Trump, Sycophants, and Democracy
Donald Trump, his sycophants in Congress and the right wing news media are doing all they can to bring democracy to an end in the United States. For much of his Presidency, Trump has advanced his authoritarian and racist policies and practices with the full backing and support of his sycophants. He has usurped Constitutional powers granted the Congress on oversight and spending; extended the range of Executive Orders well beyond those envisioned in the Constitution; and looked to his Supreme Court appointed Justices to ultimately assent to his inappropriate attempts at expanding the power of his office. Fortunately the Courts have not acquiesced to his efforts to place himself above the law. But Trump’s efforts to end democracy have now reached a perilous point while his sycophants stand silently aside, virtually greasing the slide to despotism.
In a democracy, power rests with the people who elect representatives to direct their government. This is diametrically the opposite of a monarchy with a ruling family, or autocracy with one man having absolute power. The will of the people is expressed through voting for their representatives. And it is that very right, embedded in the Constitution, that Donald Trump and his sycophants are trying to take away for they know the only way he can be reelected is to cheat.
Mail-in Voting During the Pandemic
When it became obvious that voting in the midst of a pandemic would result in widespread use of mail-in ballots while Trump was well behind in the polls, he had to discourage the practice. He immediately began to denounce mail-in voting as unreliable, bound to produce millions of fraudulent votes and unable to return a clear winner on November 3rd. When confronted with data that shows there has never been evidence of fraud in mail-in voting, he avoids responding. The fact is, mail-in ballots are easy to validate as there is hard copy that can be checked to assure they have been accurately recorded. Computer-based polling machines with no hard copy backup may not offer that option and can also be hacked.
When questioned why he and his family vote by mail, he draws a distinction without a difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting. But aside from his cult following, a majority of Americans do not see that difference and plan to vote by mail. Yes, he will certainly claim the entire process was fraudulent if he loses because Trump cannot accept losing. Democracy and the Constitution be damned.
Trump’s Assault on the Post Office
So, Trump and his sycophants have developed a simple, diabolical, but potentially highly effective action-oriented plan to restrict votes from actually being counted. And their vehicle of choice is the U.S. Postal Service. Their plan, which I have dubbed the “Prevent Postal Processing Plan” (the PPP Plan—not to be confused with unflattering claims made about him) is unfolding in full view with Trump making no attempt to conceal its objective.
First, Trump had the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors appoint Louis DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser and a Trump ally as Postmaster General. It should be noted that DeJoy has no experience with Post Office operations except for the logistical services his company provided. Additionally, he is known to have investments in UPS and other USPS competitors. Imagine the CEO of General Motors having an investment in Ford. I guess that’s OK in the world of Trump.
- Removed the top two officials in charge of day-to-day operations;
- Reorganized operating units and organization structure, centralizing power around him;
- Reassigned or displaced 23 executives and appointed 5 staffers to leadership positions;
- Announced a hiring freeze and request for voluntary early retirements;
- Barred workers from working overtime hours;
- Instituted policy of holding mail not delivered by a certain time to the next day;
- Removed mail sorting machines considered “excess.”
- Removed sidewalk mailboxes
Post Office History, Obligation and Problems
Trump has previously railed against the U.S. Post Office, asserting that it should be privatized. In the absence of any knowledge of history, I’m sure he is unaware that the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin Postmaster General to establish the Post Office after the Declaration of Independence, but before the United States officially became a country. Many historians credit the U.S. Post Office with binding people together across the United States, driving expansion of roads and transit, strengthening connections to rural communities, and delivering packages to individual front doors.
Today the Postal Service is in dire financial straits, in part from the pandemic, but also by an aging business model that must be reviewed and potentially changed to become relevant today. But the U.S. Postal Service has a “universal service obligation,” the idea to provide the American public with trusted, affordable, universal service. It seems that obligation has not been considered in the massive changes made. In the short term, the proposed infusion of cash provided in the House coronavirus relief bill along with a requirement that DeJoys’s changes be reversed are the best way to honor that obligation. Above all, it will restrain Trump from using the Post Office to strangle mail-in voting,
The Truth Behind New Postmaster General DeJoy’s Actions
As someone with a long record of executive experience in business, I am astonished and aghast at the rapidity with which these actions were taken, particularly by someone with less than two months at the helm and no intimate knowledge of Post Office Operations. It seems that Postmaster General DeJoy may have obliquely acknowledged his lack of expertise in an internal memo to his staff. His sweeping operational changes, he said, have brought “unintended consequences” to the U.S. Postal Service. Nonetheless, he defended his actions amid reports of widespread mail delays. Perhaps the universal service obligation of Postal Service should be brought to his attention.
If these actions had been taken in an apolitical business, one might conclude an arrogant, excessively confident executive had overestimated his capability and intellect. But Donald Trump tells us otherwise. Commenting on negotiations for coronavirus relief and the Democrats’ request for billions of dollars to support the U.S. Postal Service and mail-in voting efforts, Trump said, “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it,”
There it is, right out in the open. He won’t agree to the funding because it could mean mail-in voting proceeds as if under normal conditions. But these are not normal conditions. We are in the midst of a pandemic and people’s lives are at stake. Of course, Trump doesn’t care about anyone but himself. The lives of his fellow Americans are unimportant to him, particularly if they might vote for the opposition. All that matters is his quest for reelection. But this is not just about one election.
Democracy at Risk
We are faced with a man who envisions himself with the power of an autocrat in the image of Putin or Kim Jung Un. He has no respect for our democracy or the Constitution on which it is based. And that is precisely the point. If Trump wins reelection, it will be the end of democracy in the United States. That sounds dramatic, but it is not a wild statement or far-fetched idea. With corrupt Attorney General William Barr establishing the sham legal basis for Trump’s expected actions, we will witness the end of democracy as it disappears into the quicksand of time. It has happened in many other countries around the world, and it can AND WILL happen here.
The sad reality is that Trump’s sycophants know and understand this. They have employed various forms of voter suppression for years and are actively engaged in trying to prevent any change in election laws to mitigate the dangers posed by the pandemic. The Republican National Committee (RNC), financially backed in part by the Trump Campaign, has continually entered the fray to defend lawsuits by advocacy and voting rights groups. NBC News reported there are 175 suits in 43 states and the District of Columbia over absentee ballots and mail in voting.
What makes the PPP Plan different is the sheer scale of the suppression effort, which could affect millions of voters, and Trumpian sycophants’ acceptance of his audacious contempt for law, the Constitution and democracy itself.
The Role of “We the People”
As I’m finishing this blog, the power of we the people was just demonstrated. Postmaster General DeJoy announced he has suspended the changes he’d made until after the election is concluded. But as best as I can determine that relates to overtime, removing equipment and certain other operational changes. It appears, however, that his personnel and organizational changes will remain in place. It’s hard to imagine that he would rehire the previously fired top two executives responsible for operations or restore managers and staff to their previous positions. I suspect he already has sufficient issues with employee morale and needs no new ones.
Additionally, it appears that he has no intention of restoring the mail sorting machines he removed or returning sidewalk mailboxes to their original locations. So, with top operational executives gone, managers in new positions, and a lesser number of mail sorting machines in place, it is doubtful whether the mess he created can be sufficiently addressed, and normal mail and package delivery service restored in time to facilitate the expected surge in mail-in ballots.
Favorable rulings in pending lawsuits modifying election laws to deal with the pandemic could help alleviate continuing issues in timely postal service deliveries. Which makes it very important for responsible journalists to keep the spotlight on this issue and sound the alarm if delivery service doesn’t improve or new problems develop.
If we the people wish to vote by mail, we also have a responsibility to assure our votes are counted. We must be aware that even with the changes suspended, there can be continuing problems delivering mail. Accordingly, we must mail as early as possible. Also keep in mind that if this is the first time you are voting by mail, you should NOW check with the necessary state or local agency to assure that the information you provided when registering to vote is the same today. That means your address, your signature and any other information that might have changed over the years.
The Great Experiment of Democracy
Finally, when we do vote in November, we should remember that for more than 3½ years Trump’s sycophant Republican Senators have enabled his madness. The same Senators refuse to support the House bill to help unemployed victims of the pandemic. And, except for Mitt Romney, it is they who remained silent as Trump launched an assault on the Post Office. Which makes me wonder whether they care that the “great experiment of democracy,” the United States of America, could come to an end.