In the pandemic election of 2020, restricting access to the ballot box is as simple as restricting access to the mailbox. And this week, Donald Trump accelerated efforts to do just that. On Thursday, he openly linked his efforts to block full funding of the postal service with his crusade against mail-in voting. The same day, a top adviser derided congressional efforts to safeguard voting rights as part of a “liberal, left wish list” that is “not our game.” On top of that, the new postmaster general Louis DeJoy — a right-wing millionaire who’d previously been tapped as the chief fundraiser for the 2020 Republican National Convention — cleared house at USPS in a “Friday Night Massacre,” while carrying out plans to dismantle mail sorting equipment and remove mailboxes from the streets. The attempt to create election dysfunction in November is as blatant as it is brazen.
The effort to sabotage mail-in voting is no surprise to close watchers of Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Since early spring, the president has railed against the shift to vote-by-mail, which has been made essential by his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. Although Trump himself votes by mail, he has been blasting absentee balloting as a threat to Republican electoral prospects, crying out that it is a fraud, a scam, cheating, and “the scandal of our times.”
Trump first began beating this drum back in April, calling on the GOP and Fox News to “fight very hard” against mail-in ballots:
Making a counterfactual charge (mail-in voting has a remarkably clean track record), Trump insisted absentee balloting leads to “VOTER FRAUD” and stolen elections. When Nevada moved to ensure vote-by-mail access, Trump said the state was “creating a great Voter Fraud scenario” and he threatened to “hold up funds to the state” as a form of revenge.
By May, the misinformation he was spreading was so extreme, Twitter tagged the president’s tweets as “unsubstantiated.“
But Trump kept going, insisting that America “can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country,” insisting it would lead to a “free for all on cheating.”
Framing the move to mail-in voting in expressly partisan terms, Trump then insisted that vote-by-mail will “lead to the end of our Great Republican Party.”
By June, the president’s tone had shifted somewhat. Seen in the most sinister light, this particular tweet seems less like a warning against foreign intervention, and more like an invitation, from a president who benefited from Russian interference in the 2016 election and was impeached for seeking election favors from Ukraine.
As the pandemic he has utterly mismanaged experienced a summer resurgence, driving home the need for absentee balloting as a public health measure, Trump whined that states “are using Covid in order to cheat.”
With his own past history of voting by mail coming under scrutiny, Trump tried to split hairs between absentee voting and mail-in voting, which are exactly the same thing.
Finally, as his own re-election numbers cratered, along with a third of the nation’s GDP, Trump cited “inaccurate & fraudulent” mail-in voting as a reason to delay the election.
Trump’s Twitter rants have now become official efforts to tamper with the postal service. And the effort is so ham-fisted that the current president is now being trolled by his predecessor. Citing the essential services provided by the Postal Service, Barack Obama called out Trump for being “more concerned with suppressing the vote” than doing the most urgent work of the White House: suppressing the coronavirus.
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