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Why has Donald Trump failed to “drain the swamp,” that is, diminish interest group influence in Washington? The present study explores the president’s relationship with the coal industry to answer this question. It contends that his brand of populism requires a specific political context: one where he can connect with the “common man,” foster a crisis, and display nationalism. King Coal helps construct his preferred environment, which helps explain why Trump has coordinated his activities with this group instead of fulfilling his promise to “drain the swamp.” Since coal miners played a central role in his 2016 campaign, Trump’s relationship with these actors is useful to consider when seeking to understand why a populist would interact with interest groups.


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19 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • Closing the Drain: Interest Groups and the Populist President

  • Journal title
    • International Social Science Review

  • Volume
    • 96

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      N. Scott Cole is a professor of political science at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.