This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on August 17, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up. Cover: Photo by Tareq Ismail on Unsplash
Apparently We’re All Conspiracy Theorists: The United States Postal Service “issued a dire warning last week saying that mail-in ballots might not arrive on time to be counted on election day,” Dan Bobkoff explains for the Financial Times News Briefing Podcast. “That has senior Democrats saying that changes at the post office are jeopardizing the November 3rd elections. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader want Post Master General, Louis DeJoy to testify before Congress, calling him ‘an accomplice in the President’s campaign to cheat in the election.’ Lawmakers claim changes in the Post Office are slowing down the mail. Since Mr. DeJoy assumed the post in June he has been criticized for dismantling mail-sorting machines, cutting overtime, and removing post-boxes. Some Democrats have called for his resignation. Mrs. Pelosi plans to call the House back early from its August recess for hearings on the Post Office issue. Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows accused Democrats of trying to ‘stoke fear.’ [With that said] President Donald Trump, [who is] down in the latest polls, has been trying to aggressively sow doubt about mail-in voting, claiming that postal voting is rife with fraud, and could make it impossible to know the results about November’s election for months, or even years.” Over the weekend, this debate quickly developed into story that has seized the front pages of newspapers across the country. We’ve included a snapshot of the nation-wide local coverage below. Here is what both sides are saying about the issue:
On the Left: The Washington Post Editorial Board says, “Trump’s campaign to discredit the election is deeply dishonest and dangerous.” Citing a USA Today op-ed from top postal officials, the WaPo Ed-Board says “that, even without additional funds, [the USPS] has “ample capacity to deliver America’s election mail,” which “will account for less than 2 percent of all mail volume from mid-September until Election Day.” That is not a “vast amount of ballots . . . being sent at random,” as Mr. Trump would have it. Furthermore the WaPo Ed-Board says, “A decent, democratic president, genuinely concerned with honest elections and his people’s fundamental right to vote, would be touting improvements and offering assistance to make sure they continue through November. A desperate, demagogic president, behind in the polls, would sow confusion and conspiracy theories, trying to delegitimize in advance any result other than a victory for him. That is what Mr. Trump is doing.”
On the Right: The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board argues, “The Post Office’s Problem Isn’t Trump.” Instead, “Congress has only itself to blame for this mess. Total losses since 2007 run to $78 billion. Overall mail volume peaked in 2006, at 213 billion pieces. As of last year, it was down 33%. It’s a Blockbuster service in a Netflix world.” While, “Democrats’ big idea is to shovel money at the USPS,” the WSJ Ed-Board says that “What it requires is reform. Privatization can’t pass Congress, so ignore that boogeyman. But lawmakers could give the USPS more freedom to act like a business: to raise prices if warranted; to close lonely, desolate post offices; to stop Saturday mail—or Wednesday mail if it comes to that.” In regards to President Trump’s opposition to extra money for the USPS, the WSJ Ed-Board says, “This is a foolish line to take. Millions of mail ballots are coming, ready or not” and as mentioned above, the USPS “has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time.” In summary, “The opportunity here is to leverage any funding to make the post office viable for the 21st century. Or President Biden will sign a bailout, no questions asked.”
Flag This: The takeaway from this debate is that every single American is a conspiracy theorist, at least according to the media. Here’s a few examples. On the right, the National Review says “Prominent Democrats have pushed a conspiracy theory that the Postal Service is implementing cost-cutting changes to its service in order to bolster President Trump’s reelection prospects, despite the agency’s insistence that a recommitment to ‘existing operating plans’ will not affect its ability to meet the 2020 election demand.” Conversely, on the left, CNN writes “This is the latest example of Trump’s paranoia about the political system infecting Americans’ faith in institutions. His constant effort to undermine belief in mail-in voting is dovetailing with his political ally’s convenient effort to reform the Postal Service. Add in his Treasury secretary’s effort to exert more control over the postal service. This is the stuff conspiracy theories are made of.” At the end of the day, the overlap between the opposing outlooks on the post office debate seems to be that the USPS is actually more than capable of handling excess mail-in ballots in the upcoming election. This is something both sides mentioned above.
Local Coverage: Here is how this story played out across the country, courtesy of POLITICO Playbook: Arizona Republic, bottom of the front page: “Postal Service warns 46 states about ballot delays” … Sacramento Bee: “Newsom says USPS changes ‘sabotage’ mail-in vote” … San Diego Union-Tribune: “POSTAL SERVICE WARNS STATES IT MAY NOT MEET MAIL-IN BALLOT DEADLINES” … Connecticut Post: “USPS to CT: Mail-in ballots not assured by Nov. 3 election” … Hartford Courant: “USPS: Ballot delivery could be late” …
… Miami Herald: “USPS warns Florida some of its mail ballots could be rejected” … Tampa Bay Times: “Mail-in votes are threatened” … Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Mail delays may void absentee ballots”… Wichita Eagle: “USPS removes mail machines in Mo., Kansas” … Baltimore Sun: “Answers sought in delays of US mail” … Boston Globe: “Postal service warns about vote” … Kansas City Star: “Mail machines in Kansas, Missouri removed by USPS” … Star-Ledger (N.J.): “Postal service warns of possible ballot delay” …
… Charlotte Observer: “NC voters urged to request, mail absentee ballots earlier” … The Oregonian: “Leaders blast postal changes” … Dallas Morning News: “Are mail ballots at risk?” … Houston Chronicle: “States warned mail-in ballot delays likely” … Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “USPS warns ballot delivery at risk”