Richard Ojeda, WV US Senate Candidate, talks Independent Voters, Protecting the USPS, and Voting by Mail
We all remember New Years Eve of 2019 – the hope we felt as we ushered in yet another year. And the almost giddiness we felt because it was an election year! Who could have predicted that by the time we had the Christmas ornaments in the attic the United States would be preparing for a pandemic with a nearly bankrupt Postal Service? After three years of having a reality TV star as the leader of our country, Americans are jaded. It all sounds like a joke. Yet, here we all are. Quarantined in our homes and left to wonder endlessly about our jobs, our lives, and some sort of ‘new normal’ that we are told is lurking on the horizon. November is on everyone’s mind, whether the thoughts muster hope or despair. If you are a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders, a more contemptuous feeling may engulf you, but the bottom line is that we are all aware of what is at stake in this election. As a lifelong Democrat, the landscape of the American voter concerns me. This trifecta of errors segregates people who not only voted for Bernie but also believe in his ideology. As we learned during the 2016 election, these Americans are frustrated and that causes lower voter turnout or feelings of being forced to vote for the lesser of the two evils – again! Let us look at this angle on voter suppression and how we can possibly alleviate it by embracing Sanders supporters and working toward the common goal of protecting our post offices so we can safely vote during a pandemic.
I became well acquainted with Senator Richard Ojeda’s Facebook Live videos during the 2018 Teacher’s strike. This is also where I learned he voted for Trump and heard him explain why. Senator Bernie Sanders has supporters, but he also has a movement. I Skyped with Ojeda recently and discussed how Americans could become more cohesive in order to elect a Democratic President in November by making a personal connection to disappointed Sanders supporters who have essentially been disenfranchised and felt their vote was suppressed in 2016 and 2020. Ojeda bluntly told me, “In 2016, I was livid that the election was stolen from Sanders and rewarded to Clinton, who didn’t win a single county in WV. At that time, my mindset was that Clinton had been rewarded for something that was not earned. For Sanders supporter’s, it was a slap in the face that led to 30% of Democrats voting for Trump. This time, we must not alienate Sanders supporters and attack Trump supporters. If we do not come together as one with the goal to rid the nation and Oval Office of Trump, we risk it all. Four more years of stacking the courts because this tyrant hopes he will escape responsibility for the horrible things he has done to the poor, the immigrants and people all over the globe.”
Well, while we are on the topic of doing horrible things, Trump has been fixated upon the United States Post Office for quite some time. He Tweets about it not charging enough for shipments and he pouts about Amazon not having to pay higher shipping fees. Never a word about it (USPS) being in the Constitution. Nor a peep about how the Post Office truly functions, because why would he know anything about that? In the last month, he has called them a “joke” and threatened to block aid for this struggling agency. Yet, he knew he needed to let one of his top Republican donors, Louis DeJoy, become the Postmaster General. Before another crony in another position of power begins spreading disinformation about the USPS, let’s review some facts about them.
The United States Postal Service makes money from selling stamps. They struggle financially because federal law enacted in 2006 requires the postal service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to prefund its retiree’s health benefits up to the year 2056. This is a 5 billion dollar per year cost. It is a requirement no other entity public or private must make. Without this obligation the USPS would turn a profit. The law states the USPS must prefund 75 years’ worth of retiree health benefits in the span of 10 years. This is a cost of 120 billion dollars. Although these funds are intended to be set aside for future post office retiree’s, the funds are diverted to pay for other expenses accrued by our federal government. If it sounds like the Post Office gets completely screwed over, you are not alone. And it seems that Trump, the grand master of screwing over anything and everything, is chomping at the bit to get his hands on the Postal Service, especially when you have a high stakes election during the middle of a pandemic.
Suddenly, the terrorizer in chief is flustered about mail in ballots. His “Friends” at his favorite news channel scoff at states who allow people to use mail in ballots. His pundits spin fictional tales about how voting by mail leaves the election open to fraud. The fear they have of allowing every American to vote is baffling as well as infuriating. Ojeda provided a solid basis for why the USPS should be utilized during the 2020 election,
“The United States military has around 1.2 million active duty soldiers and during every election many of them will cast their votes via the United States Postal Service. If we can successfully support 1.2 million men and women of the armed forces and assure their voices are heard while they are fighting for their country, there is no excuse why we cannot do that for people across the country during a pandemic. The fight against the USPS, initiated by Donald Trump, clearly shows an ulterior motive as to why there is so much opposition to the notion of voting by mail.”
Ojeda elaborated on this administrations fixation and fear of voting by mail, “I believe the moment we finally give everyone in this country the ability to vote and have their voice heard via the USPS is the day we take away the capabilities of the corrupt who are suppressing the vote. Every election, it is standard operating procedure to hear jarring reports from polling stations across the country, especially in minority voting areas. The polls will be closed, or they won’t open on time. And somehow thousands of names will have been scrubbed from the rolls leaving many American’s to show up ready to cast their vote only to be told they are not in the system. We know this happens more in communities with the highest percentage of residents who are of African American or Hispanic/Latino descent. I believe wholeheartedly that this attack on the USPS is absolutely taking place because they know if they don’t suppress the vote there is a great chance they will lose power and never regain it again.”
Ojeda finished by adding how important the USPS is for all Americans, “The mere thought that we would have a United States president attacking the very service that provides millions upon millions of people, including retired and disabled veterans, their medication is repulsive. The fact that we have a president who is attacking an organization that employs nearly half a million people shows that we have a severe problem with leadership in this country.”
Right now, America is yearning for leadership, not another three-hour lecture with musings about injecting the sick with bleach from a bully pulpit. Our society is comprised of hard-working American voters who deserve better than that. We are registered Democrat, Independent, Republican, Libertarian, etc. and our current mission is to see beyond labels to work toward our common goal. Now is not the time to dwell on the past. It is not the time to play childish games and muster up animosity because Richard Ojeda voted for Trump in 2016 only to regret it like many other Bernie Sanders supporters. Now IS the time for all of us to come together and do everything we can to assure we will continue enjoying the American Democracy we have always known and loved. The country where our vote is sacred, and we feel it is our duty to select a new leader once we have realized we chose a poor leader. It’s time to move beyond the childish divisiveness and take a look at which candidates in the 2020 election have experience in positions of leadership. It is time to select a person who will represent all of us. Regardless of political party or affiliation. As President Barack Obama once said, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America.” We must vote for Vice President Joe Biden and allow our country to begin to heal.
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