Here, Clinton discusses her campaign efforts in mining areas. Unfortunately, she had to deal with the aftermath of an incredibly unfortunate comment that she made at a rally. Now, regardless of what she meant, this is not a good look for her. She said that this was part of a larger part of dealing with the inevitable decline of the coal industry. But she really, REALLY shouldn’t have worded it that way. At the very best, it seems like she’s making light of a real issue that affects people’s lives and livelihoods. She puts the statement in its proper context, so readers can decide for themselves how to interpret her words. At its core, I understand what she was trying to say. As we move towards clean energy and renewable fuel, the uncomfortable truth is that the coal industry will continue to decline. With the industry’s decline, people will lose their jobs. Clinton knows this, but her comment can come across as callus, especially to someone that’s losing their job and worried about how they’re going to support their family.
Clinton may have said that in the context of solving the problem that has come forward, but that one comment could have been significant in ending her campaign. Coal mining became a hot topic of debate in the 2016 election, despite its relatively small workforce. But at the worst, it would seem like she’s showing outright contempt for coal miners. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t disregard the effect that her words had. And really, that’s just as important as the brass tacks of a policy. I think it’s a good idea to think about a) how a statement would look as viewed by people that are the closest to the issue and b) how the policy would translate to a layperson.
I’m not trying to play down anyone’s intelligence. There are extremely smart people that aren’t well versed in policy and lawmaking. They might not have time, they might not really have interest to get down into the granular details. And that’s fine. If someone wants to spend their time and mental energy learning to operate mining equipment, or fix cars, or be a good parent, or something else, that’s fine and completely understandable. There are many types of intelligence, and many of them are extremely undervalued in American society. I think that one of Clinton’s mistakes here was getting her point across in a kind of roundabout way. She might have valued the showmanship of the line rather than clarity. And it was a town hall speech, not a committee meeting. But still, I think she just didn’t consider enough how it would look to people that are affected. People that it hits so close to home.
And I’m really one to talk. Some suburban bookworm that can hardly stand to break a nail. I’m not immediately affected by this issue, I have the disconnection to step back. But I simply sympathize with the emotions that such an ill-thought statement could bring to someone who is faced with financial hardship because of the declining coal industry.
Now, Clinton was right in going to West Virginia and trying to speak face-to-face with people that were rightfully offended by her statements. I respect her going and facing the people that she hurt and offended, or at the very least was inconsiderate of. However, here she seems really defensive. It comes across to me as a kind of “I’m sorry you felt that way” or “I’m sorry you took it the wrong way”, not a “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” Sure, people didn’t take it the way she meant it. Sure, her intentions weren’t to dismiss or offend. But as good as her intentions were, I think this is one of the mistakes that could have cost Clinton the election.