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The author's grandfather, George Janes (right), proud postal worker and WWII veteran. (Photo: Civil Liberties Defense Center)

The author's grandfather, George Janes (right), proud postal worker and WWII veteran. (Photo: Civil Liberties Defense Center)

Trump’s Push to Privatize the USPS is a Direct Threat to Democracy

The time for mere alarm has already come and gone. We all need to do something about this crisis.

Lauren Regan

My maternal grandfather was born in 1914 and served in the Army during World War II. When he returned from the war in 1944, he took a job with the U.S. Postal Service as a “mailman.” He worked as a letter carrier, eventually becoming a supervisor, and was an active member of the Association of Letter Carriers for his entire 30+ year career. The job was a respectable occupation that supported a family of four and formed a large part of his identity and community of friends.

The USPS has favorable support from over 91% of Americans—unusually high for any other federal agency. Autocrat Trump, without filter as usual, recently admitted on Fox Business that he plans to starve the U.S. Postal Service of $25 billion in necessary funding that Democrats had proposed as part of coronavirus relief negotiations in a blatant admission that he is leading one of the most dangerous voter suppression attacks in our nation’s history. “They need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots” come November, Trump said. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped.”

This is absolutely shocking—a U.S. “president” not only repeatedly appointing corrupt cronies to destroy the agencies they are appointed to run, but also purposely defunding and starving many critical federal agencies that support our democratic institutions (imperfect, but better than many). And many of these corporate thieves are overt in their intent. Louis DeJoy, appointed to the position of Postmaster General, has between 30 to 75 million dollars in assets derived from competitors of the USPS.

The speed with which they are mobilizing to cripple the Postal Service before the election is even more shocking, especially when compared to the Administration’s inability to mount any effective coordinated response to the pandemic. Portland and Eugene, Oregon (where I live) have documented mysterious trucks showing up and removing mailboxes and mail-sorting machines from our mostly progressive and/or Democrat-leaning communities. Rural and/or low-income communities and tribal lands—places without widespread access to the internet—rely heavily on the USPS for affordable access to information, connections, and outside resources because private profit-driven corporations like UPS and FedEx won’t deliver. In addition to the threat on our right to vote this fall, gutting the USPS will also disparately impact the poor, the elderly, people with disabilities, Black and Latinx community members, incarcerated people and their families, as well as those living in remote areas, who rely on the USPS to deliver their medications, PPE, food, and supplies during the pandemic, and other government benefits.

"The speed with which they are mobilizing to cripple the Postal Service before the election is even more shocking, especially when compared to the Administration’s inability to mount any effective coordinated response to the pandemic." And like my grandfather, who began his lifelong career in the post office after he returned from war, the USPS continues to be the single largest employer of veterans in the United States. Trump is purposefully taking those jobs away from veterans and others during a Great Recession and record unemployment.

So. We all need to do something about this crisis. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Buy some stamps and send some cards and letters to your friends and loved ones who are isolated during this pandemic. This hits two marks—first it provides needed funding to the USPS. You may think this is too small of an action to make a difference—and yes, it would be better to provide them with the $25 billion they need from Congress—but back in April, people acted on a call to action that provided emergency funding that the USPS desperately needed. And sending cards and letters is an under-appreciated gesture that will make someone’s day that doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. Try it—it’s not just for Mother’s Day!
  • Know your state’s deadlines for mail in ballots and vote early!
  • Push for more ballot drop boxes—not less. Ballot drop boxes are secured and managed by election officials and can take pressure off the USPS to deliver your ballots. Here in Oregon, the first state in the country to have only mail in voting since 1998, we have cast over 15,476,519 votes by mail. From 2000 to 2019 only 14 instances of fraudulent votes were attempted by mail according to the conservative Heritage Foundation—overwhelmingly proving that voting by mail is safe and effective.
  • Call your rep—I hardly ever say this because I normally think it is futile. But the House of Representatives—majority Democrat—has given themselves a vacation in the midst of this crisis which means they are not in DC and instead may be in your home State. Time and time again, these Democrats have parroted the phrase ‘it’s up to the voters to decide.’ Well, unless these career politicians do something it will be impossible for the voters to vote at all. A chilling reality. Tweet, post, Insta, email, mail a postcard, or make a phone call. Here’s a link to learn how to take 1 minute and tell your elected representative what you want them to do for your vote.
  • Fight voter suppression—help your neighbors and community members to navigate their right to vote during a pandemic. I’m a civil rights lawyer at the Civil Liberties Defense Center, a small nonprofit that defends activists and sues police for civil rights violations—we’re a tad busy given the recent uprisings and fascist federal attacks on the right to dissent—but I will be devoting every spare minute I have to ensuring that the right to vote is protected, especially in communities of color, pro-choice, and GLBTQ folks. Please join me—and find out how you can contribute here.

And I know, the electoral political system ain’t perfect. The candidates aren’t thrilling to me either—but to have an authoritarian like Trump gut what semblance of participatory democracy we do have is a dangerous trajectory. And, as a lawyer, I have just two additional words to explain why even those who have never engaged in election voting must do so now: Supreme Court. The orange man with small hands is stacking the highest court in the U.S. with frat boy abusers and religious ideologues. The time for mere alarm has already come and gone.

As of August 17, the election is only 78 days away. In Oregon, the first mail-in ballots will be sent to the USPS for delivery today. The deadline to register to vote is October 13th, and October 20th is the last day to mail your vote in for the November 3rd election. Don’t wait—vote early this year!! Our future really depends on it.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Lauren Regan

Lauren Regan is the founder, Executive Director, and Senior Attorney for the Civil Liberties Defense Center. For the past 23 years, Lauren has been mounting a comprehensive legal defense for progressive values and our right to fight for them.

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