Mail trucks

Mail trucks in Astoria in January.

The post office is one of the marvels of America’s economy and culture.

During times of war and peace, prosperity and decline, the post office binds the nation together. Of all the federal departments, none touch the broad mass of Americans so regularly and many times intimately as the U.S. Postal Service.

President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold funds for the Postal Service in advance of the November election is predictable within his political pathology. But as a presidential governing strategy it is enormously wrongheaded and destructive.

While President Trump’s intention is narrowly focused on the delivery of mail ballots, messing with the Postal Service’s readiness will bring considerable collateral damage to millions of Americans in all regions and all stations in life.

At this point in the 2020 election, with Trump trailing in the polls, undermining the validity of the vote appears to be Trump’s political strategy. But at what cost? The final ruination of the Republican brand?

What a pathetic power grab. We are lucky that Trump accidentally said the quiet part out loud regarding his motivation for removing mailboxes and hampering the effectiveness of the Postal Service as a whole.

What’s worse is the way he is trying to create doubt about a well-functioning and much-used part of our daily machinery. This is why the nation is reacting like it is.

It is impossible to overstate the Postal Service’s importance in vital personal and commercial interactions. One of our region’s many local postmasters provides a valuable look behind the mail boxes:

“Oysterville has the longest continuously running post office in Washington state,” Postmaster Greg Rogers said. “The town itself only has a population of about 14 people on a good day but our post office and mail box is the Grand Central for everyone north of Nahcotta. And that’s a lot of people, mostly retired. Medications, paychecks and small packages for those with Etsy or eBay sites help make up the critical difference for many up here trying to stay afloat.”

Rogers particularly notes the importance of ordering prescriptions by mail, which spare vulnerable people trips to pharmacies. While we all obviously enjoy getting out and visiting the pharmacist, grocer and other vital community assets, in the midst of a pandemic, the post office allows residents to avoid needless potential exposure to coronavirus.

As to the president’s stated motivation for wanting to impede mail voting — that it is subject to tampering and fraud — nothing could be further from the truth.

Washington and Oregon pioneered mail-in ballots.

Contrary to outlandish lies, it is a system that works nearly without flaw. Some may argue that Washington should follow the Oregon system of requiring all ballots to be in the hands of election officials by Election Day — avoiding a drawn-out counting process. Others argue that Oregon should maximize the voting franchise by following Washington’s practice of counting all votes cast or mailed up through election night.

Trump’s deliberate sabotage of mail delivery times may argue for Washington’s system.

To suggest that mail-in voting will result in more fraud is ridiculous – and contrary to Oregon’s much studied system of mail balloting.

County and state election offficials are justly proud of their long and well-deserved reputation for running clean and competent elections. Overseen by elected Republicans and Democrats alike, balloting in the Pacific Northwest has been scandal-free — unlike the appalling catastrophes that could occur if citizens are required to line up at polling places this November.

Regardless of whether Trump succeeds in slowing mail deliveries to a crawl, there are things each of us can do to ensure our vote is counted.

As noted by Washington’s Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the Postal Service recommends that voters mail completed ballots a week before Election Day. Polling finds few undecided voters this year, so there is no excuse for procrastination in returning ballots. Voters are also encouraged to use official drop boxes, which are open 24/7 during the voting period and close at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. These drop-off sites are conveniently located throughout Oregon and Washington, and facilitate safe voting.

The Postal Service has served us well since Ben Franklin was appointed our first postmaster general in 1775. We must honor this most popular founding father by fighting any effort to wreck the institution he created.

(1) comment

Barry Plotkin

Well-said, well-argued, and absolutely right! Please see the letter that all of Oregon's federally-elected officials sent to the Postmaster:

https://www.wyden.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Delegation%20ltr%20to%20USPS%20DeJoy%20200817.pdf

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