The Washington Post speaks to folk in Gillette!


Are Trump voters human:
Wouldn't you know it? On last Sunday's Meet the Press, Scott Pruitt misstated a fact.

At Slate, Daniel Gross even whacks Chuck Todd. Easy to be hard:
GROSS (6/5/17): Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said on Meet the Press on Sunday that “in fact since the fourth quarter of last year to most recently added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs.” Aside from being ungrammatical, that’s wrong. And it represents a willful misreading of the data from one of the reportedly central voices behind Trump’s decision to withdraw from the climate pact. (Needless to say, Chuck Todd didn’t correct him.) As the government’s own numbers show, there were only 51,000 coal-mining jobs in the entire U.S. in May. Last month, 400 coal jobs were added—not 7,000. It was the overall mining sector, which includes oil, gas, and metals mining in addition to coal, that added 7,000 jobs in the month and 50,000 since last 2016.
Should Todd have known that Pruitt's statement was wrong? Easy to be hard!

That said, Pruitt's misstatement should be corrected next Sunday. We'll be surprised if it is.

Millions of people were misinformed by Pruitt's erroneous statement. We think this provides a bit of background to a major front-page report in last Saturday's Washington Post.

On balance, we thought the report was good work. Post reporter Robert Samuels spoke to voters in Gillette, Wyoming, right in the heart of that state's coal country.

According to Samuels, "close to 90 percent" of the area's voters voted for Candidate Trump. In a 2400-word piece, Samuels lets Gillette voters say why.

Important point: Samuels says that "everyone [in Gillette] has some connection to the same industry." (He seems to mean the coal industry, though he may be including other forms of energy.) That sets the stage for this portrait of the region's view of Donald J. Trump:
SAMUELS (6/3/17): Tom Gorton, 41, drove through those increasingly congested streets in his Arnold Machinery truck late on a spring afternoon, under the watch of mountains covered in white from a spring snowstorm. As Gorton settled behind his desk, he was heartened to see how messy it was with orders, one year after hundreds of layoffs at two nearby coal mines cost him his job and delivered a gut punch to a county that produces more than a third of the nation's energy supply.

In another room at Arnold's, branch manager Adam Coleman fixed his eyes on statistics tracking economic trends. Electricity had flatlined. To Coleman, this was good news.

"I can't put fully into words this feeling I'm feeling, but it is much better," he said. "I believe the economy as a whole is going to recover, and when it does, electrical use will increase. It's not going down, so that's a good thing. We'll be back."

In Gillette and surrounding Campbell County, people were beginning to feel the comeback they voted for. Unemployment has dropped by more than a third since March 2016, from 8.9 percent to 5.1 percent. Coal companies are rehiring workers, if only on contract or for temporary jobs. More people are splurging for birthday parties at the Prime Rib and buying a second scoop at the Ice Cream Cafe.

Maybe it was President Trump. Much was surely because of the market, after a colder winter led to increases in coal use and production. But in times when corporate profits are mixed with politics, it was difficult for people here to see the difference.

"I'm back to work," Gorton said. "It's real. Did Trump do it all? I don't think so. But America voted in a man who was for our jobs."
According to Samuels, people in Gillette see Trunp as "a man who was for our jobs." Gillette had recently fallen on rather hard times. Today, with a rebound under way, they're hoping that Donald J. Trump can bring those better times back to stay.

We'll assume that they're wrong about that. That said, we think Samuels' profile offers liberals a hefty challenge:

Why not take the Samuels Wyoming Challenge? Are you able to empathize with people who voted for Trump?

(On Saturday, at the coffee joint, we mentioned the piece to a very bright friend. We'd have to say he wasn't real eager to empathize with Wyoming's Trump voters. Those People should move, he quickly said.)

We thought Samuels did a decent job speaking to folk in Gillette. If we had to complain, we'd be inclined to complain about two dogs who or which didn't bark.

Why did people vote for Trump? For starters, let's return to Pruitt on Sunday's Meet the Press.

People like Pruitt have made many false statements to people like those in Gillette. We think Samuels might have explored that problem in more detail.

To what extent have Trump, and other high-profile figures, misled those voters about their industry's prospects? We would have liked to have seen more voters asked.

We also thought a dog didn't bark concerning Candidate Clinton. Why did people vote for Trump? At one point, Samuels wrote this:
SAMUELS: Five months after Gorton returned to work, he was sitting at Pizza Carrello with his co-workers and boss.

"A round of jalapeƱo poppers!" Coleman demanded as the place buzzed. Coleman was feeling bullish and told his staff that the numbers looked good and more hiring was on the horizon.

"Even Hillary couldn't have changed this short term," he said, noting that coal prices were up again after a colder winter. But the new administration was also giving companies more confidence to invest in coal, he said. "Long term, Trump will be the difference."
"Even Hillary" couldn't have killed the region's recent economic progress, that one Gillette voter said.

Many people who voted for Trump were voting against Hillary Clinton. We would have liked to have seen a fuller discussion of what Gillette voters thought about her.

Earlier in his profile, Samuels had offered a glimpse of the way Clinton is viewed in Gillette. He noted that many Trump voters in Gillette had wanted to stay in the Paris climate accord. Along the way, he said this:
SAMUELS: At least, though, they had a president who was trying to protect their jobs.

When the mines laid off workers in March 2016, the city spiraled down into a period of job- and soul-searching. Environmentalists on the coasts had long derided their type of work as toxic. Democrats, led by presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, declared their jobs passe. Gillette had coal, oil and gas, but so much attention was placed on wind and solar and turning miners into computer programmers. In an increasingly interwoven country, residents grappled with whether there was still a place in America for their kind of community—even if it kept the lights on.

"We once powered the nation," Gorton said. "But you got the feeling that things are not quite the same and that political forces are encroaching on your livelihood. It's like they are willing to take away your town."
At one point during the campaign, Clinton made an extremely clumsy remark about the future of coal jobs. Then too, Clinton had been demonized for more than twenty-four years by the time of November's election. We'd like to know what these voters believed about her in the wider sense.

All in all, we thought Samuels did a good job. His piece gives liberals a chance to take a small tiny test.

There is no sign that these Trump voters are the slobbering racists of frequent fever dreams. Why not take The Samuels Wyoming Challenge? Why not read that profile to see if you can empathize with these voters in some tiny way?

Last Saturday, it seemed to us that our friend was not so inclined. That said, this challenge is a test of Us more than a test about Them.

Go ahead! Why not take The Wyoming Challenge? Are These People actually human? Take the challenge and see.

Taking the Pruitt Misstatement Challenge: Todd should correct Pruitt's misstatement next week.

Will it actually happen? Next Sunday, we can all take The Todd Challenge and see.


  1. Here's the thing - it's of course correct to empathize with people in difficult straits, as many "working-class" people are, given the economy of the past 40 years. It's also of course the right thing to refrain from being condescending or arrogant toward anyone, including those working-class voters. Finally, it's also certainly true that there are some liberals/leftists who have acted poorly at times, in ways that can be fairly be interpreted as arrogant or condescending.

    But those people and instances aren't numerous enough to support a claim that "liberals are elitist" and don't empathize with white-working-class real Americans. To the extent that resentment toward such people played a role in the election, my guess is that the resentment was the product of a combination of the following:

    1. Propaganda fed by the right-wing media machine, which pushes the narrative that liberals hate real Americans.
    2. Real anxiety over the economy and society as it changes from what it was - a feeling that things are changing "too fast."

    1. Your points are valid, but I think you need to include the New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, Salon, Huffington Post, and AP as part of the right-wing media machine. They are not only constantly insulting working people, they've spent years repeating the Clinton phony scandals.

  2. Slate doesn't note their source for the "true" coal mining employment figures. I'm guessing that they might be relying on Politifact. Politifact does rate the claim of 50,000 new jobs as "Mostly False". However, if you read their analysis, the count depends on how one defines "coal-mining jobs." E.g., if you include drivers of coal delivery trucks, then the number goes up substantially.

    I was struck by the fact that neither PolitiFact nor Slate seems to have asked Pruitt how he came up with his figure of 50,000.

    1. "And if Pruitt meant to refer to these statistics, they include logging jobs as well -- a sector he didn’t reference on the shows."
      "The increase in coal jobs began before Trump was elected. The job gains in the coal sector during the final five months of the Barack Obama administration -- an administration that Trump’s camp blamed for waging a "war on coal" -- were actually slightly larger than the equivalent number for the first five months of the Trump administration, namely 1,400 versus 1,300."
      Should I keep on quoting? Then there was a mention of much higher demand for metallurgical coal.

  3. BTW I should emphasize that Pruitt did NOT address coal MINING jobs. He addressed jobs in the coal SECTOR. Slate pretends to show that Pruitt was wrong by discussing the number of jobs in coal MINING.

    Will Slate ever correct their error? Will Bob criticize them if they don't? (Answers: No and No)

    1. Basic logic escapes you. I guess that's one reason why you're such a persistent troll.

  4. A new silliness is emerging in the media, suggesting that we can understand Trump voters by talking to coal miners. By now we must have heard from all 50,000 of them.

    I can fully understand why coal miners might vote for a candidate who promises to hold back the tides that are destroying their way of life, and I can sympathize with them (I had to make my own wrenching mid-life career change, but, luckily, was much better equipped than most to do get through it). But 50,000 people do not a political coalition make. It's a much harder question to try to understand why so many other people joined the Trump coalition, and it's not going to be because everybody is being victimized by environmental regulation. More likely most of us feel economically more insecure than we felt twenty years ago....insecurity that came in large measure from the great recession, a cause that has much more to do with unbridled capitalism than with environmental regulation. That's a message that gives Democrats a far better shot than trying to bend the country into a pretzel to accommodate 50,000 workers whose industry and way of life are, sadly for them, succumbing to a changing world.

  5. I think Samuels has his thumb on the scale a little bit. His whole 'close to 90% voted for Trump" would be a lot less impressive if he said, more truthfully, "a few percentage more voted for Trump than voted for Romney in 2012 and for McCain in 2008" In Campbell County in 2012 85% voted for Romney. In 2008, 80% voted for McCain. In 2004, Wyoming's own Richard Cheney was on the ballot, and 82% voted for his puppet in Campbell County.

    So in 2016, Trump got 87%. Let's bring in Sherlock Holmes to see if we can discover why, why a county that voted over 80% for the Republican candidate in the last 4 elections would vote so strongly Republican.

    This is quite a mystery. Almost a conundrum if not an enigma. Could it possibly be Professor Plum in the library with the lead pipe? No? My dear Watson, I do not have a clue.