The GOP’s bunker-cowering idiot in the White House has done a lot of stupid things, proving again and again that there’s no serious reelection campaign, just a relentless, never-ending expression of Donald Trump’s id.
That notion is never more self-evident than when he takes aim at his own people. He tries not to! But he harms them all the time, such as with his ridiculous trade wars with China, Europe, and Latin America, which have hurt his rural base in places like Iowa, or his attacks on immigrant workers (who do the manual labor in those red rural areas), or his attacks on the Affordable Care Act, which disproportionately helps poor rural Americans.
But all of that pales with this, his greatest political miscalculation. And given his track record, this one is epic indeed.
Trump’s attacks on the U.S. Postal Service will cement his landslide loss, and take down even more Republicans than was already the case.
First of all, here’s Trump’s stark reality: he’s got zero juice in urban America and he’s lost the suburbs. All that’s left are rural communities. HIs party is inextricably tied to that, as we saw in 2018 when 38 of the Democrats’ 41 pickups in the U.S. House came in suburban districts. Check out Quinnipiac’s national poll of registered voters from mid-July.
As we’ve talked about ad infinitum the last several years, the suburbs are looking more and more like cities. But rural America, dominated by non-college educated white Americans, remains deeply Republican, deeply pro-Trump. Cow and corn country is the only reason that Trump has any chance whatsoever to pull off an impossible reelection, and it’s the reason that Republicans hold anything in the House, and could still hold on to the Senate. The upper chamber, indeed, is biased in favor of rural America and its empty states.
Now here comes Trump, who is clumsy and stupid and incapable of thinking two steps ahead, and who is driving a stake deep into the heart of his and his party’s most committed supporters.
Voting by mail is legitimately a threat to Trump and his party. The core Republican base—older white voters—votes at high numbers. The core Democratic base—younger and browner—does not. Generally speaking, the higher the turnout, the better the chances for Democratic victory. So for sure, the recent coronavirus-motivated moves toward greater vote-by-mail is a boon for Democratic chances.
Trump has been told this. And of course, rather than think, “how can we better appeal to a broader swath of the American electorate to improve our chances to win these elections?” he and his party instead think “how can we stop people from voting?” This is their motivation. They’re not even hiding it anymore.
Democracy is now a “liberal wishlist.”
It used to be a lot easier to disenfranchise core Democratic constituencies when you could physically block them from the polls, such as limiting the number of ballot boxes and locations in urban areas, purging voter rolls, voter ID measures, blocking college students from voting where they go to college, challenging voter credentials, physical intimidation, and more. Most of those methods go away with mail voting.
Again, Republicans could adapt to this enhanced democracy by evolving to appeal to a broader electorate. Instead, they’re doubling down on their core reason for their existence: racism. And as ugly as Trump and his party’s racism has been, at least it’s finally out in the open. And as distressing it is that it has support, we’re seeing that support is quite limited, and far from an American majority.
Hence, Trump is overtly trying to destroy the USPS.
Of course, this isn’t new to us, as we’ve been watching it happen in real time. But too many kept giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. Fact Check even dinged presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for claiming that was Trump’s agenda a couple of months ago!
Laugh all you want at the “no evidence,” because it was clear to everyone who was truly paying attention. The only difference between then and now? Trump stupidly admitted it, like a movie villain explaining his dastardly plan.
Okay then. It’s on the record. Trump wants the USPS to burn because if it does, ballots cannot be delivered. That’s his motivation, clear and simple.
But get this: No one is more dependent on the USPS than rural America. Like so much in our country, urban and suburban Americans are subsidizing this critical rural service. Not only is it far less expensive than private companies like UPS and FedEx, but the USPS is required by law to 1) charge the same price for everyone, no matter how far the letter or package is going, and 2) it must provide service to everyone, no matter how remote and unprofitable it is to deliver. The private services certainly don’t do so. In fact, FedEx and UPS hands off packages to the USPS to deliver the “last mile” for much of rural America. It’s not profitable to send UPS and FedEx trucks out to the hinterlands, after all. It’s better to saddle the USPS with that job.
This Vox piece gets into all the ways that the USPS provides rural America with a vital lifeline.
And while some may argue that the USPS is becoming more obsolete as an increasing number of services are becoming digitalized, there’s still a large chunk of people who rely on mail because they have poor (or no) internet service. (The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 14.5 million people in rural areas lack access to broadband.) In fact, 18 percent of Americans still pay their bills by mail, according to an ACI Worldwide report; meanwhile, 20 percent of adults over 40 who take medication for a chronic condition get those pills by mail order, according to a survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association.
But rural Americans aren’t the only ones affected by this unconscionable effort to destroy the postal service. Seniors rely on mail more than any other age group. Let’s go back to that Quinnipiac poll.
Younger Americans rely less on the USPS—they get their packages via Amazon, which uses its own delivery service or UPS. They get their bills electronically and pay them online. They email or text or Snapchat their friends to keep in touch. The only thing in my mailbox is advertising fliers, and those go straight into recycling without a glance.
But older Americans? Most of that doesn’t apply.
Sadly, you could send the card and it still might not get there. You don’t even have to pretend, because Trump is doing this:
Yes, Trump’s attack on the postal service is serious, a veritable coup attempt. It is an attack on democracy. But it is also an attack on rural Americans and seniors—Trump’s two strongest core constituencies. It is an attack on their communications lifeline, on their ability to get packages, on their ability to get life-sustaining medications, on jobs in their communities.
This attack is so egregious, that for once, it’s generating massive media coverage.
It is an issue that Democrats, even the most conservative, like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, can attack with gusto.
Manchin, who visited several USPS sites in his state Friday, said he’d been contacted by a local county sheriff and veteran who's diabetic and hadn't gotten his medication in the mail. He said six post offices in his state had postings saying they were going to close, but when he called up to inquire about it, they said it was a mistake.
"I accept a mistake if a human error was made, but I guarantee you, there's not one of those people did that on their own," Manchin said. "It had to come from up above. It's showing me their true intent."
Asked if he had confidence in the Postmaster General, Manchin didn't mince words. "Not at all, Chuck, not at all," he told Chuck Todd.
No Republicans, not even the most rural, reddest of them in places like Montana, can stay silent. Trump is alone in this one. So much so, that the Postal Service is already walking back some of its destructive efforts.
Meanwhile, Biden and rural Democrats can now run on saving the Postal Service. What an electoral gift! Having lost urban and suburban America, Trump now is helping turn rural America into a battleground?
And to stress what this means, it’s not about Biden winning. He’s got the numbers he needs already. But of the 13 Senate seats in play this November, pretty much all of them have significant rural populations that can make or break the race—Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia (x2), Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. Democrats don’t even need to win those rural counties. Merely cutting into Republican advantages could be enough, given Democratic strength in the cities and suburbs.
Finally, Trump isn’t even smart enough to get the timing of this right. Imagine pulling sorting machines and mailbox drop-off locations 2-3 weeks before the election? It would’ve taken a few days to figure out what was going on, and any reaction would've happened too late to reverse course. It would’ve been a perfect October surprise. But by pulling this stunt with two and a half months to go, it’s given the media, politicians, and the courts time to do something about it.
This issue will only blow up in the coming week, as it catches fire deeper into the media ecosystem and penetrates into the electorate. It is an untenable situation for Trump.
Which brings up one more reason this is a disaster for him—remember, Trump and his campaign think winning the race is about winning days. Yes, that’s as stupid as it sounds: "With 109 days left, our goal is clear — to win each day we have left until election day. If we win more days than Joe Biden wins, President Trump will be re-elected," Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement when his appointment was first announced.
No, the winner isn’t the person who “wins more days,” but Trump sure isn’t winning any days lately, and with just 11 weeks left before Election Day, he doesn’t have time to keep losing days. And you can bet, with this scandal emerging, he’ll be losing at least another week, and he’ll be losing on an issue that deeply affects his own base.
We can laugh about “winning days,” but on a practical level, every day that Trump is digging himself deeper into a hole is a day that he isn’t repairing damage he’s done to his former suburban supporters or reaching potential new voters. That’s a deep hole he’s in, and he’s not even trying to climb out. Cheating doesn’t really work if you announce to the world that you’re cheating.
None of this is reason to panic. We have time to act. Mark Sumner wrote about what we can do to fight back. If you’re voting by mail, mail that ballot in the second you get it. Don’t dally. Then harangue everyone else around you to mail their ballots. Or help drop them off at drop boxes for states and areas that have those. Daily Kos will have more information on what you can do in the weeks and months ahead. We won’t let this stop the change that we so desperately need and deserve this November.
We’re fighters. And this is a fight. But it’s one that will ironically strengthen our hand in the months ahead.
We will win in 2020 if people can vote. By calling Democratic-leaning swing state voters every Tuesday or Thursday with Turnout2020, we can help them get absentee ballots for the November general election right now. Sign up here to participate in Turnout Tuesday, so that no one has to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote.