Dems need to wake up and stop promoting VBM as if it were the only option, and stop promoting use of the mail to vote at all.

The rejection rate of mail ballots is high, enough to hand the election to Trump. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/democrats-are-strongly-pushing-mail-voting-its-pitfalls-could-boost-n1235289; https://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-mail-in-ballot-rejected-voting-counts/; https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/democrats-are-strongly-pushing-mail-voting-its-pitfalls-could-boost-n1235289; https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/06/mail-in-voting-could-accidentally-disenfranchise-millions-voters/

10 days to mail a ballot is not enough even now when mail is taking 2-3 weeks within the same city, and by October, Trump/DeJoy will likely have ordered a halt to delivery of mail ballots. In fact, Trump’s aides are exploring “possible executive actions he could take to curb mail-in voting — everything from directing the postal service to not deliver certain ballots to stopping local officials from counting them after Election Day.” https://www.politico.com/news/2020/08/08/trump-wants-to-cut-mail-in-voting-the-republican-machine-is-helping-him-392428.

There is no question he's going to try to stop the counting of mail ballots. “The only way to prevent this scenario, or at least rob it of the oxygen it needs to burn, is to deliver an election night lead to Biden. This means voting in person.” How to Foil Trump’s Election Night Strategy, Jamelle Bouie, NYT (Aug. 11, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/11/opinion/trump-election-day.html.

Put on your PPE and vote in person early or on election day (many election offices will ensure polling places large enough for social distancing). If you must VBM, hand deliver your ballot to an approved drop-off location or drop box if available; if not, take it to the election office. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/13/vote-like-miss-sylvia-hand-deliver-your-mail-in-or-absentee-ballot/

People should contact their local election office to find out their options, what safety measures can be taken, etc., and NOT reflexively vote by mail or trust USPS with anything.

To contact your local election office: https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/eoddomestic.htm

Expand full comment

I love the USPS for many reasons. It hired my 55 year old husband who’d been axed by IBM. Decent wage. Union protection (unlike IBM - the “lifetime” employer who broke his heart). This gave me a 10 year insiders view into the unbelievably hard work behind our miraculous mail system. A package delivery to the Tonga island of Vava’u? No problem! ❤️🤍💙

Expand full comment

This has now become, with Trump's statements today, the most significant election in the history of the country, far moreso than 1860 or 1864, the two elections that people have previously considered the most significant. This isn't about dividing the country, it's now about destroying the country.

Trump and all his fellow conspirators to overthrow the government MUST be prosecuted and imprisoned, if it means jailing every elected Republican in the country. That party is now The Party of Treason.

Expand full comment

Let’s not forget that Trump’s mother was born in Scotland and emigrated to US at age 18. Maybe a reporter could remind him and us.

Expand full comment

Thank you again for digesting the over abundance of headline worthy events for us.

Since it is questionable if the Senate will act to resolve the destruction of USPS before it is too severely gutted to handle election mail, who else can sue on behalf of the people? Since this is a federal agency do state attorneys general have the right to sue on behalf of the population of their states? Or do the local election boards have this right? What other avenues are available? Calling all of our various representatives won't resolve anything if McConnell won't release legislation from the graveyard on his desk obviously. Would it be legal for National Guard or someone to help USPS workers process the mail if necessary at the last minute if sorting machines cannot be returned to service?

Since not prosecuting a sitting president is policy but not law, is it possible for state or federal to ignore this policy since 45 openly admitted he is interfering with USPS to block mail in voting which appears to be voter tampering (or is it election tampering?) or for any one of the many other potentially illegal things he appears to have done?

I admit today felt pretty overwhelming with his blatant effort to destroy our democracy.

Expand full comment

Oh dear God! Did anyone notice how Donald did not answer this question from a reporter this afternoon?

00:37:26. C Span transcript of today's "briefing"


Heather, I hope you have a peaceful evening. I can't imagine how you maintain your sanity on some days. Thank you!

Expand full comment

I've struggled for years with an old, cynical maxim from Simon Cameron, Secretary of War under Lincoln: "An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought." At first glance, the line seems like a rim-shot in a stand-up routine, but it has remarkably complex hidden implications. The more I observe the life and work of political figures, the more sympathy I have for their constraints - ethical, financial, and social.

For one thing, politicians have to become "bought" in order to do their job. The resources to get them elected have to come from other groups and people, and the cooperation of other groups and people are necessary to accomplish anything in whatever arena the politician works - Congress, a school board, city council, or a multi-departmental White House. If you neither give nor receive favors, neither support nor decry other politicians, you are just the noisy dog in the corner. So, politicians have to continually look for someone to buy with whatever coin works - money, promises of support, or favors of almost unlimited kind. They also have to reciprocally look for someone to sell themselves to, using the same coin.

Loyalty, even in situations the politician finds personally repugnant, is an essential part of the deal. In order to operate in that environment, an effective politician has to get bought, and stay bought, even when having to follow his "purchasers" through a moral swamp. It's important to note that the people who buy politicians are doing so for their own benefit, not the public's; the struggle for the honest politician is to direct the self-interest of their "buyers" into something resembling the public good.

So, where do ethics enter into this situation, where part of the job description is to support people and positions the politician finds personally repellent, simply because they promised that support in exchange for past favors? As I see it, the only value-based choice politicians have to make is when they decide to whom they wish to sell themselves. They have to "sell their souls," it's part of the job. So, who's the buyer? Is the buyer someone you can live with, long-term? That's the only value-laden choice they have to make, and it's probably made early in their careers, when their "marketability" is low and their choices limited. Even if they start as honest, well-meaning public servants, they can only hope that they haven't sold themselves to devils who will demand that they do evil. Living with that initial decision probably means continually redefining their definition of evil so they can continue living with themselves while they do it.

Now, enter Trump. He's not really a politician. Instead, he's one of those who buy politicians, and he also represent all those like him, the oligarchs, who only benefit the public incidentally, as a by-product of achieving their own self-interests. Like many of the rest of his class, Trump never even tried to work for the public good, but merely for his own. He hijacked a web of loyalties that had been forged over decades and is using it to aggrandize himself. He openly uses his official powers for his personal benefit because he knows that the web of loyalties he's seized can be a net to drag those caught in it directly into Hell, and he knows that the politicians caught in the web owe each other just as deeply as they owe whoever is at the top. Public approval doesn't matter, so long as he has control of the web of obligations.

In this sense, the Republicans are "honest politicians." They are willing to stay bought, even when their ownership has been transferred to a petty Devil. With Trump's naked evisceration of the Postal Service to ensure his retention of Presidential power,, he's demanding that the Republicans transfer their oaths directly to himself.

Because for all of his bluster and glitz, I've never gotten the impression that Trump is a very powerful oligarch. He's rich, sure, but he's not in the same league as the Koch Brothers, Buffett, Bezos, Gates, or Soros. And certainly not in the same league as the Russian oligarchs, who seem to have such a deep entrenchment that is looks virtually feudal. Trump is the "stand-in" oligarch, willing to be the public autocrat, and set up to take the fall, while letting the real oligarchs who can then operate without hindrance and with impunity.

It's quite now become clear to whom the Republicans have sold themselves. They are owned not just by Trump, but by all the oligarchs basking in the dark shadows behind Trump's throne. But the question remains, who owns the Democrats, and how honest are they?

Expand full comment

You helpfully remind us that the USPS is established by the Constitution. Please tell us more about the remedies available if a scofflaw administration and a compliant Senate choose to sabotage or eliminate it. Surely we're not reduced to simply watching in horror as it burns to the ground, are we?

Expand full comment

Every day I think it can’t get worse - and then I wake up and it is. Thank you for being a bright spot in a world getting darker.

Expand full comment

I’m trying really hard right now to avoid melting into a puddle resembling Edward Munch’s “The Scream”! I can say no more.

Expand full comment

If Don Trump thinks people won't go to the polls -- even in a pandemic -- to cast a vote to eject him from office, he is going to be surprised.

Expand full comment

You made an early night of it. Good on you!

Well, he said the bad thing out loud. And yet his enablers in the Senate twiddle their thumbs. As to name calling and trying to discredit Senator Harris, she is made of sterner stuff. She knew what she would face and is more than a match for them. (Roll tape of Brett Kavanaugh crying.)

Expand full comment

Professor Richardson,

Thank you!

Regarding what Ted Lieu, U.S. House candidate, CA-33 said in his Tweet: "The stark reality is the House cannot adequately fund USPS without the consent of Trump."

Could the House use the Appropriations Committee to challenge this and use the Impoundment Act of 1974 to protect the funding? Just like enforcing subpoenas...are they (leadership) leaving cards on the table? https://budget.house.gov/publications/report/impoundment-control-act-1974-what-it-why-does-it-matter

The Impoundment Control Act of 1974: What Is It? Why Does It Matter?

What is the Impoundment Control Act?

The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (ICA) reasserted Congress’ power of the purse. Specifically, Title X of the Act – “Impoundment Control” – established procedures to prevent the President and other government officials from unilaterally substituting their own funding decisions for those of the Congress. The Act also created the House and Senate Budget Committees and the Congressional Budget Office.

Why was the ICA necessary?

Congress passed the ICA in response to President Nixon’s executive overreach – his Administration refused to release Congressionally appropriated funds for certain programs he opposed. While the U.S. Constitution broadly grants Congress the power of the purse, the President – through the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and executive agencies – is responsible for the actual spending of funds. The ICA created a process the President must follow if he or she seeks to delay or cancel funding that Congress has provided.

What does it mean to ‘impound’ funds?

An “impoundment” is any action – or inaction – by an officer or employee of the federal government that precludes federal funds from being obligated[1] or spent, either temporarily or permanently.

How does the ICA work?

The ICA lays out procedures the President must follow to reduce, delay, or eliminate funding in an account. The Act divides impoundments into two categories: rescissions and deferrals.


Put simply, if the President wants to spend less money than Congress provided for a particular purpose, he or she must first secure a law providing Congressional approval to rescind the funding in question. The ICA requires that the President send a special message to Congress identifying the amount of the proposed rescission; the reasons for it; and the budgetary, economic, and programmatic effects of the rescission. Upon transmission of such special message, the President may withhold certain funding in the affected accounts for up to 45 legislative session days. If a law approving the rescission is not enacted within the 45 days, any withheld funds must be made available for obligation.

A 2018 Government Accountability Office legal opinion holds that if the President proposes a rescission, he or she must make the affected funds available to be prudently obligated before the funds expire, even if the 45-day clock is still running. This means, for example, that the President cannot strategically time a rescission request for late in the fiscal year and withhold the funding until it expires, thus achieving a rescission without Congressional approval.


The ICA defines a “deferral” as withholding, delaying, or – through other Executive action or inaction – effectively precluding funding from being obligated or spent. The ICA prescribes three narrow circumstances in which the President may propose to defer funding for a program: (1) providing for contingencies; (2) achieving budgetary savings made possible through improved operational efficiency; and (3) as specifically provided by law.

The ICA requires that the President send a special message to Congress identifying the amount of the proposed deferral; the reasons for it; and the period of the proposed deferral. Upon transmission of such special message, the funds may be deferred without further action by Congress; however, the deferral cannot extend beyond the end of the fiscal year in which the special message is sent. The ICA language on deferrals is long-standing budget law that allows the Executive branch to delay the obligation or expenditure of funding only for the specified reasons rather than policy reasons.

Why is the ICA important?

Today, 45 years after the ICA became law, Congress once again confronts a President attempting to push past the long-recognized boundaries of executive budgetary power. This year, for the second straight year, the Trump Administration reportedly considered issuing rescission requests for certain foreign aid and security assistance accounts less than 45 days before the end of the fiscal year, when the funds in question would expire. In the closing weeks of fiscal 2019, OMB withheld funding in these accounts in a manner inconsistent with longstanding procedures and policies. The House Budget and Appropriations Committees have serious concerns that President Trump and his administration violated the ICA in withholding these funds. The committees are examining when, why, and how these funds were withheld; and whether these actions prevented agencies from spending the full amount that Congress provided for these activities, thus thwarting the will of Congress. Congress will not bend to executive overreach. It will defend its constitutional power of the purse and the fundamental checks and balances that are critical to our constitutional republic.

[1] To “obligate” funds means to incur a legal obligation to pay, such as by entering into a contract for services.

Additional Resources

House Budget Committee Outlines OMB's Abuse of Apportionment Process

Chairs Yarmuth and Lowey Call on White House to Release Documents on the Withholding of Ukraine, Foreign Aid Funds (Press Statement)

Chairs Yarmuth and Lowey Call on White House to End Blatant Attempts to Undermine Congress’ Power of the Purse (Press Statement)

Top Budget Democrats Yarmuth & Sanders Urge Administration Not to Impound Funding (Press Statement)

Expand full comment

Thank you Heather. Today, I came close to jumping on and hugging our letter carrier. I was able to rely on my verbal skills only to convey to him how much we are trying to contact our Reps and how we are signing petitions. The stomping out of the USPS is horrific! They are erecting fences in USPS parking lots and stowing the mail in tents where it sits! I have photos. Appalling!!!

Expand full comment

There are no words to describe his actions. He is doing everything he can to try to sabotage the election and openly admitting it. The news today was horrific.

Expand full comment

It gets crazier every day! One of 45's son's tweeted that Kamal Harris is a "whorendous choice" for vp. He's calling Sen. Harris a whore? Wow, such class these tRump's have!

Expand full comment