The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Democrats’ postal conspiracy is the biggest made-up controversy since Russiagate

A U.S. Postal Service email delivers mail in Washington on Tuesday. (Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Anthony S. Fauci said Friday that there is “no reason” most Americans can’t vote in person this November and that voting is as safe as going to a grocery store. “If you go and wear a mask, if you observe the physical distancing and don’t have a crowded situation, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that,” he told National Geographic.

No matter: Democrats are pressing ahead with their universal mail-in voting scheme and setting the stage to blame President Trump when it results in an unmitigated disaster. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is already accusing Trump of a “campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters.”

Please. This is the biggest made-up controversy since Democrats accused Trump of conspiring with Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 election.

A massive increase in mail-in ballots will throw the election into chaos not because Trump is manipulating the postal system but because mail-in ballots are the most inherently unreliable way to vote. Vote-by-mail has a much higher failure rate than in-person voting — a fact that was underscored by the catastrophic failure of mail-in voting during Democratic primaries this year.

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Those failures had nothing to do with Trump or the U.S. Postal Service. The problem is state election laws that allow voters to request mail-in ballots just a few days before Election Day. If tens of millions of voters all drop ballots in the mail at the last minute, it is inevitable that the postal system will be overwhelmed, and millions of ballots will be delayed, misdirected or arrive without postmarks. This is why the Postal Service General Counsel Thomas J. Marshall recently warned state election officials, urging them to require voters to request ballots at least 15 days before Election Day.

But instead of pushing states to fix their election laws, Democrats are trying to pin the blame on Trump — arguing that he is pushing to “defund” the Postal Service. That is a lie. Just last month, the Trump administration gave the USPS a $10 billion loan, funding authorized in the Cares Act, which Trump signed into law in March. Trump has since signed off on legislation that would turn it into a grant — even though the Wall Street Journal reported that “the Postal Service doesn’t currently need the money.” The Postal Service was a mess long before Trump arrived, losing $78 billion since 2007, but it has plenty of short-term cash. Despite this, Pelosi is demanding that Trump agree to a $25 billion USPS bailout bill that would undoubtedly be loaded up with partisan provisions regarding mail-in voting — and threatening to blame Trump for the coming mail-in voting fiasco if he refuses.

Democrats are also charging that cost-savings reforms instituted by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (before they were suspended Tuesday until after the election) were politically motivated. That is also untrue. While DeJoy is a Trump donor, he was appointed not by Trump but by the unanimous vote of the bipartisan Postal Service Board of Governors. And the reforms he is trying to implement were designed to address issues raised in a recent report by USPS Inspector General Tammy L. Whitcomb — a career civil servant who joined the inspector general’s office during the Obama administration — and are necessary to put the USPS on the path to solvency. The Obama administration got rid of thousands of collection boxes in the years before the 2016 election, yet no one accused it of election manipulation. Yet some House Democrats have even urged the FBI to open a criminal investigation into DeJoy.

So, what should Trump do? Simple. Take away the Democrats’ excuses and make them own the coming mail-in voting fiasco. The president should ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to pass bipartisan legislation introduced in July by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to give the Postal Service $25 billion to cover pandemic revenue losses — and attach a continuing resolution funding the government until after the election, heading off a fiscal crisis when government funding runs out on Oct. 1.

This would put Democrats in a bind. If they refuse to approve a bipartisan bill — one co-sponsored by Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), their vice-presidential nominee — at the funding level they have requested, then they can’t blame Trump for defunding the post office right before the election or any government shutdown. If they approve the bill, they help Republicans keep control of the Senate by giving the vulnerable Collins a pre-election boost — and lose their ability to blame Trump for the impending mail-in voting catastrophe. Either way, Trump wins.

The narrative that Trump is manipulating the post office to steal the election is the new Russiagate — a conspiracy theory designed to delegitimize Trump’s victory if he wins. Trump should act now to take that narrative away.

Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s post office blunder will test GOP loyalty

The Post’s View: Trump’s campaign to discredit mail-in voting is working. Here’s how states can reassure Americans.

Helaine Olen: The post office brings Americans together. Of course Trump wants to destroy it.

Charles Lane: Yes, a Postal Service disaster is brewing — and has been for a long time