In the primary, Trump lost big in Republican Wyoming, securing just a single delegate —but in the general election, he won in a landslide. The biggest factor behind this pendulum swing? Energy.
Though Wyoming is the most scarcely populated state in the nation, it’s also America’s biggest coal producer. Obama’s war on coal took its toll, creating a one-state recession; Clinton’s vow to shut down coal mines and end coal jobs was heard and feared; between the two, Trump became the only viable option for many, however cringe-worthy his history and rhetoric.
Wyoming may have been the canary in the coalmine, but that same phenomenon played out across America’s energy heartlands, the New York Times reports:
If a single moment captured coal country’s despair this year, it was when Bo Copley, a soft-spoken, out-of-work mine maintenance planner, fought tears as he asked Hillary Clinton how, having dismissed coal’s future in language that came back to haunt her, she could “come in here and tell us you’re going to be our friend.”
That was in May. Mr. Copley, 39 and a registered Republican, was “very uncomfortable” with Donald J. Trump then, he said. But over time, in a paradox of the Bible Belt, Mr. Copley, a deeply religious father of three, put his faith in a trash-talking, thrice-married Manhattan real estate mogul as a savior for coal country — and America.
“God has used unjust people to do his will,” Mr. Copley said, explaining his vote.
… Mr. Trump pummeled Mrs. Clinton in coal country. Here in West Virginia, he won every county and took 69 percent of the vote, a landslide also fueled by his promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices who would roll back abortion rights. As Mr. Copley put it, “Coal is secondary to me.”
It is difficult for outsiders to fathom how deeply faith and work are intertwined here, or the economic and psychological depression that sets in when an entire region loses the only livelihood many of its people have ever known. Coal has always been boom and bust; its decline began long before Mr. Obama took office. But in West Virginia alone, 12,000 coal industry jobs have been lost during his tenure.
While the New York Times is pessimistic about coal’s resurgence, its article is worth reading, if only to understand the impact the Obama administration regulations have had on working-class families. It’s perhaps the Grey Lady’s most humanizing look at Trump supporters thus far.