Most rural Americans will tell you the postal service is an important part of their way of life.
Many small businesses and nonprofits in all kinds of communities — urban, suburban and rural — will tell you the same thing.
The postal service has always been part of the vital infrastructure that connects Americans and facilitates commerce. But perhaps not much longer.
President Donald Trump has been a critic of the U.S. Postal Service since he took office. At the start, his resentment seemed to stem from the business agreement between the service and Amazon, which is led by Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.
Because Trump hates the Post, he hates Bezos, and because he hates Bezos, he hates Amazon, and because he hates Amazon, he hates the postal service.
Spread atop all that rancor are the president’s persistent false claims regarding voting by mail.
Five states have solid records of conducting secure, fair elections by mail. Most other states, including Kansas, provide for mail-in ballots if voters request them.
The number of mailed ballots has skyrocketed this year because of COVID-19. Voting by mail is an obvious and relatively simple way to reduce exposure to a highly contagious, serious disease.
But Trump claims mailed ballots can’t be trusted — even though he votes by mail.
The president used false claims about mailed ballots as a reason to oppose funding that would help the post office handle ballots in a timely manner running up to the Nov. 3 election.
Trump told a Fox Business Network host that if the White House refused to negotiate another pandemic relief package: "That means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it."
To be clear, the package Democrats were pushing did not call for universal mail-in voting. That’s just another false claim.
By word and policy, the president is trying to undermine people’s trust in our elections.
And by word and policy, it appears the Trump administration also seeks to wreck the postal service. The president’s critics claim that’s what’s happening under the leadership of Postmaster Louis DeJoy, a big-time donor to Trump’s campaigns. They say DeJoy is making mail service less reliable, which will drive away customers and destroy the system’s ability to survive.
DeJoy disputes that assessment. He claims by cutting costs he’s making mail service more efficient.
But cost-cutting measures that lead to service that is slower and more unreliable will drive away more customers — at least those that have other options. That typically does not include rural areas or customers with limited incomes.
Already the postal service has notified more than 40 states that it can’t deliver ballots on time to be counted in November. Such warnings further erode trust in the integrity of the upcoming election, and they raise more questions about the service’s viability.
No one should dismiss every proposed postal change because it could affect service. In the past, for example, suggestions for five-day delivery made money-saving sense. Interestingly, Republicans and Democrats in Congress lambasted the former postmaster general for that proposal, which died before it could be implemented.
The postal service remains an essential service for millions of Americans. Until recently, people could depend on their elected officials to ensure the viability of that service.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.