This new ad by allies (the right-wing loons at “Middle Resolution PAC“) of 38th State Senate district Republican nominee Ben Chafin, is really about as slimy, misleading, and demagogic as you can get. Let’s analyze it one slime-suckingly bad part at a slime-suckingly bad time.
1. Start off with the Big Lie, grabbing peoples’ attention with an image of a coal miner and the phrase “the war on energy is a war on our economy.” Of course, that’s completely false and utterly ridiculous. First off, it’s not even theoetically possible to HAVE a “war on energy,” given that “energy” covers everything from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) to renewables like wind and solar and geothermal, given that “energy” is all around us, etc. It’s just utterly nonsensical. What they were TRYING to say was “war on coal,” which is also absurd, unless you believe that the natural gas fracking industry, which has been overwhelmingly responsible the past few years for the decline in coal consumption by U.S. power plants, is waging said “war.” Of course, given that Republicans love fracking, I doubt that that’s what they’re trying to say either.
Finally, I’d just point out that after a century of coal mining in Southwest Virginia, what they have to show for it is one of the poorest parts of Virginia and America. Which means it would be far more accurate to argue that coal mining itself has severely harmed the economy of Appalachian areas like Southwestern Virginia. And not that folks like Ben Chafin care about academic research, but what that shows is clear: “the heaviest coal-mining regions of Appalachia are worse off in just about every way compared to neighboring regions…mountaintop removal mining’s economic cost to Appalachian communities totaled roughly $42 billion per year in lost health and lives.”
In sum, it would be far more accurate to argue that coal itself has been waging war on Southwest Virginia’s economy than natural gas fracking (which certainly has contributed in recent years to the decades-long decline in coal) or environmental regulations (which are far, far too lax). But as usual with Republicans, don’t let facts and logic get in the way of a good piece of demagoguery.
2. Show a photo of the “scary black guy” (in quotes because you can just hear the Republican white guys who crafted this ad thinking through how best to scare the targeted electorate, and because sadly this is how a lot of Teahadists clearly think) in the White House, altered to make it look even more ominous/scary. Then have said “scary black guy” say some out-of-context words using “coal” and “bankrupt them” in the same sentence. Of course, ignore the fact that what President Obama was saying was accurate, that if the full cost of coal – health, environmental, etc. – were “internalized,” and if coal were forced to compete on its own merits with cleaner energy sources, it would be uneconomical to build a new coal-fired power plant in this country. And guess what, that’s exactly what’s been happening for many years now…but ignore all that, just focus on the “scary black guy.” Charming.
3. Go for the stock, but completely false, Republican line about “liberals destroying our jobs and economy.” Hey, just because the exact opposite is the case – the U.S. economy does better under liberals like Clinton and Obama than Bush and Cheney; Obama and “liberals” helped pull the U.S. economy out of the Great Recession inherited from Bush/Cheney – isn’t going to stop these Republican demagogues. And no, they have no shame, so forget about that as a check on these people.
4. Save the most absurd part for last – accusing a freakin’ coal company EXECUTIVE (Democrat Mike Hymes) of being anti-coal! In reality, of course, Hymes is wildly pro-coal and anti-environment, which is why environmentalists aren’t…let’s just say, particularly enthused about his candidacy. Sure, overall he’d be better than Republican Ben Chafin, as they’d both be godawful on energy and environmental issues, but at least Hymes would be likely to vote for Medicaid expansion and other important economic priorities for Virginia and his district. In contrast, Chafin would be the worst of all worlds – as bad as Hymes on energy and the environment, but also horrendous on everything else, and of course the vote that determines whether Lt. Governor Ralph Northam gets to a) just sit there and be bored out of his mind; or b) cast tie-breaking votes in favor of the “blue team.” The problem is, I’m seriously concerned that as disgusting as this Chafin ad is, that it will be effective in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Cuccinelli/Jackson/Obenshain in 2013. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect I’m right…