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Donald Trump is the type of person who always needs a target, and preferably—from his perspective—one that doesn't deserve the ire but will still fit snugly into the anti-everything messaging favored by his bafflingly self-destructive supporters. To that end, don't be surprised if you soon start to hear (if you haven't already) Trump supporters coming on strong with virulently aggressive cries against the existence of the United States Postal Service (USPS).
If your timeline is adequately curated, then you've certainly noticed the recent wave of online support the USPS has started to receive, with particular attention paid to how integral the agency is in a mid-pandemic presidential election year. Some, for example, have taken up the task of encouraging USPS merch buys as part of an effort to increase the agency's income.
With this month's revelation that several top Democrats were seeking an investigation into recent changes to operational practices made under the leadership of the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and ally, it's becoming clear—even for those who may not give the USPS much thought on a daily basis—that something concerning is potentially afoot.
Below, we've assembled a quick guide to the current issues surrounding the USPS, which has now become a major aspect of the 2020 presidential election.
Why am I hearing so much about the USPS right now?
In short, the election. With nearly 75 percent of Americans able to vote by mail in 2020 according to the New York Times, Trump's recent actions appear to be a direct attempt at laying the groundwork so that he can possibly contest an unfavorable result.
Just look at this recent Marquette Law poll.
And here's what Nancy Pelosi had to say about the sudden shakeups at the USPS. “We believe these changes, made during the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, now threaten the timely delivery of mail—including medicines for seniors, paychecks for workers, and absentee ballots for voters."
Sure, the agency is indeed losing money, but income problems for the USPS precede the COVID-19 era. It's the sudden timing and the method in which those problems are now being addressed that's causing many to take a second look.
Late last month, for example, a Fortune report cited an internal memo announcing the elimination of overtime and the agency-wide acceptance that delayed mail delivery will simply be a reality. The same memo also includes a warning that these changes and others are part of a "first wave" of shifting practices that will be impacting the USPS this year.
Of course, the idea of diminishing mail delivery as a supposed response to a drop in revenue doesn't make much sense, not to mention the fact that data from previous years actually proves that net losses increase when aspects of delivery are slowed down.
"These changes are happening because there's a White House agenda to privatize and sell off the public Postal Service," Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, warned in Nicole Goodkind's report. At the moment, Dimondstein added, there's still "too much approval" of the USPS among the general public. Thus, efforts are seemingly being implemented that will dismantle the public's opinion of the agency to the point of no longer supporting it.
Why should I care?
Well, the chances of a fair election may depend on the effectiveness of the USPS.
For some, it may be easy to joke about the perceived relevancy of the USPS in the modern age. And while certain frustrations—delayed mail, for example—might appear to support this assessment of the agency, that stance only works if you ignore the larger picture. As touched on above, greater (and arguably sinister) forces are at play here that would absolutely love it if everyone suddenly turned on the USPS as a whole and allowed privatization pushes to be successful.
Thankfully, the tide hasn't turned yet. Most Americans, according to polls cited across recent news reports, are overwhelmingly in favor of giving the USPS a financial boost as part of future COVID-19 relief packages.
In the meantime, however, recent changes will certainly have an impact on everyday Americans who have been relying on USPS services during prolonged social distancing measures.
How will this affect the 2020 presidential election?
The mere presence of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whose responsible for the changes many are issuing warnings about, is cause for concern. But don't take it from us. Just consult former POTUS Barack Obama's recent comments during a eulogy for the late civil rights hero John Lewis.
"We may no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to cast a ballot," Obama said last month. "But even as we sit here, there are those in power that are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting—by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don't get sick."
And Trump, notably, hasn't been shy about making it quite clear how he feels about both the USPS and vote-by-mail options.
But what does any of this have to do with Trump?
Trump, no stranger to recklessly spreading misinformation, has been hard at work on an anti-USPS campaign for some time now. If, like me, you've understandably decided to block Trump on Twitter so that his daily inanities don’t murk up your timeline, you may have missed his slew of attacks on mail-in voting in recent months.
Back in May, Trump called the Postal Service "a joke." And just this month, he continued pushing a made-up narrative about mail-in voting during the pandemic era. In the opening moments of a press briefing this week, for example, he erroneously claimed that mail-in voting gave foreign powers an advantage with regards to election interference. In fact, CNN fact-checked Trump's comments during the briefing and found that he let loose "at least" 12 lies centered around the election.
While the fate of the USPS currently appears to be in far-less-than-comforting hands, that doesn't mean you should throw in the towel for 2020. Instead, get acquainted with the vote-by-mail options in your area and mark your calendar to not miss your opportunity to pull up and vote.