The Campaign Spot

Why Do Coal-Country Democrats Want Their Constituents to Lose Their Jobs?

I have a piece in the pipeline on the race between Republican Tim Burns and Democrat Mark Critz for the House seat in western Pennsylvania once occupied by John Murtha.

I notice Murtha voted for health care and cap-and-trade; his district, as described by Michael Barone’s Almanac of American Politics:

This has been tough, hard-working country ever since the Scots-Irish farmers settled here in the 1790s. Their first big product was whiskey – this was the site of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 – but historically the most important product was bituminous coal. Discovered in the 19th century, it was the basic energy source for the production of iron and steel. The offspring of the original settlers were joined by immigrants from Italy, Poland and Czechoslovakia, living in little frame houses packed into the towns on interstices between hills and rivers, within walking distance of steel factories, foundries and coal mine shafts . . . The 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, with highly irregular boundaries, contains much of this coal and steel country.

Other coal-country Democrats like Kathy Dahlkemper and Jason Altmire voted no on cap-and-trade. I wonder if Mark Critz, Murtha’s district director, stands by his old boss’s vote? 

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More

White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More


Someone tweeted this cartoon today, which apparently is intended to depict me. A few thoughts: I love the caricature. It’s really good. I may steal the second panel and use it for advertising. I hear this line of criticism fairly often from people who are not very bright or well-informed; in truth, I ... Read More