As of now, his fate is uncertain, and the Biden administration has not said explicitly that it’s seeking to replace him. So perhaps this is the best way to pose the question: Why wouldn’t President Biden want to get rid of DeJoy, and at the first available opportunity?
To refresh your memory, DeJoy, a Republican mega-donor with no experience in the USPS, was appointed to lead the agency in the spring of 2020, despite having been beset by allegations of abusive practices at his business, conflicts of interest and potential campaign finance law violations. This came after President Donald Trump had spent years attacking the Postal Service.
DeJoy quickly took steps, supposedly in the service of cost-cutting, that had the effect of slowing down mail delivery. You probably noticed it.
While the president does not directly appoint the postmaster general, DeJoy was selected by a Republican-dominated Board of Governors, and his selection was understood as being in tune with Trump’s venom for the USPS — a complicated story in itself that may have its roots in Trump’s burning jealousy of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, which uses the USPS extensively to send packages. (Bezos also owns The Post.)
In some ways, the USPS is an embodiment of profoundly progressive values: It’s a beloved government agency that serves every American on the same terms, its original purpose was to bind the nation together, and it provides hundreds of thousands of jobs with good wages and benefits that don’t require a college education. It has been a route into the middle class for huge numbers of Black families.
But the USPS also has bipartisan support, because everyone loves the Post Office — including the constituents of Republican members of Congress. That’s especially true of those representing rural areas, for whom it’s a vital lifeline and who would have to pay exorbitant rates for mail if they weren’t effectively being subsidized by people in more population-dense areas whom the USPS can serve more cheaply.
And while it might be going too far to say DeJoy is trying purposely to undermine the USPS (though that’s certainly what Trump wanted him to do), reports have leaked of a yet-unreleased strategic plan he wants to implement that would result in slower mail delivery and higher rates, which he acknowledged at Wednesday’s hearing.
The best case anyone could make in DeJoy’s favor might be that, although he is plainly an extremely unpleasant person, he’s doing the kind of brutal cost-cutting the agency needs, and we’ll all just have to live with the pain.
What no one could say, however, is that there wouldn’t be somebody better for the job. And if Biden can put that better person in charge of the USPS, why wouldn’t he?
The first reason is that he can’t do it directly, because only the Board of Governors can fire the postmaster general. But right now the nine-member board has two Democrats (one of whom is a holdover appointment past his term, so Biden can replace him), along with four Republicans and three vacancies. When Biden fills the empty seats, Democrats will have a 5-to-4 majority.
At the moment, White House officials are being a little cagey, saying they’re moving swiftly to fill the vacancies on the board but not saying they want DeJoy fired as soon as possible. Some House Democrats, however, want Biden to fire the entire board (which he might not be able to do legally) and replace them with members ready and willing to fire DeJoy.
Here’s a further complication: Other Democrats are promoting a postal reform bill that would address USPS problems both parties agree on the need to fix, and they may not be eager to turn up the heat on DeJoy at a time when they’re trying to advance a bipartisan reform effort.
But that points to a solution as well. Although there does exist a progressive agenda with regard to the Postal Service (including the revival of postal banking) that Republicans will oppose, a well-functioning USPS that provides efficient service at affordable costs is something almost everyone agrees on. And it’s obvious that DeJoy is a polarizing figure whose continued leadership of the agency is going to only make everything harder.
So surely there are other experienced and qualified candidates out there who aren’t party donors and who could do a better job of reviving the USPS without being partisan lightning rods. If the Biden administration engineers it so DeJoy is replaced with someone like that, everyone ought to be happy.