Chris Hayes in West Virginia: Last evening, midway through the hour, we found ourselves asking a question:
Is this the best hour of cable news we have ever seen?
We were watching Chris Hayes' town hall event in McDowell County, West Virginia. Apparently, the program was called Bernie Sanders in Trump Country, although it's hard to tell from MSNBC's who-gives-a-flying-fig web site for Hayes' All In program.
Hayes had brought Sanders along to coal country; we thought they were both fantastic. The keeper moment occurred fairly late in the hour, when a retired coal miner stood and said this to Sanders:
RETIRED MINER: I never dreamed that I'd get to thank you personally, myself, for the bill that you have co-sponsored, the Senate Bill 175, the Miners Protection Act, which—Let us repeat that nugget statement, live and direct from Trump Country:
I'm one of those miners that will lose his health care at the end of April if they don't pass that law. I come from Local 1440 in Matewan...We have over 800 members, all inactive. They're all retired. So we look at things different. And we look at our health care and what we've already worked out.
We're not going to mine any more coal. Our coal mining days are over. And we look to have the funds that we worked for—
SANDERS: And were promised!
RETIRED MINER: —that were promised to us taken care of. That's all we asked. And it's— I think it's kind of ironic that a senator from the northeast—
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes!
RETIRED MINER: —takes care of my benefits better than someone like Mitch McConnell.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: All right!
[Long round of applause]
"I think it's kind of ironic that a senator from the northeast takes care of my benefits better than someone like Mitch McConnell."
As politics, as journalism, the evening was astounding. We're not sure we've ever seen an event that good on cable.
As we type, MSNBC hasn't posted a transcript of the hour. (Indeed, the channel hasn't even posted a transcript from last Friday's Hayes program.)
The channel hasn't posted easily accessible tape of last night's full event, easily one of the most striking programs the channel has ever produced.
This channel's disinterest in its own product has long been fairly obvious. That said, we strongly recommend the hour, if you can find a way to view it.
We plan to discuss the program in more detail once a transcript becomes available. But this hour was light years better than the fare one normally sees on this channel.
The very next hour, CNN aired a fascinating program by Fareed Zakaria, a program about the political history of Vladimir Putin. We had a few uncharitable thoughts as we watched these outstanding back-to-back hours of cable news.
Those thoughts involved the journalism these channels could perhaps produce if they weren't squandering so many tens of millions of dollars on their silliest, most self-involved stars. For now, though, we'll simply recommend an additional half-hour of tape:
Musically, John Cohen made his name long ago as a member of the New Lost City Ramblers. In 1963, he also made a documentary film, The High Lonesome Sound, about life in Kentucky coal country, with an emphasis on the region's music.
You can watch The High Lonesome Sound here. At roughly the 16:45 mark, you will see three young girls, apparently sisters, who 1) are full of fun and 2) are sporting extremely thin arms, and may not be rich in shoes.
Today, those girls are roughly the age of the women we liberals delighted in mocking and disregarding not too many weeks ago, when Sarah Kliff reported that they can't afford to go to the doctor despite the fact that they have insurance under Obamacare. (Just for the record, the USA 9400 were missing from Kliff's report.)
Hayes and Sanders were both superb in their visit to coal country. In our view, we upper-class liberals have a lot to learn from the example the two men created last night.
We hope to return to The High Lonesome Sound before the week is over. The question we would ask is this:
Can you see those three girls, and their low-income rural parents, as examples of Us? Or given our highly refined sensibilities, are they, inevitably, simply examples of Them?
We've tended to play it the latter way for a good many years. Could our attitudes explain why those girls, unless they've moved, are now living deep inside "Trump Country?"