Welcome to another episode of “The Government People Say They Hate Actually Does A Bunch of Stuff They Can’t Live Without.”
Today: The US Postal Service.
You may have heard that President Trump’s efforts to undermine your snail mail have accelerated lately. He knows he will be clobbered in a free and fair election, so he’s messing with the mail-in voting that would allow millions to cast ballots safely amidst the pandemic made worse by his incompetence.
How do we know this? Well, in addition to it being blindingly obvious, the president came right out and said it on Thursday, in an interview with one of his Fox News coddlers: “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump said, of a request by the USPS for $25 billion in emergency funding. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it.”
Trump and his goons started hacking away at the post office long before last week. The president has had it in for the agency partly because he hates Jeff Bezos, whose behemoth Amazon uses the USPS to deliver packages. And also because he hates government. In June, Trump installed as postmaster general a big campaign donor and ethical nightmare on legs named Louis DeJoy, a guy who owns tens of millions in holdings in a USPS competitor. And who has presided over changes that have already slowed mail delivery.
Here in very un-swing state Massachusetts, 4 in 10 Massachusetts voters — about a million of us — intend to cast ballots by mail this year, according to a WBUR poll. And 85 percent of those who’d rather use mail in ballots than take the risk of voting in person intend to vote for Democrat Joe Biden. So you can see why Trump is using bogus claims that mail-in votes are fraudulent to try to block them trying (except in Florida, which he can’t win without legions of elderly white voters, and where he and his wife will vote — by mail).
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the USPS sent letters to 46 states and D.C. warning that it cannot guarantee that ballots cast by mail in the November election will arrive in time to be counted.
Remember when we used to live in a functioning democracy?
It’s hard to see Trump’s devotees holding him accountable for any of this. Shooting somebody on 5th Avenue, and all that. Though trashing the postal service seems more perilous than, say, gutting environmental regulations, or throwing people off food stamps.
The GOP has spent decades convincing Americans that government is useless, or worse. After all, it’s easier to give rich supporters tax cuts if you convince your voters that government can’t be trusted with their money.
The Republican orthodoxy chugs along until there’s a crisis — a government shutdown, for example, that cuts off essential services folks take for granted. Or a deadly pandemic, in which the inability of the federal government to coordinate the most basic response is deadly, and its refusal to provide the real assistance for those suffering its economic fallout is a catastrophe. That kind of thing might make voters wonder who really suffers when Republicans drown government in the bathtub.
Similarly sabotaging the USPS carries significant electoral risk. Americans love the postal service. A lot. A Pew Research poll conducted this year found that 91 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the agency, and that it may be the only thing on which equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats agree. The mail is a lifeline for rural communities. And the only way some people, including Trump voters, can get things they depend on — like prescriptions.
It also employs over 600,000 people, including mail carriers whose worth, like that of supermarket clerks, has suddenly been highlighted by our current predicament (Love you! I promise to shovel better this winter!). Interfering with their work — and further slowing the mail — would seem perilous, to say the least.
Trump must be really desperate to be messing with the USPS.
Or maybe he knows that this appalling misdeed will be just like his many others, and that somebody else will pay the price.