East Palestine, Ohio and the Oblivious Democrats
When Trump Shows More Empathy, You Know You're In Trouble
The train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3rd that led to a “controlled” explosion of toxic chemicals that’s now causing sickness among residents there was preventable. Both the Obama and Trump administrations made compromises driven by rail industry lobbyists that contributed to the disaster, which isn’t surprising, given the corporate capture of the U.S. government. The disaster represents a bipartisan failure, yet somehow it’s the Democrats who’ve emerged as the party most out of touch with the suffering of the people of East Palestine.
This week, former President Donald Trump visited East Palestine, handing out water bottles emblazoned with the Trump name, looking like a natural as he visited the local fire department and McDonald’s. Alleged billionaire Donald Trump: man of the people! Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced he has no plans to visit East Palestine. Instead, after Trump had already stolen the spotlight, Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, was sent in the next day, robotically trying to show concern when it was obvious he had little to show.
It’s been a corporate-made disaster for East Palestine residents who have to live with the aftermath of this toxic chemical spill and explosion: let’s not lose sight of that. But it’s also been a total public relations disaster for Joe Biden, “Mayor Pete,” and the Democratic Party, showcasing an obtuseness that borders on obliviousness.
What should have happened? Buttigieg, as Transportation Secretary, should have been on the ground in Ohio within days of the accident. The government should have clearly announced that the rail company would be held responsible, that government aid would be provided, and that Ohioans would be given all the help they need to recover from this disaster. If Biden was unavailable, Kamala Harris should have joined Buttigieg, because that’s what Vice Presidents are for.
Buttigieg and Harris could have seized control of the narrative. They could have admitted that members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, were responsible, but that the Trump administration was arguably most responsible in its relaxation of rules regarding safety brakes. They could have admitted as well that Ohioans had legitimate concerns about the safety of their air and water, and that the federal government would do everything in its power to assist state government authorities with the cleanup and the investigation.
Instead, the Democrats have allowed Trump and the Republicans to appear to be more concerned about, more in touch with, the plight of ordinary Americans.
Recently, Trump has released videos in which he’s warned of World War III, advocated for peace and a negotiated end to the Russia-Ukraine War, while promoting the idea (yet again) of putting Americans first. If he stays with this message, and if Democrats allow Trump to pose as the champion of peace as well as the champion of regular guys and gals (and all gender pronouns in between), there’s a good chance we’ll be looking at four more years of Trump beginning in 2025.
If so, Trump’s victory will be the ultimate proof of how oblivious Democrats have become.
I agree, Bill, that the Dems' messaging has been horribly, inexcusable lacking. It doesn't matter that FEMA, Homeland Security, and the EPA (all arguably part of the Biden government) were all on the ground shortly after the derailment. Doesn't matter that Ohio Republican governor Mike DeWine initially, loudly refused federal aid. Doesn't matter that Biden issued assurance that Norfolk Southern would be held responsible. Doesn't matter that East Palestine is deep in tRump country. Doesn't matter that TFG's appearance was merely opportunistic and his show of sympathy was 100% bogus, after he signed legislation loosening controls on railroads (leading to the brake failure on the train). Nope.
Because perception is reality. It LOOKS to many as if Biden and the Dems haven't done enough. This was their moment to accomplish something real for constituents, and then publicize it to the skies. Instead, they've been slow to act. We don't know how the disaster will play out, whether the Dems will provide large-scale aid to East Palestine residents. But even if they do, if Biden declares a disaster area against DeWine's wishes, they will still not have acted quickly enough or forcefully enough. Or made enough political capital out of the situation.
One problem with having a mainstream press that's almost wholly tilted toward the Democrats is that it encourages the Democrat administrators to be lazy and/or arrogant. They don't need to do the right thing because they think the press can always cover for them later either by re-framing their actions (or inaction) as positive or by ignoring it altogether. For instance, I'm seeing several more local stories of how the people in charge of the East Palestine operation are shipping waste soil and water to other locals without notifying the officials in the receiving counties. But I haven't seen those stories on the national news media. Although Tucker Carlson may cover it. I haven't been watching lately.