natural gas industry, can impact the coal economy, most of the issue in his eyes spurs from regulatory politics that would have been held strong and repeated in a Clinton administration.

“For West Virginia, I firmly believe the last eight years have not been good for our state,” Jenkins said.  “We have people who are really hurting, and they’re really hurting in large part because of the ideological agenda of the Obama administration relating to energy policy and the war on coal.”

Clinton’s early embrace of such ideologies—and her mission to further them—was a dividing factor for West Virginians looking for a rejuvenated coal industry. Simultaneously, Trump was promising the opposite.

“Elections are either change of pace or change of direction; Hillary Clinton offered a change of pace. Donald Trump, a change of direction,” Jenkins said.

Regardless of whether West Virginians were looking for a new pace or direction, both Jenkins and Capito agree a peaceful transition of power from Obama to Trump is the most important thing to consider today.

“We must come together now under this president and the next four years to try to move our state and country forward,” Jenkins said. “This is a process, but it’s constitutionally honored and required and provided and no one is happy with every outcome, but it’s important that we come together and work together (toward) the best interest of our state and our country.”

As a member of congress, Capito disagrees with the actions of House members who refused to attend the inauguration as a slight to Trump, saying instead they disrespected the office of the president, not the President-Elect himself.

“I think it’s important to show not just our country but the world that we are behind our president and praying for our president,” Capito said.

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