Set aside mail-in ballots specifically for a second; let’s just talk about the mail in general.
We usually don’t do this, but if you don’t feel like reading too much this morning, here’s our thesis in a nutshell (of course we’ll go on for a while about it anyway if you feel like reading more):
- Trump deliberately trying to tear apart the U.S. Postal Service is a huge misstep and a massive opportunity for Democrats politically.
- That’s because it’s something older people and people in rural areas really care about. And they’ve been a big part of the core of Trump’s support.
- In fact, this is one of the only things we see that could really change minds about voting for Trump.
- So why aren’t Democrats pummeling him about it?
We looked up “logistics expert”, and pulled the following from a job listing. It describes a person’s responsibility in that job as:
“To ensure a timely, cost-efficient and uninterrupted supply of goods and services to meet the needs of beneficiaries.“
And the calling card of the newly installed U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, is that he’s a “logistics expert”. (In addition to being the head fundraiser for the Republican National Convention, when there was going to be one.) Great. So that means letters should be moving around faster, cheaper, and come election time: no problem.
Except…most everything DeJoy’s instituted so far has served to slow the mail down: letting it pile up if it carriers can’t get to it, shutting down sorting machines early, etc. All that stuff can only lead to more and more stuff getting backed up.
Isn’t that the opposite of what a “logistics expert” is supposed to do?
And all of that as Trump whines about how the postal service will be so ill-equipped to handle mail-in voting that it’ll be a “rigged” disaster. Except couldn’t he and his brand new genius Postmaster General do a lot to make that not so? Instead, they seem to be teaming up to ensure it is.
But what we really don’t get about it is: Why isn’t this a huge theme for Democrats right now? Why aren’t Dems really putting their foot down about more-than-adequately funding the post office as part of new Coronavirus relief legislation? Meaning at very least restoring the services the new Postmaster General has cut? Challenge Trump to veto it! (Maybe they will.) Why isn’t Joe Biden doing ads about it? (Maybe he is. Although the last one we saw was cute but seemed mainly designed to prove he can still drive a car: even in reverse!) And why isn’t he/they talking about it incessantly? Update: After we wrote this last night, the Lincoln Project posted something to Twitter suggesting they’re onto it.
How is this not a slam dunk politically for Democrats? (And maybe Conservatives who want to beat Trump.) And also simple human decency. And common sense. And, actually, patriotism.
Do people under the age of 50 and or in big cities really care about mail delivery that much? Probably, no. But is this something Trump voters might really care about? Especially in key areas he might really have to win? Yes.
And anyway it’s such an easy and forceful point for Democrats to make, and so easy to drive home: Trump’s trying to ruin the postal service.
The only reason we see why this could be a blind spot for Democrats is if their messaging is driven exclusively by what people are telling them in polls or focus groups, is important to them or they’re most worried about. In that case, the mail probably doesn’t come up very often. Just because mail delivery is so automatic. So expected. Like probably no one’s that worried they’ll go out tomorrow morning and their car won’t start. Or water won’t come out of their tap when they go to brush their teeth. So maybe it’s not going to show up if you’re approaching all your messaging that way. Which many Democrats do.
But c’mon, man! This is such an easy punch to land.
Even more easily and effectively than Trump’s going to turn the New York attorney General accusing the NRA of widespread fraud as a money laundering operation into “you see, I told you, Democrats are coming to take your guns”. (In fact, Trump already went there, and then added Joe Biden, if elected, would “hurt God–he’s against God, he’s against guns”. Because, why not throw that in?)
And yes, Trump could push back on the post office. Pointing out it loses money. Pointing out there are countries around the world that have privatized their postal service to varying degrees of success. Or maybe that the postal workers union is hyping this up above and beyond. But so what?
Doesn’t change the fact that Trump has talked about scaling back and maybe privatizing the Postal Service. Talked about raising prices by a ton. Talked about cutting rural delivery and also charging more for what remains.
That’s enough. Whatever he says subsequently will only get himself deeper into it.
Almost everyone by now who still uses mail for anything has at least some anecdotal or circumstantial evidence that it’s slowing down. Like a check that was sent 2 weeks ago that still hasn’t arrived. (And this isn’t a “the check is in the mail” type of situation; the person who sent it sent us an email showing it was issued and mailed on the date that they said). And you know, even if that turns out not to be true, there’s still enough doubt that it works as a political issue no matter what!
One of our favorite “fun facts” is that the U.S. Postal Service used to be a Cabinet Department. Until surprisingly recently. And Postmaster General was a cabinet position.
Now it’s run by a supposedly independent board. But guess what? All the current members were placed on the board during Trump’s term.
Of course the postal service isn’t what it once was, with email and electronic payments and all that. But it still means a lot to a lot of the voters that mean a lot to Trump.
Seniors for instance, who make up around 20% of the population in Arizona and Florida. Winning those two particular states could be crucial to Trump getting re-elected. We may not care that much, but our dad would go bonkers if mail was incomplete or didn’t arrive at its appointed time!
And rural voters, for whom USPS rural delivery is still a vital lifeline, and the only way they get a lot of the packages they order from Amazon and elsewhere (much to Trump’s chagrin). Although the most recent numbers we could find are from a few years ago, it’s probably pretty safe to say that one in 10 Americans gets their mail and packages delivered (and sends mail and packages) as part of a rural postal route. And that’s in places like Iowa and parts of Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. All states that also could come into play. And how about even Alaska maybe?
We also remember when we lived in a very remote area that did not offer mail delivery and we had to drive in to the post office to pick it up, that post office was the center of social interaction for miles around. It’s where gossip was disseminated, local news was “released”, even business was conducted.
So Trump takes any or all of that away and he’s threatening to take away significant and meaningful chunks of peoples’ lives. Enough to change their minds about voting for him? Maybe, maybe not. But definitely a message worth delivering.