The Democrats’ absurdly slow response to the recent Ohio train derailment repeats an all-too-familiar pattern of liberals creating openings conservatives are able to exploit.

by Luke Savage, Jacobin

Earlier this week, ahead of either President Joe Biden or Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Donald Trump paid a visit to East Palestine, Ohio, and denounced the administration for its response to the catastrophic train derailment that devastated that community earlier this month. Flanked by newly elected Republican senator J. D. Vance, Congressman Bill Johnson, and a number of local officials, the former president — visibly in 2024 campaign mode — blasted Biden and declared, “What this community needs now are not excuses and all of the other things you’ve been hearing, but answers and results.”

A recent Politico article, headlined “Trump’s visit to Ohio derailment gives Biden’s team some breathing room,” advances the case that the trip may prove politically advantageous for the Democrats. This framing is incredibly perplexing. Visiting the site of the derailment might have been an easy slam dunk for Biden, who, among other things, could have used the occasion to denounce the greed of rail monopolies. Instead, by not visiting, Biden has needlessly created a political opportunity for Trump and the GOP to exploit — yet again opening up space for the Republican Party to present itself as the genuine voice of America’s working class.

Smoke rises from the east palestine train derailment with houses and cars in the foreground

The Politico piece quotes numerous sources critical of Trump who dismiss his visit as a stunt and underscore the less-than-stellar Republican record on rail safety deregulation. Buttigieg himself has remarked, “A lot of the folks who seem to find political opportunity there are among those who have sided with the rail industry again and again and again as they have fought safety regulations on railroads and [hazardous materials] tooth and nail.” (On the heels of Trump’s visit, Buttigieg did finally show his face in East Palestine yesterday.)

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