The Post Office, the press, and Trump's authoritarian rule

"A nine-alarm fire"

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Openly taunting voters and Congress about how he has no plans to accept the results of the November election, Trump's coordinated assault on the U.S. Postal Service, a longtime hub of vote counting, represents an historic crisis for American democracy. Actively trying to subvert the will of voters, Trump is broadcasting his authoritarian ways, practically daring opponents to stand in the way of his attempts to steal an election. The press needs to do a better job ringing the alarm bells.

Following Trump‘S demand that a 200-year-old law be invoked to allow the U.S. military to wage war on U.S. street protesters, his campaign to undermine election integrity is another indication he's anxious to trample long-standing American liberties. Enamored by authoritarians around the world, Trump has made his goal clear for years.

He fired an inspector general who reviewed the whistle-blower complaint that led to his impeachment, declared a phony national emergency in order to grab billions in government funds to build a border wall, worked to obliterate the country's checks and balance system of government, purged the Department of Homeland Security,  defied a lawful order to turn over his taxes, demanded the Department of Justice launch criminal investigations into his perceived enemies, and promised pardons to border officials who broke the law. These are the type of actions the United States traditionally condemns when they occur in other countries, particularly among emerging democracies. Now they're happening here.

The Covid-19 pandemic sparked even more authoritarian moves by Trump. Like undemocratic leaders in China and Russia, Trump's first response to the health crisis was to recklessly downplay the problem, silence scientists, lie about the government's response, and lash out at critics.

The Beltway press corps has no experience covering authoritarian rulers and remains too timid to accurately label Trump's behavior. In the process, they've allowed the unthinkable to become possible — like trying to defund the Postal Service for political gain.  

Why that target? Because the 2020 election, taking place amidst the Trump pandemic, is going to feature way more mail-in ballots than usual and he doesn't want them counted. "Trump and his designated henchman — his wealthy donor Louis DeJoy — are vandalizing the post office in plain sight with the election less than three months away, disappearing mailboxes and throwing expensive sorters into dumpsters," noted Will Bunch in the Philadelphia Inquirer, who calls the unfolding attack a "nine-alarm fire for American democracy."

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The Postal Service is story is getting lots of attention, and deservedly so. But are most of the news media being sufficiently aggressive and sufficiently blunt about what's happening and the history-changing consequences at hand? “If journalists don’t keep the pressure on Postal Service problems, they will be abdicating their duty," warned Washington Post media critic Margaret Sullivan.

So far the coverage is there, but the urgency and the direct connection to deliberate Trump interference is not. Here's a sample of page-one headlines over the weekend:

·     “Postal Service warns 46 states about ballot delays” (Arizona Republic,)

·    “USPS to CT: Mail-in ballots not assured by Nov. 3 election (Connecticut Post:)

·    “Mail-in votes are threatened” (Tampa Bay Times:)

·    Boston Globe:“Postal service warns about vote”

·     “Are mail ballots at risk?” (Dallas Morning News:)

Notice what every headline was missing? Any mention of Trump. Here's what an accurate headline would have looked like last weekend: "Trump threatens Postal Service funding to sabotage vote count."

A Reuters news article on Monday did an awful job presenting Trump's blatant attempt to steal the U.S. election, putting the onus on Democratic nominee Joe Biden, instead of the Republican authoritarian:

With fewer than 80 days to go before the U.S. presidential election, it looks like Joe Biden’s race to lose.

Yet, as Democrats nationwide gather online this week to nominate him as their party’s choice to challenge President Donald Trump on Nov. 3, many fear Biden may just do that - for factors almost entirely out of his control.

The story of Trump trying to defund the Postal Service to unravel an election should definitely not be framed around Biden, the target of the cheating.

We're in a time of national crisis. Unfortunately the mainstream media have not been great at sounding alarms during the Trump years. Reluctant to portray a white, male Republican president as a radical player actively endangering America, much of the political press has taken the easy way out. That's why almost none of the 100-plus newspapers that demanded Bill Clinton resign from office during impeachment because he was not "fit to serve," have done the same and called for Trump's removal from office, even as he plots the undoing of a U.S. election.

Incredibly, four days after Trump went on Fox News and specifically said he wanted to defund the Postal Service so that ballots would not be counted this fall, The New York Times editorial page not only failed to call for Trump's resignation, it failed to publish a single sentence denouncing Trump's authoritarian attack on election integrity.

This is the same editorial page that obsessed over the Whitewater non-scandal when Clinton was president, acting as a battering ram to drive the phony, GOP-concocted controversy, which cost taxpayers $64 million. Yet Trump threatening to steal an election elicited no institutional response from the Times.

Reminder: Authoritarians thrive off a compliant press corps.

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🎧 GOOD STUFF:

Some great offerings here. And yes, the first song listed was featured on PRESS RUN a few months back;)

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🍺 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK :

The Old 97's, "Bottle Rocket Baby"

I know, I know! I just featured The Old 97’s and their upcoming album last week. But this just-released song is even better than last week’s.

There's something wonderful when an artist or a band invents a unique sound and patents it for life. That's what the Old 97's have done for nearly three decades. That manic, stop/start storytelling, the double-time drums that create a sense of careening late-night chaos, and the biting guitars are all wrapped in jumpy rock 'n roll abandon.

When they hit their groove, nobody sounds like The Old 97's.

Kerosene, dynamite, midnight run
My friend Robert, well he's a sun of a gun
And if I get locked up for havin' too much fun
Well, he'll bail me out 'bout quarter to one