A neoliberal crackdown at the Postal Service should support all our suspicions about the November election

See updates for August 18, 2020, and August 21, 2020, at end of post

The delusional raging narcissist-in-chief sure looks like he’s intentionally handicapping the Postal Service to ensure that mail-in voting will not be reliable even as the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to mean many more people will be voting by mail than ever before.[1]

What seems specifically to have been done to the Postal Service “include[s] prohibiting overtime pay, shutting down sorting machines early and requiring letter carriers to leave mail behind when necessary to avoid extra trips or late delivery on routes.” And we are told, in true neoliberal fashion, that these measures will improve “efficiency,”[2] even though

[t]he new policies have resulted in at least a two-day delay in scattered parts of the country, even for express mail, according to multiple postal workers and union leaders. Letter carriers are manually sorting more mail, adding to the delivery time. Bins of mail ready for delivery are sitting in post offices because of scheduling and route changes. And without the ability to work overtime, workers say the logjam is worsening without an end in sight.[3]

Now, maybe that doesn’t sound like efficiency to you, but in neoliberal ideology, “efficiency” is defined almost exclusively in terms of labor costs as part of a general attack on workers who are blamed for all evil, especially including inflation. The described actions are entirely consistent with that ideology, but even more conveniently for a losing incumbent president who wants to delay the election,[4] and who might, by a variety of means, refuse to leave office,[5] enable him to cast doubt on this November’s elections.[6]

So while we’re speculating that mail service might mysteriously improve in parts of the country where Donald Trump can be expected to do well, perhaps at the expense of those parts of the country where Trump can be expected to do poorly, we should remember that election manipulation is far from a Republican-only game: The 2016 Democratic Party primary contest was under Hillary Clinton’s thumb[7] and the contest in 2020 effectively ended after Barack Obama intervened with Joe Biden’s competitors for the nomination, urging them directly or indirectly to withdraw, cutting off Bernie Sanders’ campaign at the knees,[8] and ending, once again,[9] the progressive challenge to neoliberalism in the Democratic Party.

The Democrats have also, in their time, attacked the Postal Service on neoliberal grounds;[10] they seemingly seek defeat in November through their presumptive nomination of the weakest possible candidate; and they can therefore, rhetoric aside, hardly be expected to ride to Postal Service’s rescue on this occasion.


Update, August 18, 2020: Facing major lawsuits by at least twenty state attorneys general,[11] Postmaster General Louis DeJoy suspended the operational changes he had been implementing,[12] saying he was doing so “[t]o avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”[13]

Update, August 21, 2020:

As at least 21 state attorneys general sued,[14] Postmaster General Louis DeJoy suspended the changes that might interfere with election mail.[15] It is now apparent that “suspend” does not mean “reverse,” as an email has come to light forbidding the reconstruction or reconnection of sorting machines that had already been removed from service.[16]

  1. [1]Jessica Dean, Jessica Schneider, and Caroline Kelly, “Postal Service says it has ‘ample capacity’ to handle election after Trump casts doubt,” CNN, August 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/03/politics/postal-service-ample-capacity-election-trump/index.html; Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage, “Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-backlog-sparks-worries-that-ballot-delivery-could-be-delayed-in-november/2020/07/30/cb19f1f4-d1d0-11ea-8d32-1ebf4e9d8e0d_story.html; Veronica Stracqualursi and Jessica Dean, “New postal policies that are slowing service may affect 2020 mail-in voting, union leader says,” CNN, July 31, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/31/politics/usps-mail-in-voting-2020-election/index.html
  2. [2]Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage, “Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-backlog-sparks-worries-that-ballot-delivery-could-be-delayed-in-november/2020/07/30/cb19f1f4-d1d0-11ea-8d32-1ebf4e9d8e0d_story.html
  3. [3]Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage, “Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-backlog-sparks-worries-that-ballot-delivery-could-be-delayed-in-november/2020/07/30/cb19f1f4-d1d0-11ea-8d32-1ebf4e9d8e0d_story.html
  4. [4]Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, and John Wagner, “Trump encounters broad pushback to his suggestion to delay the Nov. 3 election,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-floats-idea-of-delaying-the-november-election-as-he-ramps-up-attacks-on-voting-by-mail/2020/07/30/15fe7ac6-d264-11ea-9038-af089b63ac21_story.html; Kevin Liptak and Betsy Klein, “Trump floats delaying election despite lack of authority to do so,” CNN, July 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/30/politics/trump-delay-election-no-authority/index.html
  5. [5]Max Boot, “What if Trump loses but insists he won?” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/06/what-if-trump-loses-insists-he-won/; Will Bunch, “Trump’s diabolical plan to blow up democracy, get reelected and avoid jail just might work,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 2019, https://www.philly.com/opinion/commentary/trump-wants-impeachment-2020-reelection-strategy-blame-democrats-ignore-subpoenas-20190505.html; Chris Cillizza, “What happens if Donald Trump refuses to admit he lost in 2020?” CNN, May 6, 2019, https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/05/06/politics/donald-trump-2020-election/index.html; Democracy Now!, “What If Trump Refuses to Accept a Biden Victory? A Look at How Electoral Chaos Could Divide Nation,” August 3, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/8/3/nils_gilman_2020_election_scenarios; Matt Ford, “Fear of a Forever-Trump Administration,” New Republic, July 9, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/158415/trump-refuses-to-step-down; Mehdi Hasan, “Yes, Let’s Defeat or Impeach Donald Trump. But What If He Refuses to Leave the White House?” Intercept, March 6, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2019/03/06/donald-trump-impeachment-2020/; Fred Kaplan, “Trump Can’t Just Refuse to Leave Office,” Slate, June 1, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/trump-election-refusal-leave.html; Peter Nicholas, “Trump Could Still Break Democracy’s Biggest Norm,” Atlantic, June 16, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/when-does-trump-leave-white-house/613060/; Douglas Perry, “How impeachment could lead to insurrection or even Dems backing Donald Trump,” Oregonian, May 17, 2019, https://www.oregonlive.com/today/2017/09/impeachment_is_coming_how_it_c.html; Felicia Sonmez, “Trump declines to say whether he will accept November election results,” Washington Post, July 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-declines-to-say-whether-he-will-accept-november-election-results/2020/07/19/40009804-c9c7-11ea-91f1-28aca4d833a0_story.html; Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Claiming two years of his presidency were ‘stolen,’ Trump suggests he’s owed overtime,” Washington Post, May 6, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/05/06/claiming-two-years-his-presidency-were-stolen-trump-suggests-hes-owed-overtime/; Timothy E. Wirth and Tom Rogers, “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President,” Newsweek, July 3, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975
  6. [6]Jessica Dean, Jessica Schneider, and Caroline Kelly, “Postal Service says it has ‘ample capacity’ to handle election after Trump casts doubt,” CNN, August 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/03/politics/postal-service-ample-capacity-election-trump/index.html; Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage, “Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-backlog-sparks-worries-that-ballot-delivery-could-be-delayed-in-november/2020/07/30/cb19f1f4-d1d0-11ea-8d32-1ebf4e9d8e0d_story.html; Veronica Stracqualursi and Jessica Dean, “New postal policies that are slowing service may affect 2020 mail-in voting, union leader says,” CNN, July 31, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/31/politics/usps-mail-in-voting-2020-election/index.html
  7. [7]Donna Brazile, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC,” Politico, November 2, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774
  8. [8]Glenn Thrush, “Accelerate the Endgame’: Obama’s Role in Wrapping Up the Primary,” New York Times, August 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/us/politics/obama-biden-democratic-primary.html
  9. [9]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Early Morning Swim: Ed Rendell tells Democratic base to ‘Get Over It’ on Rachel Maddow,” Shadowproof, September 23, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/23/early-morning-swim-ed-rendell-tells-democratic-base-to-get-over-it-on-rachel-maddow/; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Shadowproof, September 27, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010, archived by author; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/09/17/obama_139/; John F. Harris, “Rahm Roars Back,” Politico, February 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/02/28/rahm-emanuel-2020-race-biden-bernie-sanders-warren-election-politics-analysis-118208; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/president-obama-lashes-out-his-liber; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/its_always_the_hippies_fault_why_the_left_treats_its_idealists_all_wrong/; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html; Stephen Stromberg, “Joe Biden scolds progressives — and he’s right,” Washington Post, September 16, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/09/joe_biden_scolds_progressives.html; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left
  10. [10]It is certainly fashionable to blame Republicans, who are hardly blameless, for Postal Service woes: Dean Baker, “Killing the Messenger: The Downsizing and Death of the Postal Service,” Huffington Post, June 23, 2012, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/killing-the-messenger-the_b_1446837; David Dayen, “Signed, sealed, deposited,” Pacific Standard, January 22, 2015, https://psmag.com/business-economics/us-postal-service-saturday-delivery-postal-banking-52778; Dave Johnson, “You Should Be Outraged By What Is Being Done To Our Postal Service,” Our Future, February 10, 2013, https://ourfuture.org/20130210/you-should-be-outraged-by-what-is-being-done-to-our-post-office; John Nichols, “Postal Cuts Are Austerity on Steroids,” Nation, February 6, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/postal-cuts-are-austerity-steroids/ But Democrats have at least been complicit, with some constraints on the Postal Service enacted while their party has held the presidency: Ron Nixon, “Post Offices Face Hurdles in Efforts to Diversify,” New York Times, April 20, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/us/postal-service-seeks-to-widen-activities-and-revenue.html Austerity is part of neoliberal ideology, embraced by both parties.
  11. [11]Amy Gardner and Erin Cox, “At least 20 states plan to sue the U.S. Postal Service over service delays, threat to election,” Washington Post, August 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/at-least-20-states-plan-to-sue-the-us-postal-service-over-service-delays-threat-to-election/2020/08/18/c6ca2dc6-e166-11ea-b69b-64f7b0477ed4_story.html
  12. [12]Paul Ziobro, Natalie Andrews, and Alexa Corse, “Postmaster to Suspend USPS Changes Until After Election,” Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/postmaster-general-dejoy-to-testify-before-senate-panel-friday-11597758378
  13. [13]Louis DeJoy, quoted in Paul Ziobro, Natalie Andrews, and Alexa Corse, “Postmaster to Suspend USPS Changes Until After Election,” Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/postmaster-general-dejoy-to-testify-before-senate-panel-friday-11597758378
  14. [14]Amy Gardner and Erin Cox, “At least 21 states plan to sue the Postal Service over service delays, threat to election,” Washington Post, August 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/at-least-20-states-plan-to-sue-the-us-postal-service-over-service-delays-threat-to-election/2020/08/18/c6ca2dc6-e166-11ea-b69b-64f7b0477ed4_story.html
  15. [15]Louis DeJoy, quoted in Paul Ziobro, Natalie Andrews, and Alexa Corse, “Postmaster to Suspend USPS Changes Until After Election,” Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/postmaster-general-dejoy-to-testify-before-senate-panel-friday-11597758378; Paul Ziobro, Natalie Andrews, and Alexa Corse, “Postmaster to Suspend USPS Changes Until After Election,” Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/postmaster-general-dejoy-to-testify-before-senate-panel-friday-11597758378
  16. [16]Kristen Holmes and Paul P. Murphy, “USPS email tells managers not to reconnect sorting machines,” CNN, August 20, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/20/politics/usps-reconnect-sorting-machines/index.html

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