It was July 26, 1775 when the U.S. postal system was established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster general. It was Franklin who put in place the foundation for many aspects of today’s mail system. It was also an astute Franklin who gave the famous response to a critical question posed by Elizabeth Willing Powel, an influential Philadelphia socialite, on the final day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. With a mixture of anticipation and trepidation she asked, ‘What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?’ Franklin replied, ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’
It was 1914 when the words that have become the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service were chiseled in granite at the entrance of the New York City General Post Office: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
It’s been nearly two and a half centuries now that the postal service has played a key role in keeping the wheels of democracy rolling, and 106 years that its ambitious credo has stood the test of time and tumult to serve the nation well. Come hell or high water and through every Presidential administration in the history of this nation the dedicated couriers of the USPS have carried the mail through thick and thin, weathering every kind of imaginable storm in non partisan service to all citizens across this land.
But no more. Not if this current administration and its enablers have their way.
- Today in 2020 partisan politics is grinding away at that motto written in stone, seeking to slow the postal service’s ability to deliver the goods (in this case, mail-in ballots) in a timely manner under the smokescreen of “cost-cutting’ and ‘efficiency.’
- Today in a pandemic-compromised election where mail-in voting is the best preventive medicine for protecting voters from contracting COVID-19, partisan politics threatens to sicken and kill not only citizens but the very democracy that lives or dies on the principle and practice of free and fair elections.
- Today in advance of a Presidential election in which the ‘win-at-all-costs’ incumbent trails by a substantial margin in polling, this President and his hand picked crony post master general have blatantly launched what appears to be a full fledged assault on the USPS in order to impede it from the swift completion of its appointed rounds.
Benjamin Franklin would be appalled (as should every citizen). But given his wary answer, ‘A republic, if you can keep it,” he probably would not be shocked. The ‘Founding Fathers’ (as we are fond of calling them in our patriarchal society) were well aware that given the nature of humanity, we had all the monkey wrenches needed to screw up the gears of democracy and turn it into an authoritarian oligarchy that makes a monarchy look great again.
Franklin would, therefore, read with disdain a CNN report, that cites the President declaring on Thursday that he opposes much-needed funding for the United States Postal Service because he doesn’t want to see it used for mail-in voting this November. “They need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” he said. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it.”
In that moment the President placed his stamp of approval on voter suppression. And yesterday the USPS warned 46 states that given the debilitating measures invoked by the President’s postmaster general there was no guarantee that all mail in ballots could be delivered in time to count.
So much for the oft mentioned false narrative of rampant voter fraud via mail-in voting. The truth that the President admitted to is that suppressing the vote of the opposition is the proven best way of tilting the playing field to secure the win in the game of power retention where the ends justifies the means and winner-takes-all. And if that means crippling the postal service and undermining the bedrock of democracy, well then ‘it is what it is.’
This essay appears on the Eco-justice blog site of a PC(USA) Earth Care Congregation, so I state an obvious bias when I say that environmentally speaking, this is the most critical election in the history of the nation (and planet). The current administration has kept its promises about rolling back environmental regulations and reinventing regulatory agencies. But as critical as it is to the health and life of all creation, environmental justice is but one among many social justice issues that hang in the balance with the outcome of this election. As citizen voters and members of faith communities, we all need to see ourselves as ‘social justice workers’ and ‘essential workers’ for the common good working to ‘keep the republic’ while we bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.
To this end the North Carolina Council of Churches along with North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light (NCIPL) invite all people of faith to join their Faith Climate Justice Voter Pledge/initiative. I urge you to make the pledge. But wait, there’s more! NCIPL also offers the Democracy, Values & the 2020 Election voter guide as a tool to aid in reflecting on major issues of the day. But like the miracle of loaves and fishes the abundance doesn’t end there. We are also encouraged to enroll in the Voting Our Values Forum webinar series which began this week. Register for upcoming webinars HERE, and click HERE to view a recording of the first webinar.
Now is the time to meet any and all voter suppression challenges head on. Whether you choose to submit your ballot in person or through the mail (like the President and First Lady will do… yes, that’s correct), consider doing so early on in the process. In the mean time, raise your prophetic voice to our elected legislators and demand that all forms of voter suppression be ‘stamped out’ in the name of true justice and democracy.
[A final comment/clarification:
The intent of this blog post is not to diminish any one person or party and elevate another. It is not a partisan screed. It is rather an attempt to confront ideas and actions that subvert Christian tenets of justice and righteousness and corrupt the ideals and institutions of democracy upon which this nation was founded and to which it must continue to aspire if it is to truly be “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.” Such has been the prophetic task of religion throughout the ages, a task that never ends until ‘God’s Kingdom comes (in its fullness) and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.’]