COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, with 5.7 million confirmed cases and more than 176,700 deaths.¹ Florida and Texas joined California in The 600,00 Confirmed Cases Club, a club Groucho would definitely not want to belong to. Congress still has not passed a stimulus package, while 17 million workers remain unemployed and millions have lost their employer-provided health care insurance.
We still have no national plan, something this administration will likely never produce. Testing labs remain overwhelmed, leading to extensive delays in the delivery of results. Many continue aggressively to resist wearing a mask and fight, literally, for their right to be ignorant, irresponsible, and selfish.² The president accused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of delaying coronavirus vaccine trials and the development of therapeutics, possibly because of “deep state” interference in the department designed to hurt his reelection bid.³ (We’re not making this up.) And schools are reopening — and closing — everywhere.
Regardless of what the president said on Fox News, we are decidedly not the envy of the world.⁴ As evidence, simply review the list of countries prohibiting our entry.
Meanwhile, the West is on fire. In Colorado, four major forest fires have burned in excess of 180,000 acres.⁵ Interstate 70, the major east-west highway through the state, remained closed, causing significant travel and shipping delays. As of Sunday in California, over 560 individual fires had consumed nearly 1 million acres throughout the central and southern parts of the state. The fires were caused by an estimated 12,000 lightning strikes.⁶ More strikes were forecast for early this week. While homes, businesses, wineries, vineyards and state parks have been destroyed or threatened, and following five deaths and the forced evacuation of tens of thousands, the president admonished the state yet again for not raking fallen forest leaves. He also threatened to withhold federal aid until the forests are cleaned.⁷ The area he wants raked is roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Speaking of systematic destruction, last Friday Louis DeJoy, our new Postmaster General and mega-donor to the Republican Party and the president’s 2016 campaign, testified before a Republican-led Senate panel about the controversial and, frankly, distressing changes he had instituted at the United States Postal Service (USPS), most of which had an immediate and significantly negative impact on mail service. He said twice during his testimony that it is “an outrageous claim” that he’s trying to influence how people vote.⁸
DeJoy has learned from others in the administration that it is perfectly acceptable to lie to Congress.
DeJoy further claimed that his dramatic cost-cutting measures, a significant reorganization of the department, his banning of overtime, the halting of late mail deliveries and the removal of hundreds of collection boxes and high-speed mail-sorting machines were either routine or necessary cost-cutting measures. Not surprisingly, these actions have resulted in a major backlog of undelivered mail. Including, no doubt, much-needed monthly checks to people living on fixed incomes, prescription drugs, business invoices and other essential materials dependent on the USPS. Undoubtedly, many will look to other mail or shipping services, which, in turn, will immediately worsen the postal service’s cash flow and bolster DeJoy’s rationale to dismantle the agency.
During his testimony, DeJoy was asked about the letters his department’s lawyer sent recently to 46 states and the District of Columbia. Those letters stated that November ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted. Why? Because, according to DeJoy, many state voting timetables simply “aren’t feasible.”
At least he is not trying to influence how people vote. But is it possible that DeJoy, a reasonably educated individual, does not know the meaning of the word ‘outrageous’?
What DeJoy and the administration are doing to our postal service is, without any doubt, nothing short of outrageous. Under the guise of cost control, specific steps are being taken to undermine our ability to vote by mail just months before a presidential election. There is simply no other explanation for DeJoy’s actions, regardless of his testimony before the Senate committee. Especially when you consider that we’re in the midst of a pandemic and voting by mail is far safer than standing in line and crowding into a polling place with hundreds of others in the Fall.
A quick sidebar: Three factors — each mandated by the Constitution or by more recent laws — determine how the USPS must operate:
- The postal service is legally obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at a uniform price and quality;
- Congress has limited rate increases for First Class postage to the cost of inflation; and very importantly
- The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) obligates the USPS to fund the present value of earned retirement obligations (the amount promised to employees that have not yet come due) within a ten-year span. In contrast, private businesses in the United States have no legal obligation to pay retirement costs in this manner or in this highly-aggressive timeframe. Because of PAEA, the amount USPS must pay annually to its retirement fund is just shy of $6 billion.9
Don’t be fooled. The USPS makes money. It is forced, though, to work within tight parameters and pay a large amount into its retirement fund annually. Cost-cutting is not the answer. Service improvement is.
The attack on vote-by-mail is not exclusive to DeJoy. The Republican Party went to court last week to prevent people from voting exactly as the president did earlier in the week.¹⁰ Its lawsuit intends to make it illegal for non-family members to act as a courier to deliver a completed ballot to a polling place or ballot drop box. At present, 10 states allow a voter to use a family member to deliver a completed ballot while 26 states allow a non-family member to return ballots. Florida is one of the states allowing non-family deliveries. The president and his wife’s ballots were returned to Florida last week by a non-family courier. His baseless claim that this practice is “rampant with fraud”¹¹ must not apply to him, as he didn’t seem terribly concerned about his ballot arriving at its destination intact.
Anything to make it just a little more difficult to vote, especially the aged, the infirm, and those with mobility issues. Because a vote not cast here and a vote not cast there just might produce a win for a Republican. Which, of course, is their intent.
The prize for the administration and for the Republican Party is the prevention or, at least, the deterrence of voting by mail. According to the president, the upcoming election will be “the most rigged election in history” if mail-in voting is allowed.¹² To anticipate crimes never experienced or documented, the president said last week on Fox News that “we’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys” at polling places.¹³ This despite having no evidence whatsoever to support his wild, irresponsible, and desperate assertion. And there’s this: it’s illegal ‘to order troops or armed men to polling places,’ except to ‘repel armed enemies of the United States.’¹⁴ If his words and/or the actions of his administration can somehow cause people to avoid the polls, believe that their vote won’t count or, worse, that the election is illegitimate, then the president and the administration will have been successful in undermining the integrity of the election. This is decidedly un-American, un-patriotic, and smacks of totalitarianism. It will also enable the president to question loudly the outcome, should he not prevail.
The president and the administration are not alone in attempting to undermine the integrity of our electoral process. A nearly 1,000-page report, released last week by a Republican-led, bi-partisan Senate committee, confirmed the findings of the Mueller investigation: prior to and up through the 2016 election, the Russian government worked to elect our current president and members of his campaign were involved.¹⁵ That sentence is worth rereading. It may constitute the most important threat to our democracy in the last 200+ years. This report and the Mueller team were also clear that the Russians will be actively involved in the 2020 election. Which means that they are, at this moment, manipulating social media, producing misleading communications and seeking to contaminate or fully disrupt our presidential election process by any means necessary.
Like DeJoy, is it possible that the president does not know the meaning of common English words, like ‘hoax’? Or ‘threat to our democracy’? Or, for that matter, ‘democracy’?
But it all begins with the destruction of our postal service. Which, despite DeJoy’s misleading testimony, is precisely what is taking place. Out in the open, in broad daylight, right before our eyes. Without Russia’s help.
Due to the never-ending attempts by the administration and the Republican Party to keep us from the polls, consider voting at your very first opportunity. Who you vote for is entirely your decision. It’s democracy we care about. That said, you can find useful information about voting by mail here: https://www.npr.org/2020/08/07/900210406/the-most-important-mail-youll-ever-send-a-ballot.
Voting is sacred. It is truly an American right, one guaranteed by the Constitution. It is the very essence of democracy. Millions have fought and died to ensure and protect our right to vote. Why would the president and the Republican Party take steps to prevent us from doing so? It’s incomprehensible, un-American and, yet, so very obvious. For them, and the Russian government, there is something more important than democracy: Absolute power.
Yet this week, on national television, they will stand before American flags and talk patriotism. They will talk about the need to protect the country from foreigners, about the need for a wall. They will talk about the right to possess arms and safeguard one’s home. They will talk about the need for law and order, safe cities and safe suburbs. They will talk about ‘fake news.’ They will talk about freedom. They will talk about the Radical Socialist Left, even if it doesn’t exist, and suggest that our American way of life is threatened and under attack. They will talk about the ‘deep state.’ They will talk about rigged elections. What they won’t talk about is democracy.
Do not allow anyone to take your power. Do not allow anyone to prevent you from voting or cause you to believe that your or your vote is unimportant, unnecessary, or invalid. Do not allow anyone to cause you to question the essence of what makes our country special. Democracy is the most essential element of being American; voting is the most patriotic thing we do. Even if the people standing between you and your right to vote is the president and his political party.
¹ As of 9:00 p.m., ET, August 23; https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-us-maps-and-cases/ These data are from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), so who knows?