Here’s why Trump has mostly ignored the West Coast’s catastrophic wildfires -- according to a Pulitzer-winning historian
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Fires continue to ravage Oregon and smoke blankets the West Coast, but President Trump didn't seem to pay attention until recently. Writing for The Atlantic this Sunday, Anne Applebaum contends that Trump paid more attention to the state when a different kind of fire was burning, namely the fires set by angry protesters in the city of Portland.

"And yet even though the forest fires have already harmed more people and caused more physical damage, the images of the Portland riots are far more likely to dominate the public debate in Oregon and beyond," Applebaum writes. "Why? Because the forest fires do not fit neatly into the polarized, tribal narratives that will dominate all political conversation from now until November."

Applebaum goes to write that the fires on the West Coast are also of lesser political consequence than the riots because "the tools that we use for understanding the world effectively shrink them."

"A blaze covering hundreds of acres will not seem, to anyone watching it on a tiny iPhone screen, any larger or more significant than a confrontation between a policeman and a protester on a random city block," she writes. Trump knows this to be true, which is why the Portland riots were at the forefront of his rhetoric while the fires took a backseat.

Now, Trump finally has plans to visit areas hit by the fires and has tweeted support for first responders (although not for the victims). "His latest task is to twist the story of the fires into some version of the tribal narrative—good firefighters versus bad Democrats, perhaps—and away from the climate change that he denies," Applebaum writes. "Above all, he needs to channel outrage against someone. Compassion for fellow citizens who have lost their homes simply does not fuel social-media traffic as much as hatred for fellow citizens who are on the other side of the political divide does, and Trump needs that social-media traffic to win."

Read the full article over at The Atlantic.