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The East Palestine Disaster Is a Nightmare for Democrats

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.

The massive train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio, created one of the worst ecological disasters on U.S. soil in decades. On top of that, it exposed the looming, pervasive incompetence and callousness of the woke ruling class.

A 50-car train operated by Norfolk Southern derailed Feb. 3 near the small town of East Palestine. It was no ordinary derailment, since the train was carrying a variety of chemicals, some of which are quite dangerous. 

Scenes of the derailment looked apocalyptic, like something from the Chernobyl disaster.

Not good. One would think all this would elicit some kind of response from President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats, who are always so concerned by various environmental causes. 

But this disaster elicited crickets. Biden didn’t show up in East Palestine, nor did his administration or the media seem to pay much attention.

Eventually, the president showed up. Well, the former president, Donald Trump.

It was an excellent example of Trump’s reaching out to the Forgotten Man—in this case, literally forgotten—and showing that not only did he feel their pain, but also could remind them when times were good and fun. This was Trump at his best.

Only after Trump arrived on the scene in Ohio did the Biden administration finally respond to the emergency in a public way. Biden was, of course, too busy to show up himself since he was going to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Priorities.

Instead, his administration sent an ambassador. In stepped hapless Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeig.

Buttigeig often has been portrayed as a shining example of the Democratic Party’s future. Gay and relatively young, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has been touted again as a presidential contender. This is Barack Obama 2.0, or something like that.

But Mayor Pete, as he’s sometimes called, has had a turbulent tenure in Biden’s Cabinet to say the least. Supply chain failures, airport and airline dysfunction, and train derailments have become the norm. When a crisis arrives, Buttigeig typically seems to be missing in action

Although such issues certainly aren’t all Buttigeig’s fault, he’s hardly demonstrated a clear vision for how to fix them.

Well, maybe that’s not fair. Buttigeig has had a vision for what to do, which is to hazily invoke the gods of diversity, equity, and inclusion to solve all ills. His big initiative has been a $1 billion program to create “racial equity” in roads.

When the story first broke about the catastrophe in East Palestine, Buttigeig was notably silent. In the weeks that followed, he used a public appearance to talk about racial disparities on construction sites, his old standby.

“We have heard way too many stories from generations past of infrastructure where you got a neighborhood, often a neighborhood of color, that finally sees the project come to them, but everyone in the hard hats on that project, doing the good paying jobs, don’t look like they came from anywhere near the neighborhood,” Buttigieg told a National Association of Counties audience Feb. 13.

There doesn’t appear to be any validity to this claim, but that hardly seems to matter. In ruling-class circles, issues of rank incompetence can be quickly swept under the rug by more fervent calls for diversity.

Small comfort to the people suffering real-world problems.

Buttigeig offered these inspiring words when he finally had to confront the East Palestine situation.

“Look, rail safety is something that has evolved a lot over the years, but there’s clearly more that needs to be done because while this horrible situation has gotten a particularly high amount of attention, there are roughly 1,000 cases a year of a train derailing,” he said.

What would we do without such soaring rhetoric and leadership?

So, Democrat leaders at best seem indifferent to the East Palestine disaster. A few left-wing “thought leaders” even seem to think that the residents of East Palestine deserve the disaster because most of them voted for Trump.

“I don’t know why they would ever vote for him, somebody who—by the way, he placed someone with deep ties to the chemical industry in charge of the EPA’s chemical safety office. That’s who you voted for in that district, Donald Trump, who reduces all safety,” former comedian Joy Behar said Thursday on “The View.”

The region has been trending Republican in recent elections. It’s a complete mystery as to why.

On top of the telling demonstration of hate and callousness toward fellow Americans, Behar parroted the White House’s messaging, saying that the mess in East Palestine is somehow the Trump administration’s fault.

However, as The Washington Free Beacon reported, regulatory changes that took place under Trump had no connection to the East Palestine disaster.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy, who was appointed by Biden, confirmed Feb. 16 that the new rules didn’t apply to the Norfolk Southern train that derailed 13 days earlier. 

So much for that narrative.

The Biden administration’s insistence that this is Trump’s fault rings false. Biden and his team clearly have showed that the derailment and its public health consequences isn’t their biggest priority or much of a priority at all. And left-wing media personalities routinely have demonstrated at best callousness and at worst a thinly veiled loathing toward those who now suffer in the wake of this disaster.

The problems caused by the train derailment in East Palestine may not be resolved any time soon, but the incident is revealing the failure of America’s current leadership.

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Jarrett Stepman is a columnist for The Daily Signal where this first appeared. He is also the author of the book “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past.”

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Jarrett Stepman is a contributor to The Daily Signal and co-host of The Right Side of History podcast. Send an email to Jarrett. He is also the author of the book "The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America's Past."