Trump’s Attack on the Postal Service is an Attack on Democracy
by Charlie Cray
July 31, 2020
No one should have to choose between voting and risking their lives. Without a viable mail-in voting option, that will be the choice for many people.
© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace
Reports that people tested positive for Covid-19 after waiting hours in line to vote during this year’s primaries is one reason why 70% of Americans may want to safely vote by mail this November. But time is running short, and the Postal Service (USPS) needs additional funds to facilitate the process–resources that so far have been refused by the Trump administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The USPS has requested $75 billion from Congress to continue operating during the pandemic, including at least $ 2 billion to ensure a safe and fair election by expanding its capacity to handle a significant expansion of mail-in voting. Both McConnell and Trump have repeatedly rejected this, even though a two-thirds majority of Americans support additional funding for USPS in the next coronavirus bill.
It’s not just stinginess—it’s part of a deliberate strategy
The president seems intent on killing the post office and attacking Americans’ right to vote by repeating bogus claims that voting by mail will corrupt the election and lead to massive election fraud. The Washington Post estimates that Trump has publicly cast doubt on the security of mail-in ballots at least 50 times this year.
Like most of his other 20,000 lies, Trump’s assertion has been roundly debunked. But that won’t stop Trump from continuing to claim that elections can be rigged by mail-in voting, even though he and many of his staff and family have voted by mail in previous elections and despite the fact that voting by mail is popular among Republicans. Trump opposes voting by mail and other proposed election reforms because, in his words, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
In addition to withholding funds, Trump is using the same playbook to weaken the USPS from within that he used to trash the EPA and other regulatory agencies: He appointed a political crony to head up the service who is hostile to its core mission. Just a few months after Louis DeJoy became Trump’s new Postmaster General, DeJoy has been imposing new rules that have begun to slow down mail delivery, which will only stoke public dissatisfaction.
DeJoy, a big contributor to Trump’s campaign and other Republican campaign committees, is the former CEO of a logistics company that provided services to the USPS for over a decade. So he’s either an incompetent hack who knows little about the inner workings of the USPS, or he knows exactly what he is doing.
The attack on the USPS has actually been going on for many years. A recent investigation by True North Research and In The Public Interest describes how corporations and conservative anti-government ideologues like Charles Koch have plotted to privatize the USPS—the most popular agency in the federal government for decades.
One reason conservatives like Koch don’t like the USPS is because its traditional mission doesn’t conform to the same short-term, cut-throat principles that drive many corporations. Founded by the Second Continental Congress in 1775, the USPS has successfully and consistently bound the country together ever since, providing the same service at the same rates to communities across the country.
The USPS has endured decades of attack because people see it as a part of their community, regardless of their political views
As Christopher W. Shaw, author of Preserving The People’s Post Office put it in the American Conservative magazine, “conservative opponents of privatization recognize that not only is the Postal Service enshrined in the Constitution, this government agency supports national security, sustains local communities, assists small businesses, and fosters national unity.”
There could hardly be anything more important to a nation that strives to remain a democratic republic than ensuring everyone who wants to can participate in the upcoming election. People shouldn’t have to choose between casting their vote and risking their lives, but for many people that will be the choice they have to make if they don’t have a viable mail-in voting option. In essence, mail-in voting is the Personal Protective Equipment for millions of voters in November.
There are a few things we can all do to address the artificial crisis that Trump is concocting right now:
- First, tell Congress to fork over the additional $3.6 billion that states need to put in place the necessary infrastructure for a safe and fair election in November and the $25 billion the USPS needs to continue to serve Americans and deliver the basic tools of democracy—election ballots.
- Second, go to Vote.org to find out if you are registered to vote (and learn how to register if you are not), and learn the rules in your state for voting by mail this November, should you choose to do so.
- Finally, to learn more about attempts to starve the USPS of funds and privatize mail delivery, check out the “grand alliance” to save the USPS.