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Special delivery / August 19, 2020
In the newspaper business, you get to know your local post offices quite well. I’ve dealt with more postal workers that I can count — from wrangling with postmasters to dropping off the day’s paper at the loading dock before carriers set off on their morning rounds — and am indebted to each of them, for the dedicated service they provide in getting this newspaper to our subscribers. Work long enough with the USPS, and you come to appreciate the mail carrier’s credo of delivering through snow and rain and gloom of night and ...

Through another political firestorm set off by you-know-who.

Our president is at it again. He’s blocking billions in emergency aid for the Postal Service — which, like most operations these days, has been hit hard by the coronavirus — and Trump is especially apoplectic at the thought that people could cast their ballots through the mail to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19 by voting in person. Americans have been casting mail-in absentee ballots since basically forever, and five states — Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii and Utah — vote exclusively, and cleanly, through the mail. Do these facts permeate the mind of our very stable genius in the White House? Does your local mailman walk on water?

Generally whenever one sets out to commit a crime, it’s best to save the confessions for later for when the deed is done. “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,” said President Trump of the Postal Service in an interview on Fox Business last week. “But if they don’t get those two items” — here Trump is talking about two tranches of aid, $25 billion in emergency funding to support USPS operations, and $3.6 billion in election resources to states — “that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.” Let’s go back to the first part of that statement: “Now they need that money in order to make the post office work.” How exactly does the post office work? Let us count the ways.

Delivery of prescription medicines. Delivery of Social Security checks. Delivery of bills (bleah) and all kinds of checks (yeah!) In just another reminder of these strange times, I received a nice check in the mail this week from Anthem — definitely a nice change of pace, as the money flow usually runs in the opposite direction — as a refund on my health insurance premiums. Anthem was required to send out the checks under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which stipulates that health insurers must spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical treatment, as opposed to administrative bloat, marketing costs and millions for executive compensation, that sort of thing. Contrary to what I thought would happen with this pandemic, insurance companies are swimming in cash because people are putting off needed health care procedures (which you should not do), and as a result, insurance company payouts to providers have plummeted. That means companies like Anthem are sitting on a huge pile. And because of federal law, they can’t just keep it all. Thanks, Obama.

That nice check arrived in the mail last week. Your next Amazon package could be dropped off by a mail carrier tomorrow. (Amazon contracts with USPS for last-mile delivery, particularly in low-population areas such as our own.) Are you a shut-in who depends on the post office for your medicine, or an entrepreneur whose business depends on the post office? You might want to take heed of this sabotage by the Trump White House, intended as it is to defeat the Postal Service’s ability to process and deliver mail-in ballots in time for the November election. Because monkeying around with the post office to thwart early voting might keep your insulin from arriving on time, too.

The evidence of deliberate sabotage is anecdotal but striking. The Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy — a Trump appointee and deep-pocketed Republican donor — has banned overtime and told carriers to leave mail behind at distribution centers to pile up until it can be delivered. The impact of this move (and others) very much jibes with this business owner’s personal experience; more and more, our company mail seems to arrive either all at once or not at all. DeJoy also has presided over some very curious operational changes in the name of promoting “cost efficiency,” including the removal of mail sorting machines at post offices around the country even though this equipment works far faster than any human being could possibly hope to do. “The inevitable result has been slower delivery, with letters and packages arriving late and many Americans simply not getting their mail every day,” writes the superb Paul Waldman in The Washington Post. “You’ve probably noticed it yourself.”

Yeah, we have. Look, the fact that Donald Trump will cheat at or on anything — golf, politics, his wives — should come as no revelation to anyone by now. But destroying the Post Office, and democracy itself, to cheat his way to victory in an election that every reputable poll shows he’s well on his way to losing? That’s something, even for Trump. Just to be clear, his stated reason for opposing emergency aid to the Post Office — because its essential role in the Nov. 3 election would lead to “one of the greatest frauds in history” — is complete nonsense, backed by zero evidence. It’s not even entirely clear why Trump opposes mail-in voting, since Republicans and Democrats alike take part, and some studies suggest mail-in voting actually favors the GOP, with its older-skewing constituency. (In other words, middle age white men and older who watch too much Fox News). What we do know is that the president wants to keep Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote this November. And how do we know this? Because Trump himself has said so!

In contrast to his daily Twitter outrages, Trump’s deliberate effort to torch the Post Office to stop mail-in voting seems to have gotten folks’ attention. What can you do about it? Until our moment of national reckoning arrives on Nov. 3, the most important way to fight back is to make sure your vote counts by acting sooner rather than later. Early voting in Virginia begins Sept. 18, either by mail-in absentee ballot or through in-person voting at the Registrar’s Office in Boydton. Even with the mischief by Trump and toadies, it’s a sure deal that your vote will be counted if you go ahead and mail in your ballot weeks (or months) ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. Not even the vandals in the White House can hold up the mail entirely — they can only hope to delay it, so ballots arrive late and, depending on the laws of a given state, may or may not be counted. (Virginia mail-in ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive by noon on Nov. 6, three days after the vote, to be counted.) If you really want to be on the safe side, go vote in-person at the County Registrar’s Office, 439 Madison Street, Boydton. They’re open weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and will hold Saturday voting office hours on the two weekends leading up to the Nov. 3 general election. The phone number is (434) 738-6191, extension 4313. They’re there to help.

It’s a remarkable statement on these trying times that one of America’s two major political parties has adopted the tactics of autocratic governments everywhere in a blatant effort to thwart the people’s participation in democracy — mislead, misdirect, misrule, it’s the same story day after day. Let’s not forget that a mere few months ago, Trump was impeached for trying to blackmail a foreign leader (the Ukranian president) into leading a baseless smear campaign against Joe Biden, Trump’s rival for the presidency. After that episode, Maine Sen. Susan Collins told an interviewer, “I believe that the president has learned from this case. The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.”

Yeah, some lesson. Now, thanks to lapdogs like Sen. Collins who refused to do anything about the president’s gross behavior, we have a Trump-picked flunkie atop the Postal Service who is yanking out sorting machines from post offices and sidelining the workforce in a clear effort to thwart the people’s will. But as always with these sorts of things, collateral damage is unavoidable. Next time you check your empty mail box and wonder, “Hmm, where’s my Social Security check today?”, it may be because you’ve been swept up in the storm, too. Through wind and rain and stormy weather, the Post Office delivers for you. Will you deliver for them?


The Sun is mass mailing today to 21,000 households in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties as we launch our annual subscription campaign. Inside today’s paper, you’ll find a flyer with an order form and a self-addressed, postage-paid attached to make it super easy to sign up for the year. We’d love to have you as a reader. Even if the ramblings in this space set some people on edge, there’s lots to enjoy in these pages — if not the editorial opinions, then the crossword puzzles. And money-saving coupons and Sudoku and the best news coverage of Mecklenburg County and beyond. Best of all, it’s only $16 for residents of Mecklenburg and adjoining Virginia counties. We look forward to welcoming you aboard.

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