As Election Day nears, USPS rings the alarm

The debate that's coming into focus is centered around an unsettling question: are "reform" efforts at USPS part of a deliberate political campaign?
Photo: U.S. postal service truck
U.S. postal service trucks sit parked at the post office in Del Mar, Calif., on Nov. 13, 2013.Mike Blake / Reuters file

In his eulogy for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) yesterday, former President Barack Obama noted the many ways in which voter-suppression advocates continue to put barriers between Americans and the ballot box. His list culminated with a timely example.

These opponents of voting rights, Obama explained, are "even undermining the postal service in the runup to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don’t get sick."

It was a few hours later when the Washington Post published this report:

The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after a top Trump donor running the agency put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts, alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election.

The broader context of these developments is important. Donald Trump has long targeted the USPS as a perceived enemy, largely because he wants it to punish Amazon.com. It's convoluted nonsense: the online retailer is owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, which has covered Trump's presidency in a way he doesn't like, which has led Trump to call USPS "a joke" because it won't do more to punish Amazon.com.

This has led the White House to, among other things, fiercely oppose any effort to bolster USPS finances.

But as the president's handpicked donor makes institutional changes at the Post Office, and Trump hysterically attacks postal balloting, we're well past the point at which the Republican's Bezos preoccupation is the only problem. The Washington Post's article added:

As President Trump ramps up his unfounded attacks on mail balloting as being susceptible to widespread fraud, postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting.

Exactly. The debate that's coming into focus is centered around an unsettling question: are "reform" efforts at USPS part of a deliberate political campaign?

These questions are getting louder. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote on Twitter yesterday, "Mail delays could mean delays for mail-in ballots, essential supplies, and life-saving medications. Louis DeJoy is the Betsy DeVos of the Postal Service, and he’s sabotaging his own agency when its work has never been more important."