Achieving broad electoral participation in this country is always a challenge. But this year it is particularly complicated because of two factors: the COVID-19 pandemic and President Donald Trump all-out assault on the U.S. Postal Service, an institution that is responsible for guaranteeing that mail-in ballots arrive on time and can be counted.
It seems that delaying the exercise of democracy is the new battlefront for those who seek another four years of power by any means necessary—even if it is bad.
Worst of all is that due to the pandemic and the fear of contagion, vote-by-mail is especially important to people of an advanced age, with pre-existing medical conditions and compromised immune systems, or simply those who prefer to exercise an abundance of caution and avoid crowds where the virus could spread.
Such is the series of conveniences that throughout all of these years has guaranteed the most advanced economy and democracy in the world, which at bottom is about civic participation, no matter what method one chooses to exercise the right to elect leaders, feeding the democrastic culture in every electoral cycle, independent of the nearness or farness of the polls, or the difficulties that present themselves along the way.
The idea is to vote and reproduce the democratic system so that new generations continue the civilizing example that is so emblematic of society life.
But Trump’s attack on voting by mail is so obvious that in a press conference last week he declared that if the postal service is not funded, “that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
The most advanced country on the planet is neither equipped nor prepared to guarantee the integrity of a presidential election?
This past May, the Democrats approved legislation that would give the Postal Service $25 billion for a period of three years, as well as an additional line item of $3.5 million in supplementary funds for electoral assistance, since the pandemic had complicated in-person assistance at polling locations.
But Trump, who just requested to vote by mail in the upcoming Florida primary, along with the first lady, Melania Trump, declared at the same event that there is nothing wrong with going to vote in person and that people did so during the First and Second World Wars.
That is, the leader and the first lady demand to vote by mail in a local election, because it is convenient and close, but contradictorily they do not want others to do the same and they condemn them to have no other option than to vote in person.
Trump, with absolutely no foundation, for years has dedicated himself to discrediting vote-by-mail, warning that it is “subject to fraud” and the manipulation of electoral results. This Sunday his spokespeople lined up on the political television programs making the same argument, unsubstantiated.
It has been frankly pathetic to see and hear the “arguments” of each one of these political actors, which is nothing more than a ventriloquist act, repeating whatever reassures the person who manipulates them.
The reason is more than obvious. Trump knows that public polls largely favor his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, and understands that a greater electoral participation works against him. That is, once again his panic over the popular vote appears like Trump’s worst nightmare, which has followed him throughout his term and repeats every day that the majority is not on his side.
To ths grievance is added the fact that the Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, is a Trump ally and donates to Republican campaigns. DeJoy, among other measures that tank vote-by-mail, has ordered the reduction of the quantity and use of equipment to process the mail, imposed restrictions on its transport, and reduced overtime pay for postal employees.
The protests against DeJoy’s actions have been felt even at the official’s residence in Washington, DC. The people are pressuring the Democrats, who this Monday begin their Convention to officially nominate the Biden-Harris ticket, to return from their congressional recess and begin hearings into DeJoy’s actions, with scarcely two and a half months until the general election. It was announced on Sunday that Democrats would return to Washington to deal with the situation.
What will happen?
In 2016 it was Russian intervention, and now in 2020 Trump and his allies aren’t even hiding the fact that they are trying to manipulate the election. In their desperation, they don’t realize that everything they do is so transparently offensive, that with each undemocratic manipulation they are unleashing a political misery that the electorate does not deserve. Not again.
To quote the veteran journalist Dan Rather on Twitter, “Who needs Russia when you are openly attacking the United States Postal Service to suppress the vote and undermine American democracy?”
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.