By Luke Popovich

Brothers and sisters of the coal community, you may be pleased with your elected representative in Congress for his coal friendly voting record and want to show your appreciation. Or you may be frustrated by clueless politicians who don’t appreciate what you and King Coal do for this country. Maybe you’re annoyed at policies coming out of Washington that seem to favor “green” jobs over existing ones, renewable energy over affordable energy. 

Either way, soon you’ll be able to do something about it—and legally, too. It’s called “voting,” a usually effective and bloodless way devised by democracies for changing the dial in Washington, for deciding who will govern, how they will govern and for how long.

In the coalfields and throughout coal’s long supply chain, hundreds of thousands of Americans can cast a vote for coal. Unless you’re an ex-felon or an undocumented alien—and by the way Coal Age welcomes all readers—you’ll have the chance on Tuesday, November 2, to send a pointed message to Congress, the White House and even indirectly to federal regulators who’re not on the ballot. National elections are a great way to “communicate” with your congressman and maybe send a message to your state’s senators and governor as well. And mid-term elections are always a target-rich opportunity, since all 435 members of the House are on the ballot, along with 37 in the Senate this year and a record 37 governors. 

In fact, this mid-term election is shaping up to be a doozy; think of it as a party you won’t want to miss. Mid-term elections are usually dangerous for the party in power and this one could be lethal. Thanks to a wheezing economy, high and prolonged unemployment, a $1.4 trillion deficit and a highly partisan Congress, political pundits expect Democrats to suffer heavier than usual losses—possibly heavy enough to lose control of the House and weaken their governing hand in the Senate. The president’s own press secretary admitted as much last month.

But this is only because Democrats are in charge and have the most to lose, not because voters like Republicans. Voters express virtually equal disdain for both parties. According to a Gallup poll this summer, Republicans hold only a narrow lead over Democrats—46% to 44%—as the party voters say they are likely to favor in November. Fact is, today Americans rank Congress dead last out of 16 institutions rated, with fewer than ever—only 11%—saying they’re confident in our legislative branch. 

As an individual voter you may have only a small chance of determining the outcome in November, but by not voting you’ll have no chance.  American humorist Will Rogers once caustically advised against voting altogether: “It just encourages ‘em,” he quipped. The problem with his advice is, the other side never takes it. Activists of all stripes are motivated, and motivated people typically vote. Bad enough that coal’s critics vote in big numbers, but much worse when coal’s supporters don’t.

The National Mining Association has a way to make voting much easier for you, without suggesting who you should vote for. Our Mine the Vote (MTV) program is an industry leader in providing on-line help to anyone, NMA member or not, who wants to vote. 

Clicking on is like clicking on a remote that helps you change the channel in Washington. MTV allows you to quickly register to vote if you’re not registered already, learn where to vote in your neighborhood, file an absentee ballot if you’re traveling that day, find out if your state offers early voting opportunities, who your congressional candidates are and who the coal industry’s political action committee supports.  MTV doesn’t tell you how to vote, just when and where and why you should. 

If the coal community unites around a pro-coal message in the national interest, our votes can be a decisive factor in many key races. So talk to your family, your friends and co-workers about what’s at stake for your community and join the Sierra Clubers at the voting booth on November 2.

Come November 3, you may be glad you did.

Popovich is a spokesperson for the National Mining Association, the industry’s trade group based in Washington, D.C.