This is a genuine news lede in America today. Don Blankenship, who got out of prison last year after his violations of federal mine safety standards killed 29 West Virginia coal miners, is running for the Senate. As, of course, a Republican.
Ex-Massey Energy boss Don Blankenship is scheduled to attend the meeting Thursday night at the Chief Logan Lodge, Hotel and Conference Center in Logan. Blankenship has said he wants to tell voters why he’s the best candidate. A news conference is planned afterward.
Blankenship is a criminal. He specifically is a criminal who got his own employees killed as a result of his profit-seeking, a Dickensian figure who helped murder 29 people in an effort to squeeze more coal, and faster, from his mine. The specific memo Blankenship wrote demanding his workers ignore safety tasks in order to instead "run coal" was quickly produced and made public. And this is not even close to his only misdeed.
He is running for the Senate in an era in which Republicans sponsored a child molester in Alabama, welcomed a sheriff preemptively pardoned by Trump for willful violation of court orders, and have seated a now-congressman who physically assaulted a reporter whose campaign-trail question he didn't like. Blankenship presumes that a wealthy mine owner who killed his own miners to scrape a little more coal from his mine is just as valid a Republican candidate as any of the other cartoonish jackasses the party has been propping up.
It will be interesting to see whether he's right. He's still fabulously rich, of course, since killing off 29 workers is not as crippling to the pocketbook of a rich man as you might presume it ought to be, and so can get his message out (he still maintains he was innocent and his mine exploded, you know, coincidentally) to whatever extent he wishes. He will no doubt also gain the benefit of the New York Times publishing fawning letters from whatever dozen or so not-dead coal miners Blankenship can scrounge up to support him, because that is what they do now. It’s the quiet acquiescence of a national party that has long argued that fabulously rich business owners ought to be able to decide for themselves whether or not to kill their workers, rather than having government elbowing their way into the free market with an opinion on the matter.
But you can't say Blankenship doesn't have his party pegged. Everything we've seen from Republicans suggests that a worker-killing coal baron stands just as decent a chance as any of their other candidates, so long as he hires the right consultants and runs advertisements in which he appears in front of oversized American flags.