The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Photo by wcn247/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Joel Buchanan's stomach turned when he watched poll workers deny ballots to Latinx voters ostensibly because the names and addresses on their driver's licenses didn't match those on election records.

And his blood boiled when election officials closed polling stations in poor neighborhoods, deliberately disenfranchising citizens unable to travel to other communities to cast their ballots.

"It's ugly, and as un-American as you can get," the retired steelworker and Navy veteran said of the voter suppression he's observed as a campaign activist and poll watcher in various states.

Although dismayed by the duplicity he witnessed during two decades of political activism, Buchanan never expected to see an American president openly try to steal an election by disenfranchising millions of voters.

But that's what's happening. Donald Trump's repeated attempts to tear down the U.S. Postal Service and cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots are nothing but a desperate attempt to undermine American democracy.

"We're talking about an assault on our rights and our form of government," noted Buchanan, a longtime member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2102, who first got involved in politics because local elected officials failed to support union members during a 1997 steel mill strike in his hometown of Pueblo, Colorado.

"When a president tries to manipulate the post office to benefit himself in an election, what's going to happen if he wins that election?" Buchanan asked. "What's the next step? These are scary times."

Trump and his new, hand-picked postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, dismantled critically important mail-sorting machines, banned postal worker overtime, reduced hours at some post offices and eliminated trips to intentionally delay the delivery of mail-in ballots beyond election deadlines.

That would disenfranchise millions of Americans who want to vote by mail this year because they fear contracting COVID-19 at the polls.

Amid a ferocious public backlash and threats of lawsuits from more than 20 states, DeJoy recently agreed to suspend the changes.

But the danger of Trump suppressing votes during a crucial election remains very real.

There's no guarantee that DeJoy will return postal operations to normal levels, as he promised to do, and the Trump toady and big Republican donor continues to hobble the mail in other ways.

Although he has no experience at the postal service, DeJoy fired or reassigned nearly two dozen seasoned executives who intimately understood the agency and knew how to ensure it operated at peak levels during the election season.

Attacking the postal service directly isn't Trump's only front in his war against mail-in ballots. His campaign already sued Pennsylvania and all 67 of its counties' boards of elections, for example, to keep voters from depositing mail ballots in convenient drop boxes.

Trump repeatedly claims without so much as a shred of evidence that a surge in mail-in votes will lead to widespread fraud favoring his opponent, Joe Biden.

"It's all just crap," Buchanan said, noting Colorado has one of the most voter-friendly, equitable voting systems in the nation—thanks to the mail.

Colorado is one of the few states that not only mails ballots to all voters but encourages residents to return them the same way.

If they prefer, citizens can still cast their ballots at polling places or deposit them in secure boxes, similar to the ones in Pennsylvania that Trump wants to eliminate. But many Colorado residents simply drop them in the mail.

"Most people, Republicans and Democrats, like the system we have here," said Buchanan, vice president of Chapter 38-3 of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) and District 12 representative to the group's executive board. Members of both parties win elections in Colorado, he added, clearly demonstrating that the system works for Republicans and Democrats alike.

If the system is tilted toward anyone, it's the voters.

Universal mail-in balloting provides equal convenience to all citizens, no matter where they live or how busy their Election Day schedules.

Mail-in balloting prevents election officials from questioning voters' legitimacy and disenfranchising them on the spot, as Buchanan observed four years ago at a polling place where one of the elections officials had the audacity to display a Trump hat right on his desk.

And people voting in the privacy of their homes face no intimidation from overzealous campaign workers thronging the doors at polling places or activists who stage noisy rallies nearby.

"When somebody's 75 years old and drives up and sees that happening, they just turn around and leave," Buchanan said.

Because of the convenience of mail-in voting, Colorado has one of the nation's highest turnout rates.

Although Trump claims mail-in ballots invite fraud, the opposite is true.

In Colorado, candidates appoint election watchers to observe election officials as they check voters' signatures on ballot envelopes against signatures already on file. If signatures appear not to match, the unopened ballot receives further review.

Foreign governments cannot hack mail-in ballots, as they did with some electronic voting systems four years ago, and the post office has its own police force, the Postal Inspection Service, to guard against mail fraud.

During the spring of 2019, one of Colorado's county elections officials invited presidential candidates to visit his office to see how mail-in ballots are counted and learn about the safeguards ensuring the integrity of the delivery and tabulation systems.

Trump never took him up on his offer.

Instead of working to improve election security, an issue he claims is a top concern, Trump continues to assail the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and use the president's bully pulpit to undermine public confidence in the election system.

And instead of encouraging higher turnout to ensure as many Americans as possible have their voices heard at a pivotal time in the nation's history, Trump refuses to say even whether he'll accept the outcome of the November 3 vote.

Buchanan worries that Trump's attacks on the system will lead to yet another form of suppression—Americans refusing to cast ballots because they have lost faith in the election process or fear their votes will go uncounted.

He just hopes enough voters understand that the real threat to democracy comes not from fraudulent voting but a president pulling every conceivable trick to suppress votes and usurp the people's will.

"That's exactly what this is all about," he said. "I just never thought I'd see this kind of situation in this country."

Tom Conway is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}