Democrats Who Once Pilloried Postal Service Now Find Much to Praise

Obama and Biden among Dems advancing conspiracy theories about Trump's USPS handling

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August 18, 2020

It was just months ago that Democrats such as New York's Carolyn Maloney derided the "sub-par postal service," arguing that it was at the root of hardships suffered by New York City residents.

Now, with Democrats seizing the USPS as a political weapon against President Donald Trump, Maloney is celebrating the service: "'Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night' stops the USPS from delivering," she said Monday.

In recent days, Democrats have seized on a theory that Trump and Postmaster General William DeJoy are deliberately derailing the USPS to stymie voting in November's presidential election. Former president Barack Obama joined the chorus on Friday, calling the service "collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus." Obama previously maligned the USPS during a 2009 town hall in New Hampshire, noting that "if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. … It's the post office that's always having problems."

The Democrats' questionable theory, which they are wielding as an attack against Trump, emerged in the wake of reports of mail delays. DeJoy, who took over the USPS in June, looked to cut costs by reforming mail deliveries, with the USPS holding pieces of mail that arrived late until the next day in an attempt to avoid overtime costs, which exceeded $1 billion in 2018, according to the USPS inspector general's office. Delivery times were already slowing prior to the change—the USPS delivered 82.5 percent of single-piece 3-5 day mail on time in 2018, down from 85.6 percent in 2017, data compiled by the National Association of Presort Mailers show.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D., N.Y.) has harped on USPS delays in the past—the Democrat in September 2015 cited "494 million delayed mail pieces" in the first six months of the year under the Obama administration. Following DeJoy's policy change, Higgins called the USPS "a pillar of our American Democracy," accusing Trump of "intentionally delaying the mail" in an attempt to "disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions."

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden also entertained the conspiracy during a Friday virtual fundraiser, calling it "bizarre" that postal workers in Oregon were "going around literally with tractor-trailers picking up mailboxes." Portland ABC affiliate KATU later reported that the local post office was "removing the boxes to replace them because they're old." This is a common practice across administrations. More than 12,000 USPS collection boxes were removed during Obama's second term, according to the USPS inspector general's office.

Democrats have also disseminated photos of mailboxes fitted with locks to suggest that Trump and his allies are stopping the boxes from being used. Former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill shared one such photo on Monday, claiming "now they are not hauling them off, just locking them up." The locks have been used across the country for years to prevent "fishing," a practice in which perpetrators steal mail by lowering a wire into the bottom of the collection box. A number of House Democrats—including Reps. Grace Meng (N.Y.) and Nita Lowey (N.Y.)—have warned their constituents about the practice.

"I'm calling on the USPS to replace all postal collection boxes in Queens w/ new anti-theft boxes in order to combat a growing mail theft crime called mail fishing," Meng tweeted in February 2018. "This crime causes many borough residents to become victims of identity theft & bank fraud."

Both Meng and Lowey have touted their attention to USPS issues in an attempt to please constituents. Lowey pledged to "continue to confront" the USPS over its "ongoing, systemic failures" in December 2018. On Thursday, the Democrat said the USPS "can handle snow, rain, heat, and has now proven to work through a pandemic," adding that Trump is "politicizing the Postal Service for his own political gain."

Trump on Monday said he encouraged administration officials to "speed up the mail, not slow the mail." DeJoy later announced the suspension of all USPS reforms until after the election "to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail."

"I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability," DeJoy said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. "I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election."