Donald Trump and other Republican politicians were the real beneficiaries of the environmental disaster in Ohio, which demonstrated the indifference of Democrats to domestic American problems. It seems to have become an embarrassment to them. The tragedy in Ohio almost immediately became another episode in the political battles before the presidential election of 2024, but first we should remember what exactly happened in the non-political context. On February 3, a freight train carrying toxic chemicals including vinyl chloride, phosgene and hydrogen chloride derailed in the state. More than 50 freight cars were carrying them, so the train accident quickly became a local environmental disaster. In 10 days, two thousand people were evacuated from nearby homes, but despite this, local authorities assured that nothing terrible had happened, although it could take years to clean up the chemicals. Of course, after such claims, residents of the entire county panicked, especially after they began to find dying animals.
But the federal government was not at all concerned with these “little things”, as at this time, in Washington, D.C., they were enthusiastically opposing the Chinese balloons. For his part, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg waited 10 days before commenting on the situation, and he did so in a most ridiculous way, merely expressing his “concern”. The Republicans immediately reminded Buttigieg of how he was actively engaged in fighting “infrastructure racism” instead of performing his direct duties, and when a real tragedy happened that required his participation, he instantly withdrew from it. This is not the first time he has done so. For example, in the fall of 2021, when the logistics crisis in the U.S. worsened, Buttigieg hid in a “paternity leave” just in time, and at the end of last year, amid the threat of a railway workers’ strike, Buttigieg went on vacation to Portugal. A year and a half ago, he was seriously considered a possible successor to Biden, but in that time Buttigieg, like Vice President Kamala Harris, failed to become serious politicians. And that may be one of the reasons why Biden will go to the presidential election, even though most Democrats would not want him for a second term. However, another crisis has shown that there is simply no one better on the Democratic team.
But against this sad backdrop, it was clear to the Democrats that mere inaction on the disaster issue would not be appreciated by their electorate, much less by their Republican opponents. However, the White House tried to reassure Americans in a strange way. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg assured that not so much attention should be paid to the chemical train accident in Ohio, since more than a thousand trains derail in the United States each year. Buttigieg also held Trump responsible, arguing that it was during his presidency that railroad safety controls were reduced. Republicans responded by expectantly blaming Biden for the failure to properly channel funds to rebuild the U.S. railroads, and the current plight is his fault.
In 2021, Biden’s infrastructure reform was enthusiastically embraced, allocating hundreds of billions of dollars to a “green agenda” such as building wind farms. Although only one billion dollars went to the railroads, so it’s no wonder they’re in a state of disrepair, as they haven’t been properly upgraded in decades. To emphasize the guilt of Biden administration officials, Republicans in Ohio show footage of chemicals getting into rivers where dead fish are already being found and urge people to drink only bottled water. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency also argued with them, but he was offered to drink the tap water in the affected Ohio County, if he was so sure of its safety. Congress has accused the Biden administration of being more interested in culture wars than real U.S. problems and demanded that both the Secretary of Transportation and Washington environmentalists resign for their negligent handling of the Ohio tragedy. Now the environmental disaster is taking a heavy toll on Biden’s reputation in Midwestern states key to the presidential election. The White House’s demonstrative unwillingness to address their problems while it spends tens of billions of dollars on Ukraine and Taiwan reinforces Trump’s pledge to voters to refocus on solving U.S. domestic problems.
Of course, under such circumstances, Trump immediately decided to go to Ohio while various senior Democrats scattered around Europe for cheap political PR. By then, the White House had paid little attention to the problem, and it took the administration 11 days to somehow begin to respond publicly to it. But for nearly two weeks after the crash, no prominent Democrats visited Ohio, and it wasn’t until the end of that considerable time frame that local residents began to receive help from the federal emergency management agency and were then brought to Buttigieg’s attention. This created ideal conditions for Trump. Commenting on his plans, the former U.S. president called what happened the equivalent of Hurricane Katrina for Bush Jr. Hurricane Katrina destroyed almost all of New Orleans in 2005 and brought down the ratings of Bush Jr.
Many people now attribute Biden’s lack of attention to Ohio not only to his unwillingness to take responsibility for the tragedy, but also to his lack of interest in solving the problems of a state that has become Republican in recent years. Had this happened anywhere in New York or California, the White House reaction might have been very different. Instead of going to Ohio, Biden’s team went to Europe: Kamala Harris spoke in Munich, and the president himself went on a tour to Poland and Ukraine, where he spoke on the Ukrainian agenda. He clearly showed that he does not care about the problems of ordinary Americans while he decides the fate of Europe. Trump is responding to the demand of many Americans who want Washington to solve the internal crises of the U.S. instead of focusing on foreign policy. Such an agenda is becoming increasingly popular and has noticeably strengthened Trump’s position in the election, and he has already begun to outperform Biden in the polls.
Of course, the catastrophe in Ohio also brought to the fore the troubles on the U.S. railroads: they have been underfunded for decades, and now there are constant accidents, which the Secretary of Transportation considers “normal”. Obviously, the quality of U.S. railroads is far inferior to that of China, Russia, and most EU countries. At the same time, a serious crisis has hit the airline industry as well. In recent years, the number of cancelled flights began to grow rapidly and during the holiday season there may be tens of thousands of such flights in the U.S. The official reasons for this can be summed up in technical problems, shortage of personnel and outdated airport infrastructure. In January, for the first time since September 11, the U.S. had to paralyze air traffic across the country for a whole day: this was due to the failure of the electronic pilot emergency notification system, which was created in the 1990s and has not been updated since then. Because of technical problems faced by air traffic controllers, airplanes nearly collided in different parts of the country, New York and Texas.
As the infrastructure ages, more and more such incidents will occur, and sooner or later they will end in big disasters. Moreover, even the Democratic establishment has begun to deal with aviation problems. For example, Kamala Harris was unable to fly from Munich because the plane of Vice President Air Force Two broke down, and as a result, she had to be sent to the United States by military plane. At the same time, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is studiously ignoring the problems prevailing not only in rail transport, but also in the airline industry, and is following the advice of airline lobbyists, who are fine with everything. Hundreds of billions of dollars are needed to solve all the problems on the railroads and in the airline industry, but Washington is in no hurry to allocate them. The Biden administration spends most of its money on “green” or “international image,” and hopes that the infrastructure will last its lifetime, and it will reach a critical state under the next presidents.
But no one was going to leave such selfish Democratic plans unanswered, and the Republicans in Congress proposed impeaching Biden for going to Ukraine but refusing to visit Ohio, where there was an environmental disaster. At the end of February, another negative event for Democrats happened: while Biden was struggling to complete a European tour, Trump did pay a visit to Ohio. The Trump campaign brought a truckload of bottled water to residents of the affected city. Also, Trump met with Senator J.D. Vance, who recently endorsed his candidacy for president and assured Ohioans that they were not forgotten. During his visit, Trump criticized Biden for refusing to visit Ohio. He also called these events the “collapse” of America with the transformation of the U.S. into a third-world country. Only after that the White House hastily sent Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to Ohio following Trump, and it seems that without Trump’s visit, none of Biden’s team probably would have visited Ohio.
The Ohio situation is just another episode of the irreconcilable struggle between Biden and Trump. Ahead of trip to Ohio, Trump vowed to “cleanse” Washington of warmongers, hawks and the “deep state” seeking to drag the country into conflict. Trump called himself the “President who delivers peace” who could stop World War III and a nuclear apocalypse. However, Democrats responded by stepping up prosecutorial pressure on Trump. Just as Trump was visiting Ohio, special prosecutor Jack Smith sent subpoenas to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to testify in the 2020 election challenge. Fearing Trump’s rise to power, Washington is expectedly renewing its attempts to press him with investigations. In the latest Harvard poll, Trump was the most popular politician in the U.S. with a 48% rating. By comparison, Ilon Musk and Ron DeSantis had ratings of 44% and Biden only 41%. Against the backdrop of a not-so-successful tour of Poland and Ukraine, as well as Trump’s successes on the ground, Biden’s position may be even more shaken. This makes Democrats already openly panic about the incumbent’s prospects in the 2024 election. Despite Biden’s and Buttigieg’s efforts to ward off the Ohio chemical rail accident, Americans have taken credit for their guilt and it has had a critical effect on their plummeting ratings and the rise of various Republican politicians.