A founding institution of America dating back to 1775, the United States Postal Service is anchored in our nation’s commitment to democracy. Our founders envisioned the agency as one enabling the dissemination of news and information to all Americans, not just a few, in order to create an informed electorate stretching across the entire population. Only with an equitably informed citizenry can a government meant to be for the people and by the people, truly be about the business of the people.
Rooted in the story of America, the post office has long represented the quintessential public good, providing an essential service all Americans regularly use. Is it any mystery why the USPS is the most liked federal agency, and equally liked by Democrats and Republicans?
And yet, the times are now so upended that the post office is currently being undermined and politicized before our very eyes. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has overseen a systematic dismantling of a public resource we hold dear. The videos of blue mailboxes loaded away on trucks, and reports of mail-sorting machines being removed from post offices across the country – in the middle of a pandemic and during an election year, no less – amount to a breathtaking assault on our democracy.
While Postmaster DeJoy said this week that he would halt immediate changes until after the election – this temporary step is not sufficient. The damage has been done and the long-term health of the USPS remains at risk. That is why the House will vote this weekend on the Delivering for America Act, which protects the U.S. Postal Service by providing $25 billion in emergency COVID-19 funding. Additionally, the bill prohibits reductions in service or efforts to impede the agency’s ability to provide reliable and efficient service during the COVID-19 pandemic, and requires the reversal of any initiative or action that is causing delay in the processing, delivery or nondelivery of mail. The bill also clarifies the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to handle election mail—which is of vital importance to both our democracy and public health in a time of crisis.
Public pressure to ensure the survival of the USPS as a public good must continue up to and through the November election; it is essential that we maintain the integrity of this founding institution. Communities all across the country depend on it, especially rural ones like those in NY-19, which can’t afford to be further isolated in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And think about our veterans in these rural areas, who are now dealing with delayed medication deliveries. It is unacceptable that those who put their lives on the line and were injured or made ill in defense of our country can’t count on receiving their medications in a timely manner.
At a certain point, so-called political gamesmanship can turn into flat-out public corruption at the expense of our very democracy. We have reached that point.
Congressman Antonio Delgado represents New York’s 19th Congressional District.