Is Donald Trump deliberately undermining the U.S. Postal Service to sabotage the transit of mail-in ballots on Election Day? Abso-fucking-lutely, Trump said in an interview with Fox Business News on Thursday.
Trump has long held an inexplicable grudge against the USPS, but it’s accelerated in recent weeks thanks to new management. Republican megadonor and pro-Trump hack Louis DeJoy became U.S. Postmaster General in May 2020 despite numerous conflicts of interest and immediately began implementing decisions that have undermined Post Office operations, causing massive backlogs in mail delivery in many regions across the nation. What changes, exactly? Ordering workers not to take overtime, even if all mail isn’t delivered; preventing workers from sorting and picking up new mail before going on deliveries; reducing hours of service at offices; and limiting the number of times workers park along their routes.
DeJoy has framed his agenda as running the USPS more like a ruthlessly efficient corporation than as a vital public service established in the Constitution. Trump has also made baseless conspiracy theories that mail-in voting is a vehicle for Democratic voter fraud one of his new top talking points. Amid record-setting plans for 76 percent of Americans to be eligible for mail-in voting in November and the novel coronavirus pandemic ensuring many would strongly prefer to vote that way, it has been incredibly obvious that Trump is attacking the USPS to ensure as many mail-in ballots as possible aren’t postmarked and/or received by election day as required by many states. Even if the ballots are counted later, the delay itself could play into any possible attempt to contest election results.
What was once highly informed speculation is now official policy: In the Fox Business News interview on Thursday, Trump told host Maria Bartiromo that he opposes an extra $25 billion in funding for the USPS because under-funding it is critical to suppressing mail-in votes.
“They want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically,” Trump told Fox Business News. “They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”
Trump added, “But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because you they’re not equipped to have it.”
That the official White House view is any vote not cast for Trump is inherently fraudulent, or that the administration is laying the groundwork to undermine and challenge the results of a likely electoral loss is not, and has never been, much of a question. Trump has already called for the elections to be delayed and amped up authoritarian tactics—like visiting indiscriminate violence on protesters via federal agents—while Republican allies have waged legal campaigns and passed state laws designed to limit the number of poll sites and restrict access to ballots.
Dysfunction in mail-in voting and at poll sites is shaping up to be a key element of that strategy, so everyone should be crystal clear on who deliberately created that dysfunction and for what purpose. Whether or not USPS disruption works—states have more than enough time to implement changes that would safeguard mail-in ballots, while sabotage could easily backfire by hitting Trump’s own supporters—it’s already set a new precedent for election interference.
Withholding funding isn’t the only potential attack against the USPS at Trump’s disposal. DeJoy recently told some states that they should pay first-class rates for mail-in ballots, tripling costs at a time when many states are desperate for funding due to the ongoing recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Voting by mail is by no stretch of the imagination the only thing under assault at the USPS, which has long been a particular target for conservatives who hate its unionized, diverse workforce and see the current situation as a ripe pretext to privatize the USPS and eliminate universal service.
“The President of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years,” Joe Biden’s campaign told CNN in a statement.