How Not to Fix the Post Office or Government in General

Yesterday my postbox disgorged ten letters, all from organizations seeking donations. Among them was an envelope with “Do you care if you no longer receive your mail at home?” next to my name. Its backside disclosed the sender was DLCC, the Democratic Leadership Campaign Committee, a 527 PAC (enabled by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling) that funds candidates in down-ticket and off-year election races, striving to bankroll primary winners it can live with.

I threw the other nine letters away but decided to check out what DLCC was up to. When I tore it open, something like a bumper sticker fell out bearing seven decals, including SAVE USPS, THANK YOU POSTAL WORKERS, and DUMP DEJOY. Thanks for that, DLCC. I’ll stick a couple on my mailbox to express solidarity with my letter carrier.

The envelope also informed me it held a petition to sign. You must have likely received any number of petitions from political pressure groups that always seem to come with an attached donation form, as did this one. If not petitions, than opinion surveys, with questions phrased such that it’s hard to disagree. (“Do you favor making polluters pay?”)

Most petitions target specific legislative and executive leaders, but not always. In fact, the DLCC’s two-paragraph “Petition to support the United States Postal Service” was addressed to no one in particular, not even Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Now, you can petition your town council, legislators, the President, and God, but you can’t petition nobody. What’s with that? Why are they collecting our signatures?

Lest I forget, this appeal, like so many I receive, included a four-page begging letter speaking of dire consequences should Democrats fail to dominate state legislatures. It’s from the eponymous Jessica Post, President DLCC, who gives a bunch of reasons why Louis DeJoy is a threat to democracy and even public health and must go. I had been under the delusion that rather than state legislators, Biden and Congress would handle that by seating three new members on the Postal Board. So how would donating to DLCC help to save the USPS? Jessica doesn’t say.

Read on and you learn that what this appeal is all about is redistricting, and controlling it by electing sufficient Democrats to flip or solidify state legislatures so they can overlay the GOP’s gerrymandering with their own. And prevent states from passing laws restricting voting rights by limiting drop boxes and mail-in ballots. Aha! That’s how Dem legislators will save the Post Office. By relying on it to give them majorities.

After giving several horrible examples of Trump-inspired red state laws that hobble the voting process, Jessica gets back to the point with this postscript:

“P.S. Keeping the USPS alive doesn’t just keep our democracy alive, and it doesn’t just keep a lifeline open to Americans who depend on the delivery of checks and prescription drugs—it saves the jobs of more than 600,000 courageous postal workers who are braving a pandemic (as well as rain, sleet and snow)—and a horrible boss—to serve the American people. Let’s deliver for them—and for out nation!”

Stirring words, no? Makes you want to sign the petition, dig out your checkbook, and send a donation in the envelope provided. Stamp it and mail it quick, before Louis DeJoy goes postal and shuts down your local post office. Hopefully, before that can happen, courageous Democratic state lawmakers will have found a way to deliver him to Address Unknown.

Now, as political bait-and-switch schemes go, this one isn’t especially egregious. But to the extent people respond to it, the DLCC will have more moolah to dole out, but to whom? It’s populated by political operatives—like Jessica Post herself, a former and probably future campaign consultant—who are more interested than winning popularity contests than pressing the levers of change, and thus reliably err on the side of moderation. And there are a lot of them; Jessica is just one of a bunch of up-and-comers in the “political business community” that their trade organization has been grooming to ply whatever side of the aisle best enhances their career.

The political problem that candidates, incumbents, and groups like DLCC will never solve is saying one thing while meaning another, which usually leads to doing another should anything get done at all. And one thing it always does is line the pockets of political consultants.

In fact, the DLCC contributes less than a third of its spending to campaign and party organizations ($8.8M of $32.2M in 2018 according to opensecrets.org). Salaries account for another $7M, with the rest going to administration, fundraising, media buys, consultants, research, and $3.9M for transfers to other party organizations that do who knows what with the money.

So, please make a rule to tear up any piece of mail marked “Petition Enclosed” or “Your Opinion Matters,” because you can be sure it’s not about signifying your opinions. And should you succumb, you can be sure they and their numberless affiliates will never stop soliciting your opinions.

I have received mail from Republican fundraisers with even stupider questionnaires that I also didn’t respond to. All this goes to show that even as a leftie, I can deconstruct political posturing aimed at people like me. Were righties to similarly engage their bullshit detectors when GOP operatives try to manipulate them, it might save me from going postal. Remember, it’s a system that’s supposed to represent you. And me. Both. 

Geoff Dutton is a reformed geek turned columnist, novelist, and publisher hailing from Boston who writes about whatever distortions of reality strike his fancy. Turkey Shoot, his novel interrogating the lives and times of members of a cell of terrorists in Europe, recently received an award for Courage in Fiction. You can find more of his writing here and at Progressive Pilgrim Review. He welcomes correspondence at geoff-at-perfidy-dot-press.

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