Robert Samuels reports from Gillette, WYO for the Washington Post:
“In Gillette and surrounding Campbell County, people were beginning to feel the comeback they voted for. Unemployment has dropped by more than a third since March 2016, from 8.9 percent to 5.1 percent. Coal companies are rehiring workers, if only on contract or for temporary jobs. More people are splurging for birthday parties at the Prime Rib and buying a second scoop at the Ice Cream Cafe.
Maybe it was President Trump. Much was surely because of the market, after a colder winter led to increases in coal use and production. But in times when corporate profits are mixed with politics, it was difficult for people here to see the difference.
“I’m back to work,” Gorton said. “It’s real. Did Trump do it all? I don’t think so. But America voted in a man who was for our jobs.”
In a divided nation, optimism had bloomed here in a part of the country united in purpose and in support of the president. Close to 90 percent voted for the same presidential candidate, and 94 percent of the population is the same race. And everyone has some connection to the same industry. They felt optimistic about the tangible effects of the Trump economy, which favors fossil fuels, and the theoretical ones, which favor how they see themselves. Once on the fringes, their jobs had become the centerpiece of Trump’s American mythology.
. . . .
“We once powered the nation,” Gorton said. “But you got the feeling that things are not quite the same and that political forces are encroaching on your livelihood. It’s like they are willing to take away your town.”
Now the fear of what might be taken away was carried by someone else. There was another side of this American story, a tenser and more terrifying one, where immigrant families worried about deportation raids and liberals marched with witty placards to protest the “war on science.”
Far beyond the borders of this isolated town, many Americans were gripped by the latest evidence of the president’s coziness with the Russians, and wondered why the white working and middle classes hadn’t abandoned their increasingly unpopular president. In that America, the early optimism about Trump was fading. A Quinnipiac poll released last month said that 52 percent of Americans were pessimistic about the country’s direction, 20 percent higher than when Trump was inaugurated. And Friday’s anemic employment report, showing the country gained only 138,000 jobs in May, provided little consolation.
Gorton found it difficult to reconcile those two polarized feelings; it seemed that either you had to believe in the country’s pending prosperity or its impending doom.
“I know there are people who are scared about where the country is headed, but before I was scared,” Gorton said. “Either they’re dreaming, or I’m dreaming.”
The question is, once Trump and his cronies are done with their policies of hate, disrespect, and divisiveness, will anyone ever be able to put the pieces of America together again?
Seems like folks on both sides of the aisle should have been able to get together and solve the problems of the nice people of Gillette without reigniting an essentially dying industry that, in the long run, is neither economically viable nor environmentally desirable. When the world fries, I doubt that God will exempt Wyoming from the consequences. Those skies could get cloudy some day. And, by that time, the Trump crowd will be long gone.