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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Playing politics in East Palestine, Ohio: A prelude to 2024 elections

It has now been over one month since the Feb. 3 train crash in East Palestine, Ohio, and the public still lacks answers. The subsequent emergency burning of chemicals released an ominous, dark toxic cloud that wafted over the Pennsylvania/Ohio border, and in turn, generated a media frenzy. Quickly after the story broke, the EPA downplayed the crash’s severity and promised testing, but many local residents have complained it’s been too little too late.

So far, East Palestine has been visited by former President Trump, both Ohio Senators, the governor of Ohio, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and EPA chief Michael Regan. Yet President Biden has been notably absent, instead heading to Ukraine in the days after the disaster. 

The Trump 2024 Campaign took full advantage of the situation, with Trump holding a rally and delivering supplies like bottled water to townspeople in the affected area. Trump echoed his past campaign theme of working as a champion for forgotten and fly-over places in rural America. 

“If they don’t come back and give you the treatment that you need, we will come back,” said Trump, putting the onus on the Biden Administration to step up.

President Biden initially defended his decision not to visit, however, on March 2 Biden said that he would visit, “at some point.” While he stressed his administration was doing everything it could, the president now admitting that he will go to Ohio shows how the train derailment has grown into a political flashpoint worthy of attention from the Oval Office. 

It’s a bad look for Trump to be able to spin a story ultimately about industrial environmental regulations into a political fiasco for Democrats. Yet, there is a clear message in the dueling headlines of Trump’s visit to Ohio and President Biden’s visit to Ukraine. While Trump’s visit to small town America was an obvious political stunt, it still effectively appeared to some to highlight that President Biden is out of touch to voters as he was stuck a continent away.

Trump’s “America First” slogan has always been abrasive, especially to the international community. But at the end of the day, his chauvinistic patriotism is supposed to contrast with President Biden’s internationalist attitude. 

It will ultimately be up to voters to decide who really exemplifies American leadership. But with the way things are going, America might need two better options in 2024 elections.

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