President Donald Trump is attacking two institutions that are fundamental to the country: the U.S. Postal Service and, more profoundly, democracy itself.
Trump admitted that his sustained assault on the USPS is for the benefit of his re-election. "If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money," Trump told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo. "That means they can't have universal mail-in voting; they just can't have it."
"They" is the American people, who shouldn't have to risk their health, as well as the well-being of poll workers, to exercise their constitutional right.
But now USPS is warning that it may not be able to handle the big increase in mail-in ballots due to the pandemic. The challenges are amplified under changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — a former deputy fundraising chairman for the Republican Party who has donated $1.2 million to the Trump campaign and $1.3 million to the Republican Party.
Beyond the political conflict of interest, DeJoy and his wife Aldona Wos — who Trump nominated to be ambassador to Canada — have investments in companies that compete, or do business with, the USPS, to the tune of between $30.1 million and $75.3 million, according to New York Times reporting on an Office of Government Ethics report.
Ethics don't seem to be a priority for DeJoy or the president. Instead, amid a lethal pandemic that makes voting by mail logical and legal, the USPS is in the process of removing 671 mail-sorting machines nationwide; is removing mailboxes in portions of Pennsylvania, Oregon, Montana, California and New York; and has cracked down on overtime for the front-line USPS workers, according to the Washington Post.
Millions of Americans — including veterans who the president claims to care about — receive prescriptions by mail, and there are already reported delays. More than 800,000 also receive Social Security checks via mail, and millions of businesses are dependent on the USPS. Delaying these and other essential services amid a health and economic crisis is cruel and foolish. Undermining a vital national election is unacceptable.
Americans should support the state attorneys general who are exploring taking legal action and urge their representatives to heed Speaker Nancy Pelosi's call for U.S. House members to return from their recess this week for a vote to block the changes. The "lives, livelihoods and the life of our American democracy are under threat," Pelosi said in a letter to her colleagues.
The House Oversight Committee has also called an emergency hearing on the issue and invited DeJoy and Postal Service board of governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan — a former chairman of the Republican National Committee — to testify.
Both should appear, and Republicans and Democrats alike should press them on why they are deliberately jeopardizing two institutions that are integral to America: the USPS and the lifeblood of our democracy, the national election.