As alarm mounts over President Trump’s daily attacks and cuts to the postal service, Americans still have effective tools to make their lawmakers step up.
This article is part of COURIER’s Your Vote 2020 hub. For more stories from each of the battleground states, along with national reporting, visit the site here.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has endured daily attacks from President Trump for weeks now, and reports have increased in recent days about operational changes that have undermined its efficacy across the United States.
All of this comes with serious consequences for mail delivery across the nation. And many are wondering what they can do about it.
In Montana, for instance, if the USPS doesn’t reverse a recent policy change to hold “late” mail for delivery until the next day, Montanans won’t get their prescription drugs, social security checks, bills, and other vitally important goods on time. Politicians from the state are taking notice: “For many, the unforgiving climate and terrain paired with a shortage of pharmacies makes the continuity of the USPS an existential necessity.”
Those words didn’t come from a Democrat. They were written by Sen. Steve Daines in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. It’s worth noting that the Republican senator from Montana is rated more conservative than a majority of the Senate Republican Caucus.
There has been a lot of frightening news about the USPS lately, thanks in large part to President Donald Trump’s frequent lies that mail-in voting, which he perceives as a threat to his reelection, is fraudulent. There is no evidence of any widespread voter fraud, and as the Brennan Center for Justice put it: “It is still more likely for an American to be struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud.”
Sen. Daines’ comments come as Trump doubles down on his sabotage of the USPS. On Fox News yesterday, Trump said that he opposed funding the postal service to get through the pandemic. The USPS has been confronted with reduced demand for letters and business mail during the pandemic. Trump admitted: “They need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”
Equally worrying is that, DeJoy, a major Trump donor, has been making operational changes, including eliminating overtime work, holding mail for delivery until the next day, and removing crucial mail-sorting machines. Those changes have led to significant mail slowdowns throughout the country. And the Washington Post reports that USPS has sent letters to 46 states warning that there is “significant risk” that ballots will not be returned in time.
To stop this, House Democrats introduced legislation to stop USPS from implementing the changes until after January 1, 2021.But what might it take for Senate Republicans to say no to President Trump’s plot to suppress mail votes and steal the election? A massive outcry from the American people that they want to get their mail on time.
So far, the mail slowdown hasn’t gone unnoticed by the public. Sen. Daines, for example, included this at the top of his letter to DeJoy: “Montanans from across the state have contacted me to express their alarm…[about] the resulting delays in mail delivery.”
And there is historical precedent for this kind of public outcry. In 2011, Republican politicians rallied around the idea of defunding National Public Radio. A bill passed the House and had support in the Senate—until Republicans, largely from rural states, were reminded that many of their constituents relied on public radio for information. Or, as former Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia put it, “You know, an awful lot of conservatives listen to NPR.”
And it turns out that getting the mail delivered on time enjoys broad support as well. An April survey from Pew Research found 91% of Americans, including 91% of Republicans, view the post office favorably. In fact, it had the highest ratings of any federal agency.
There has been bipartisan pushback on Trump’s post office schemes in the past. In 2018, Republicans in the House and Senate joined Democrats to oppose the president’s plan to “privatize” the USPS. That group of Republicans included plenty of senators outside of the party’s moderate wing, including Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Roy Blunt of Missouri.
There are simple, but effective, ways for Americans to effect change on this issue. Members of Congress all have staff that comb through emails and answer the phones every day. That means that actually reaching out to your elected senator or representative can have an effect. This is especially true if you live in a state or congressional district represented by Republicans. The contact information is easy enough to find online, but you can also look up who represents you and how to contact them here.