Commentary: Don’t let Trump strangle the USPS

By defunding the United States Postal Service, President Trump’s attempt to subvert the November election is an unprecedented frontal assault on our democracy, and all of us must do our utmost to resist it. 

Mr. Trump openly acknowledged last week (Thurs., 8/13) that he planned to block necessary federal funding —repeatedly linking the funds with the fall election. Barack Obama, who has until recently been reticent to criticize his successor in the Oval Office, noted that Trump was attempting to “actively kneecap” the USPS. 

This is not a bureaucratic entanglement or one of the Beltway games that have so long distracted our body politic. This is a direct attack on our system of government, an affront to freedom and the right to vote. It amounts to a crude weaponization of taxpayer-funded services for electoral gain. That’s an affront to the ideas upon which our republic was founded.

Voting is not a partisan issue; it is a fundamental freedom. While we intend to do our darnedest to evict Donald Trump from the White House in November, it’s actually not our constituents who would be most drastically affected by this attack. While urban neighborhoods would be impacted, it’s largely Republican areas, rural and outlying counties, that would suffer the most egregious harm.

We represent a vibrant, urban community. We’re from Dorchester, which has a lively political scene, where people mix it up. It has a rich tradition of civic engagement and activism, where people speak their minds and assert their rights in our shared effort to advance our community. People disagree over issues large and small; we’ve both been to civic meetings where a matter as seemingly trivial as a curb cut can turn into a hurly-burly.

Annissa has seen more of these occasions than most as the former president of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association. But we and our neighbors — regardless of political stripe — have always respected the principle that every vote must be counted, and counted equally. Mr. Trump appointed a major campaign contributor to be Postmaster General of the United States and the results have been horrific. Mail delivery has been slowed, and seniors have been prevented from receiving their medication and pension checks amid a global pandemic.

Dan’s grandfather was a clerk at the South Postal Annex in South Boston, and, in view of that history, we are deeply troubled by the dramatic effect this administration subversion of the Post Office has had on its employees.

The potential disenfranchisement of millions of Americans who wish to vote by mail is a crime that casts all other presidential misdeeds in a pale light. It makes Watergate seem, to borrow a phrase, like a “third-rate burglary.” It is a disservice not only to our democracy, but also to mail carriers who sacrifice their own well being through rain, sleet and snow and to the men and women who have laid down their lives defending our freedoms. None of us should remain silent in the face of this attack from the inside on our democracy.

We believe that our state — and, frankly, all states — should authorize additional funding for municipalities to extend the hours of early voting. We support additional funding for municipal election clerks to establish additional locations for mail-in ballot drop boxes. 

We also support our Legislature passing a resolution supporting our congressional delegation and urging action to protect federal USPS workers, who for the last six months have been performing the front-line duty of delivering our mail to our homes and businesses – the birthday cards from grandmothers, the college applications, the rent checks that still have to be paid. The postal service is a crucial part of our way of life, one we can’t allow our president to neuter for his own political purposes.

Annissa Essaibi-George is an at-large member of the Boston City Council. Dan Hunt represents the 13th Suffolk District in the Massachusetts House.