The Post Office isn’t a political office. It isn’t a liberal plot. It is one that is mandated by the Constitution.
Article I, Section 8 authorizes Congress “[t]o establish Post Offices and post Roads.” In The Federalist No. 42, James Madison explained: “The power of establishing post roads must, in every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious management, become productive of great public conveniency. Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.”
This important constitutional power did not stay dormant. Just a few years after the Constitution’s ratification, Congress enacted the first substantive federal postal law. This 1792 law established a “general post-office” with “one Postmaster General, who . . . shall provide for carrying the mail of the United States.” The law also established post roads, allowed the Postmaster General to enter into contracts, established postage rates, and set penalties for “neglecting, detaining, delaying, or secreting letters.” Most importantly, the law subsidized newspaper circulation and allowed for the distribution of newspapers across the country. Notably, scholars have said that this “forged a communications revolution just as far-reaching as the later telegraph and internet revolutions.” Indeed, that is true, as the post office created a central communications system that allowed for a robust exchange of ideas, something that is core to our democracy. As Alexis de Tocqueville aptly commented in his famous study of American democracy, the post office was a “great link between minds.”
President Trump, however, wants to throw all that in the trash and rewrite it all — for his political purposes. And it is a crying shame.
In fact, he isn’t even trying to hide it or dress it up as something else anymore. Today, on Fox Business, Trump told host Maria Bartiromo exactly what he is doing and why when it comes to working out a deal with Congress to help Americans during the pandemic:
“The items are the post office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting,” Trump told Fox Business’, Maria Bartiromo. “If we don’t make the deal, that means can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. It just can’t happen.”
So, in case anyone was still on the fence wondering what is actually happen, Trump just let the cat out of the bag. He simply will not do any deal that involves funding for the post office and mail-in voting specifically. He has absolutely no intention of any good faith negotiations. Meanwhile, his hand-picked appointee to run the post office has been actively making moves that have already been shown to slow the mail down and cause other issues.
Many believe that Trump is doing this because of losing his re-election bid. He seems to be laying the groundwork for a conspiracy-laden challenge if he should lose to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. In fact, he’s already tested this card.
Imagine this election night scenario: With a decisive number of mail ballots yet to be tallied, President Donald Trump enjoys a narrow lead over Joe Biden. But before all the votes can be counted — a process that could take days — Trump declares victory, citing purported irregularities with mail-in votes.
And we don’t have to imagine Trump insisting that the preliminary election night tally must stand as final In November 2018, when Florida’s US Senate and gubernatorial elections were still undecided, Trump tweeted this:
The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2018
Our Democracy and Constitution might be facing its greatest crisis ever. The fact is we are in the middle of a pandemic. Mail-in voting will be necessary. And despite Trump’s claims of “fraud” in the system, claims that never get backed up with anything other than rambling anecdotes that always turn out to be not very accurate, mail-in voting, if done right, is as secure as anything. In fact, some states, like Oregon and Washington, rely on it primarily in every election and primary.
Americans have called on Republicans, especially in the Senate, to stand up to Trump’s abuse of the Constitution repeatedly throughout his tenure as POTUS. Very few have answered the call. Hopefully, that will change and the post office and mail-in voting funding will get passed through Congress by a veto-proof majority and our Constitution will survive another crisis despite Trump’s efforts to ignore, circumvent, and rewrite it according to his whims.