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Toxic Disasters Attract Toxic Politics, and Donald Trump

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

How did the toxic train disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, become a racial issue?

My short answer would quote the character in an Ernest Hemingway novel who was asked how he went bankrupt.

“Two ways,” he said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

My longer answer would include anecdotes to illustrate the problem.

That thought comes to mind as I saw coverage of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg getting bashed for claiming at a conference last week that construction sites aren’t employing local workers in minority communities, implying that jobs are being outsourced to people who are not minorities — or at least, that’s how Fox News and other conservative media played it.

“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,” Buttigieg said during the National Association of Counties Conference. “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 added that Americans could help shrink wealth gaps in the country by “tearing down those barriers” on the delivery level.

He has a point, I agree. But meanwhile, presidential candidate Donald Trump and other Republicans are stealing the Democrats’ lunch in a working-class area on a day when much of the rest of the country is talking about the derailing disaster in East Palestine.

The massive derailment on the evening of Feb. 3 led to the release of unknown quantities of toxic chemicals and a massive fire as authorities burned off some of what the train was carrying.

When Trump arrived in East Palestine on Wednesday, he was welcomed with open arms in a rural area near the Pennsylvania border that fit the classic profile of Trump country — mostly white working class and simmering with resentment at being what Trump likes to call “forgotten Americans.”

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(c) 2023 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

 

 

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