Donald Trump's attempt to sabotage Postal Service's ability to handle mail-in votes is an attack on democracy – Henry McLeish

US President Donald Trump is laying the groundwork to contest the November election result if he loses, writes Henry McLeish.

Protesters march in Los Angeles during a "Save the Post Office" demonstration (Picture: Kyle Grillot/AFP via Getty Images)

When you think corruption in American politics cannot get any worse, President Trump will step up, and never disappoint. A great post office scandal has unfolded in recent weeks revealing the corrupt intent of Trump to sabotage mail-in voting for the November elections, spread baseless fears about voter fraud, and create the conditions in which, if defeated, he can contest the result and claim a rigged election.

Trump’s motive is even more sinister. Voter suppression is the main political weapon of the Republican party and the inspiration behind this scandal. Trump fears that he cannot win a free, fair, and untainted election, and has said this on the record.

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Suppressing the votes of supposedly liberal-leaning African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans, the young, the uneducated and the poor is the only way Republicans can steal the presidency. In contrast, an increased turnout is essential if Joe Biden is to win.

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Faced with Trump’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic, mail-in voting is the sensible option for millions of Americans worried about their health and safety. But President Trump does not see it that way.

Fearing an increase in turnout – to his disadvantage – the President’s strategy is to wreck the idea of extending safe postal balloting, refuse the extra funding required for the United States Postal Service, one of the most trusted American institutions, and to instruct, his new and recently appointed Post Master General – a mega-Republican donor and crony of the President with little experience for the role – to accelerate internal cuts and changes that could destroy the service.

A political firestorm

The Postal Service has served America well and, in the home of the free, is still in public ownership. It is an independent agency of the Executive branch of the US federal government. Its roots can be traced back to 1775 and the second continental Congress where Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Post-Master General in 1775: Franklin was previously deputy Post-Master for the British Colonies of North America in 1753. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorised by the US Constitution and is older than both the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

It was hardly surprising that President Trump and his new Post-Master, Louis DeJoy, ignited a firestorm against their proposals to cut back the service and obstruct new investment for the election in the midst of a pandemic.

Speaking on Fox News, Trump said that he intended to block a $25 billion draft Coronavirus Relief Bill, with the aim of preventing the expansion of voting by mail.

One of the measures was to decommission 600 mail sorting machines, which would have made the handling of the postal ballot impossible. However, after opposition from the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Republican and Democratic members of Congress, US states, the threat of court action, and criticism from the progressive media, and the public, Louis DeJoy relented and dropped the proposed partisan changes that were probably illegal.

The major changes, that could have delayed the processing of ballots, have been dropped until after elections. But Trump is now threatening to deploy law enforcement officers at the polls, suggesting new tactics of voter intimidation.

‘Steal the election’

For Trump, this was an act of desperation that has spectacularly backfired, at least for now. The thought of defeat is beginning to haunt him. Trump wants a chaotic and contested election.

Biden, in his convention adoption speech, said that, “decency and democracy” are on the ballot and promised to “protect America’s most sacred democratic exercise – voting”.

On Fox News, Trump said, “Democrats would try to steal the election and some states might send ballots to Democrats only.” A war against voters is dystopian.

In Republican-controlled state mansions and legislatures throughout the US, astonishing efforts have been under way for decades to stop people voting. The process is extreme, intense, offensive, discriminatory, racist, unethical, and undemocratic. Sometimes described as a “fifth column” or a plot to destroy America’s democracy, the voter suppression plan of the Republican party was boosted by a decision of the Supreme Court in 2013. The court decided that racism was a thing of the past and gutted the 1965 Voters Rights Act. This decision to withdraw federal oversight of electoral activities allowed states to step up their efforts to stop minorities voting and dismantle the gains made by universal suffrage in the early part of the 20th century.

Racism, so deeply imbedded in America, is being used to destroy democracy. This spat over Trump and the Postal Service must be seen in the context of voter suppression. The Republicans are shameless. In 26 states their efforts include voter intimidation; criminalisation of voter registration drives; disguised poll taxes; racially gerrymandered voter districts; draconian voter roll purges; restricting voting on college campuses; more restrictive voter ID processes; and cutting back on absentee voting.

UFO sightings and lightning strikes

Commonplace, crude but effective measures such as closing convenient polling stations, restricting voting times or moving polling stations miles from where people live are disenfranchising millions.

Promoting this toxic mix of race, ethnicity, identity and culture as a political strategy defiles the US democracy, degrades the humanity of its victims, and demoralises tens of millions of people who may see the ballot box as an opportunity to improve their lives.

Having endured centuries of racial abuse and discrimination and then have won the vote, millions of African Americans are now struggling to retain the franchise. That struggle is now being joined by Asians, Native Americans, and Hispanics.

Trump has claimed that voter fraud is rampant in America, but without offering a shred of evidence. UFO sightings and being struck by lightning are more common.

But support for the President, in his war against voters, is on hand. Nigel Farage, writing last week in the American magazine, Newsweek, said, “I have witnessed first-hand the wholesale abuse of postal voting and the overwhelming advantage it has given to the British Labour Party in the UK. Trump is right to sound the alarm-in-the making.”

The article, not surprisingly, is headed, “Don’t trust the polls. Trump will prevail”!

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