President Trump began warning us months ago that the U.S. Postal Service may not be able to manage the flood of anticipated ballots this November.
Then last month, general counsel for the USPS Thomas J. Marshall went so far as to write a letter to all 50 states, informing them of concerns over the service’s ability to meet historical deadlines for ballots submitted by mail. In response, the House of Representatives passed a modest bill that gave the USPS $25 billion in additional funding and asked that any cost cutting — like reducing hours of service, worker overtime or changing operational procedures — be postponed until after the election.
Now Trump is tweeting that the protective bill was a “money wasting HOAX,” and Sen. Mitch McConnell has said he won’t even allow the bill to be voted on.
Wyoming’s Sen. John Barrasso swiftly embraced the scripted talking points, calling the concerns addressed in the House Bill “a made up, manufactured, political crisis.”
This kind of political double-talk may work with party loyalists, but it does not play well with the average rural Wisconsin voter — the type the GOP needs to win over in a few weeks. A whopping two-thirds of independent voters who have an opinion — those critical to the outcome of the 2020 election — believe that the postmaster’s cost-cutting actions were intended to make it more difficult for Americans to vote by mail. These voters will not easily reconcile being warned for months by a Republican administration that we have a crisis on our hands, only to be told after the House offered a solution that the crisis was actually a “hoax.”
While the president expresses his disdain for the postal service — he called it “a joke” — Republican leaders like Sen. Barrasso would be wise to note that the agency has a 91% approval rating, making it the most popular federal agency in the nation. Believe it or not, the Postal Service is rated the most trusted brand in America, beating out institutions such as Cheerios, Hershey, Tide and (my personal favorite) Chick-fil-A.
Because of the pandemic, roughly 80 million Americans are expected to vote using the mail in 2020, most of them through the non-controversial method of absentee ballots — just like Donald Trump will do with his own Florida absentee ballot. These are voters that include welders in rural Michigan, farmers in Iowa and ranchers in Wyoming — voters the Republican Party needs not just in a few weeks, but in the years to come.
This is the wrong hill for the Republican Party to die on if members care about their long-term standing among independent voters. It’s especially bad for Wyoming as we find ourselves increasingly dependent on a single political party that may be shooting itself in the foot a few weeks before Americans vote. If the GOP fails to support protective legislation that has no negative consequences beyond delaying some cost cutting at the Postal Service by a few weeks, and the election results are followed by litigation due to failures to deliver absentee ballots on time, the Republican Party — and Wyoming as a result — will pay a price well past November 2020.