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The Underreported Issue That Could Shatter Democrats’ 2020 Hopes

AP Photo/John Bazemore

We’ve all heard this before about the 2020 field. They’re too liberal, too milquetoast, and their agenda really isn’t appealing to blue-collar workers. They say they want to be the party for everyone. The reality is they’re just doubling down on the urban areas and hoping some more black voters and the Trump deranged and utterly insufferable professional elites to put them over the top. In other words, screw white working-class workers. It’s a ruse. Again, you all know this, but Democrats continue to ignore the Electoral College game. It’s very possible, in fact—it’s likely, that the 2020 Democratic nominee gets more popular votes, but once again loses the election due to not being able to clinch 270. Democrats, it’s no secret that you’re going to win the densely populated, hobo-riddled, and the crap-infested state of California. What about the Rust Belt? Yeah, that’s what I thought. There’s a reason we have an Electoral College.


But back to the point here. We know the Democratic health agenda is literally taking away people’s health care, with the cannibalization of 150+ million private health care plans thanks to Medicare for All. That includes union workers, and it isn’t popular. It’s not popular to bash federal immigration officers. It’s not popular to decriminalize border crossings. And it’s certainly not popular to give illegal aliens health care. Yet, this issue might kill their hopes before a nominee is even selected. In Pennsylvania, even Democrats know that a ban on fracking would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs related to the industry of natural gas. Without the Keystone State, the Democrats are cooked. Even Democrats in Pennsylvania who have a more environmental streak know this is a losing message and could push the state out of reach (via NYT):

Though they are both Democrats, John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, and Bill Peduto, this city’s [Pittsburgh] mayor, have their differences on the environment.

Mr. Fetterman, who toppled an incumbent Democrat in 2018 from the left, nevertheless calls Pennsylvania “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” and sees extracting and taxing gas as critical to the state’s economy and the “union way of life.” Mr. Peduto lobbied unsuccessfully against a local petrochemical plant and is steering his once-struggling steel town to be independent of fossil fuels within 15 years.

But they agree on one thing: a pledge to ban all hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, could jeopardize any presidential candidate’s chances of winning this most critical of battleground states — and thus the presidency itself. So as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren woo young environmental voters with a national fracking ban, these two Democrats are uneasy.

“In Pennsylvania, you’re talking hundreds of thousands of related jobs that would be — they would be unemployed overnight,” said Mr. Fetterman, who endorsed Mr. Sanders in 2016 before Donald J. Trump won his state, pop. 12.8 million, by just over 44,000 votes. “Pennsylvania is a margin play,” he added. “And an outright ban on fracking isn’t a margin play.”

Mr. Peduto said “the Warren-Sanders, ban-all-fracking-right-now” position would “absolutely devastate communities throughout the Rust Belt” and pit environmentalists against workers at a time when Democrats need both.

“If a candidate comes into this state and tries to sell that policy, they’re going to have a hard time winning,” he said.


“The cracker” is shorthand for a $6 billion Royal Dutch Shell petrochemical complex under construction in Beaver County, just northwest of Pittsburgh, that will convert ethane, a natural gas liquid fracked in Southwestern Pennsylvania, into pellets for plastic manufacturing. It gets its nickname from the chemical reaction known as cracking.


Mr. Peduto said that was, in part, why he has opposed the cracker plant. “The people in the Rust Belt are being sold false hope of, ‘Just sacrifice your land and your air and your water one more time and we will provide you with all of these jobs,’” he said.

Yet he had a warning for national Democrats. “This presidential race comes down to about ten states,” he said. “And if you are trying to pass universal bans, it will never happen.”  


Oh, and you bet the ban all fracking stance from Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders is going to impact the union vote in the state. If these two are nominated, union leaders are going to do two things: vote for Trump or sit out. Yeah, Democrats are really the working man’s party, right:

Union leaders meeting for lunch one recent afternoon at an Italian restaurant on the outskirts of Pittsburgh said they could not afford to be dismissive of jobs like the ones constructing the cracker plant, where wages, pensions and benefits can run into the six figures.

“At the end of the day, if I don’t have a job, if I don’t have health care, if I can’t take care of my family, it doesn’t matter if we have global peace and gun control and everything else,” said Jeff Nobers, executive director of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania.

“This is one of the most robust economies in the country,” Mr. Nobers added, “and it’s mostly fueled by, yeah, the gas industry, the burgeoning petrochemical industry, manufacturing. And you have politicians that say, no, we don’t need this because there’s 200 people working for Google in East Liberty,” referring to a shining commercial area of Pittsburgh.

Four of the labor leaders, all Democrats who said they supported Mrs. Clinton in 2016, said they would most likely sit out the 2020 election if Mr. Sanders or Ms. Warren were the nominee.

“If we end up with a Democratic candidate that supports a fracking ban, I’m going to tell my members that they either don’t vote or vote for the other guy,” said James T. Kunz Jr., business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

A fifth labor leader, a registered Democrat, said he had voted for Mr. Trump and that he intended to do so again.


At the end of the day, the core of the Democratic message in 2020 is we’re not Donald Trump. No kidding. Beyond that—they have nothing. Nothing that doesn’t raise taxes, increase regulations and kills jobs. A national race where the opposition is content with just being the “anti” factor on the stage isn’t enough. Romney was the anti-Obama. Kerry was the anti-Bush. They both lost.

This isn’t hard. If Democrats weren’t insane, had an agenda that focused on jobs, and better trade deals, they could—in theory—make trouble for Trump. The problem is that Trump has kept promises on those fronts. This warning about the dangers of pushing for fracking bans has been underreported. That’s fine by me. Stay ignorant, Democrats. Please. Do. Also, it looks like Ohio is off the map too if either Warren or Sanders is nominated. And sorry, I don’t think Joe has the juice to flip the state with his knucklehead performance thus far. 

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