Like I said on Thursday, it’s not so much that he’s trying to break the agency’s knees as that its knees are already broken and he refuses to hand it a crutch.
But yes, his motives for that are electoral. By his own admission.
I’m curious to see the next round of polling. The story has exploded since Trump linked his opposition to universal mail-in voting to his opposition to more money for the USPS in the next round of stimulus relief. Every prominent Democrat in America is now focused on it, every major media outlet in the country to the left of Fox News is digging in on it. Maybe it won’t matter, as opinions of Trump are so hardened that his numbers barely move absent something as momentous as the mass demonstrations that followed George Floyd’s death. But the lefty narrative of what’s going on here is a potentially potent cocktail, a story of cartoon villainy involving something as basic as delivering the mail. Government scandals typically involve bureaucracy and self-dealing and all manner of legal niceties that make them difficult to follow. This one’s easy. That might matter.
Obama and the rest of the party are going to milk it for all it’s worth.
“What we’ve never seen before is a president say, ‘I’m going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to [discourage] voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I’m doing it.’ That’s sort of unheard of,” Obama told David Plouffe, his 2008 campaign manager and longtime adviser, in an interview on Cadence13’s Campaign HQ podcast released Friday…
“What are Republicans doing where you are so scared of people voting, that you are now willing to undermine what is part of the basic infrastructure of American life?” he said, adding that “there have to be some basic shared assumptions that bind us together. And one of those is that we don’t actively hurt people or undermine key parts of our lives just for partisan advantage.”
He was at it yesterday on Twitter too, underscoring the soon-to-be universal Democratic claim that Americans need to vote as early as they can:
Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open. They can’t be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 14, 2020
If you’re in a state where you have the option to vote early, do that now. The more votes in early, the less likely you’re going to see a last minute crunch, both at polling places and in states where mail-in ballots are permitted. Then tell everyone you know.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 14, 2020
I tried to cut through some of the noise around the USPS in yesterday’s post. The fact that Trump would block money for the agency because he disapproves of a method of voting endorsed by various states speaks for itself. He and the GOP will have to take their lumps on that. But the claim that he and his new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, are trying to sabotage the Postal Service from within by reorganizing it so that it’s less efficient remains unproved. Some measures that seem suspicious at first blush may have innocent explanations. For instance, Vice reported yesterday that a number of huge mail-sorting machines have been moved lately from various facilities, but went on to note that that’s not unusual and might even improve efficiency depending on where the machines are moved to. Business Insider notes today that DeJoy has been discouraging overtime and “late trips” by carriers, which means delays in delivery — but also means saving money, which is the ostensible purpose of the reorganization.
Of course, whether a reorganization should be top priority at this very moment, with an election bearing down and timely delivery of essentials like medicine in the thick of a pandemic being of utmost importance, is another matter.
Yesterday DeJoy sent an internal memo to Postal Service staff yesterday acknowledging that “Unfortunately, this transformative initiative has had unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels.” This morning he woke up to find protesters outside his home in Washington. Paranoia about what he and Trump might be up to reached such a pitch yesterday that the Postal Service decided to suspend removal of redundant mailboxes in some U.S. cities. Word got around that some boxes had been taken away in Portland, and suddenly that became part of the evil Trump/DeJoy plot to make it harder for people to vote. To hell with it then, the USPS said last night. We’ll just leave the unnecessary mailboxes in place if it’s going to freak people out this much to see them go.
As I say, Dems are all-in on this:
We cannot let Donald Trump destroy the United States Postal Service. Congress must step up to ensure our nation’s seniors can get their life-saving medicine on time and that people can safely cast their ballots.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 15, 2020
And not just the most left-wing ones either:
WATCH: I toured @USPS facilities across #WV today to thank our postal workers. People need their medicine, checks, & their ballots. That’s why I filed the POST Act to prevent post office closures during the #COVID19 pandemic. Now is not the time to play politics with our mail. pic.twitter.com/0XtC2slxAD
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) August 14, 2020
Manchin usually treads lightly when crossing Trump, knowing that his home state of West Virginia produced one of the biggest Republican landslides in 2016. Not this time. “The Administration is launching an all-out war on the U.S. Postal Service,” he said in a statement. Manchin’s a canny politician — he’d have to be to have his record of success in a deep red state — and he clearly sees more peril in being on the wrong side of a dispute over timely mail delivery than he does in pissing Trump off. So he’s running away, fast. Like I say, I’m curious to see the next polls.
It’s not just Democratic messaging that might make this issue potent either:
— Melissa Ryan (@MelissaRyan) August 15, 2020
Non-politicians with gigantic audiences are amplifying it too:
Donald Trump’s ineffective leadership gravely worsened the crisis that we are in and he is now taking advantage of it to subvert and destroy our right to vote and vote safely. Request a ballot early. Vote early.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) August 15, 2020
Even if there’s no change in the Trump/Biden polling, it’s a cinch that public alarm over the USPS’s potential failure to deliver ballots on time if they’re sent in the final weeks of the campaign is going to lead to more early voting this year. And given that Trump is the candidate who’s trailing right now, it’s hard to see how that benefits him. Biden’s the one who wants a short campaign, Trump’s the one who wants, or should want, a long one since it gives him more time to pull off something game-changing before November 3. The scenario predicted by so many, that Trump will lead at close of business on Election Day only to have Biden whittle that lead via mail ballots in the days following, might not come to pass after all. Dems may be so spooked by the Postal Service shenanigans that they’ll end up getting most of their ballots in well in advance of November 3.
The president’s taking his own form of early action on the election, all but declaring that even if he loses he didn’t really lose:
The Democrats know the 2020 Election will be a fraudulent mess. Will maybe never know who won! https://t.co/tEWKJ5NcUj
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2020
Encouraging Americans not to accept a duly elected leader as legitimate is very on-brand for modern American politics on both sides, but especially for the guy who got his start as a national figure questioning whether Obama was a natural-born U.S. citizen. Inculcating suspicion of, and contempt for, democracy may be his most lasting and destructive presidential legacy.
I’ll leave you with this, which marks the second time in the span of a few weeks that some outlandish Biden prediction from earlier in the campaign of what Trump might do if he gets desperate about his electoral chances has eventually borne fruit.
The headline followed by the editors note pic.twitter.com/agrRpSspiV
— Sam Stein (@samstein) August 15, 2020