The New Tragedy of Coal Country

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

Around two dozen coal miners sat at fold-out tables outside the West Virginia capitol building on Tuesday, eating barbecue. Dressed in full work gear, including hardhats, they sweated under an unseasonably warm sun as they devoured pulled pork, cabbage, and red-skinned potatoes. The feast was prepared for them by Rupie Phillips, a Democrat-turned-independent state delegate running as a Republican for Congress. As he shook the miners’ hands, he passed out stickers containing the same phrase emblazoned on his black baseball cap: “I survived the war on coal.”

He and everyone else at this party seemed to believe it.

“I think we ought to forever celebrate today,” Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, told the crowd, which also