CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia in my lifetime has politically changed from a Blue state to a Red state. It once voted for Roosevelt and JFK and has evolved to vote for Bush II twice and against Obama two times. It was liberal and now votes like Mississippi and Alabama. What happened?
I have been reading the essays of Albert Camus. In one titled "Bread and Freedom," he sets out thinking and reaches conclusions that bear on the causes of the change in politics in West Virginia. Here is the core of his argument:
"As far as I am concerned, I have recognized only two aristocracies, that of labor and that of the intelligence, and I know that it is mad and criminal to try to make one dominate the other. I know that the two of them constitute but a single nobility, that their truth and, above all, their effectiveness lie in union; I know that if they are separated, they will allow themselves to be overcome gradually by the forces of tyranny and barbarousness, but united, on the other hand, they will govern the world. That is why any undertaking to loosen their ties and separate them is directed against man and his loftiest hopes. "
I remember the days when labor and intelligence were one. John L. Lewis came on the scene and with the blessing of President Roosevelt and other intellectuals he brought coal miners from the depth of tyranny, from meager wages to a living wage, from terrible working conditions and long hours and unhealthy environments to better working hours and safer mines.
I remember when every summer the miners had vacations. They came to Summers County in great numbers. They were able to leave the dark, dank mines and fish and swim in the pristine waters of the Greenbrier and New rivers. Labor and intellectuals were one. But there was Capital, pouting and planning for a return of more profits to the detriment of labor and the environment. Came then mountaintop removal and the end of the Eden of labor and intellectuals and environmentalists.
Mountaintop removal mining has split irrevocably labor and intellectuals. Capital -- to increase profits taken from them by higher wages as a result of a combination of labor and intellectuals -- turned to the use of technology and machines to reduce the employment of labor drastically. And thus Capital increased its profits enormously. Labor had no option but to work at mountaintop removal. What could it do but mine coal even if miners were being reduced in numbers steadily?
The intellectuals could not remain quiet while mountains, which have been here since God knows when, providing beauty, shade, fall colors, habitat for animals and birds, grounds for streams and rivers and views for poets -- were reduced to a desert of rocks and dirt and ugliness.
So labor and intellectuals have now gone politically in different directions. Labor is now Red and intellectuals are now Blue.