Saving the Post Office, Saving Democracy

My ninety-six-year-old mother used to have her own business card. It listed her name, address, phone number and then across the bottom it read “No electronic devices. No TV. No internet.” My mother, the matriarch of our family, was also a letter writer. While others jumped on board email and Facebook, she shunned digital communication and faithfully wrote out letters longhand to send to family and friends. The mailbox was her connection to the world, while her mind still allowed her to be connected. Despite that, even though I’ve been predicting since November of 2016 what a downhill slide our democracy was going to take, the assault on the post office wasn’t on my radar.

Back on November 9th of 2016 I could have told you what 2020 was going to look like. No, my crystal ball wasn’t predicting a pandemic, although maybe it should have. But like many people, I knew the country would slowly and then rapidly slip into an authoritarian state. While some blissfully believed that Congress and our democratic institutions would hold Trump in check, many of us could feel the ill wind that was blowing. We could see Trump being a president who would collude with Russia against his own country, who would work to illegally influence his own election, who would fail to uphold the constitution. We saw the denigration of the press coming, the “alternative facts” taking hold. We weren’t surprised to see our troops sent into cities to attack peaceful protests. The separation of families, caging of children, violating of women’s and LGBTQ rights, and fanning the flames of racism all were in character for Trump and his Republican enablers. Still that he would actively work to destroy the post office was one assault many of us didn’t see coming.

Trump’s appointment of DeJoy to Postmaster General, and their joint systematic sabotage of what seems to everyone like a good and necessary service, is in many ways scarier than many of his other attacks on democracy.  When Trump attacked a free press, lifting his incessant call of “fake news,” we were alarmed at what it means for a leader of a democratic nation to purposely undermine the population’s trust in its news sources. But we weren’t surprised. Any narcissist worth the name after all paints others as liars if they don’t support his view. When Trump sent troops into Portland, we were all alarmed because it was the next logical step on the road to a dictatorship. When Trump called white nationalist terrorists “good people,” no one could really be surprised. We knew when he was elected, he was a racist, after all. But the destruction of the post office raises concerns because it harms so many people – the elderly, small businesses, veterans, rural residents, and it does so in order to negatively impact free and fair elections. It’s one more instance of Trump using his power as president for his own personal gain. It’s one more instance of him using his power to suppress the vote and destroy democracy. It’s one more instance of him not caring for anyone but himself.

Anyone who believes in democracy believes in the common good – the things we all need, we all benefit from, and we all help create and pay for through our tax dollars. Our schools are a common good. Our roads are a common good. Our voting machines are a common good. Scientific research is a common good. Environmental protection is a common good. Unemployment is a common good. The common good is a value that says we care for each other and we will create a government that provides services for all of us regardless of whether we all personally need them, at all times. The post office is a common good. It may seem old fashion to some, only there for women like my mother who toddle out to her mailbox in her walker. But it’s a service we rightfully expect our government to provide. It is not meant to make it profit. It is a governmental service that helps small businesses send their products or receive supplies. It delivers needed medicines or checks to the elderly and veterans. It provides consumers and businesses a way to enact commerce. It provides mail-in ballots, or voter registration, or motor vehicle registration.

Our democracy cannot survive another four years of Trump and cronies and the loss of the post office is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to get out a vote like our lives and our democracy depend on it, because they do. And we need to save the post office, to ensure our elections.