February 20 was President’s Day. On this day in 1792 the Postal Service Act was signed into law by George Washington. It was felt that a universal and affordable delivery service would help to include everyone in participatory democracy.
Universal delivery was mandated with the specific idea of all citizens having equal access to news and information regardless of income level. Getting information about current affairs through the US Postal Service seems quaint in the smartphone age but the idea of everyone sharing in the cost of having an informed citizenry seems more important than ever.
My thirty years in the postal service made me believe it is a microcosm of America. Postal employees are mainly a hard-working, decent bunch of men and women trying to provide timely and accurate service. There are conservatives and liberals. There are religious beliefs of every stripe and some without. There are lots of outstanding employees and some that drain on the performance. There are cheerful employees and crabby. All that is set aside toward the common cause of getting the mail delivered.
The recent presidential election showed all that we, as a nation, have lost in sharing a common cause. Though we have been willing to form up sides and despise each other I doubt there is much difference in what a “liberal” and a “conservative” want for their families and future. What is it that has put us at each other’s throats?
First and most important is the realization that Congress has abandoned us. Since we’ve let stand the idea that money is free speech it is money that is heard in Washington, DC, not speech. If money is speech then without money you are speechless. If Congress is influenced by the voices with money then legislation will always be crafted to protect and increase wealth of the one percent.
President Trump was elected as angry reaction to the abandonment of middle class America by Congress. Hillary Clinton was rightly perceived as ensuring more of the same. There is no explanation for voters’ belief that a billionaire would somehow be the champion of the working man. The appointment of a full deck of Wall Street tycoons and billionaires to Cabinet positions does not bode well for increasing the fortunes of working class America.
During the course of the recent election it seemed like wishful thinking that simply choosing the right president could fix things. The President has a lot of influence but it is Congress that has brought consensus government to a grinding halt in fealty to their largest donors. The President can bluster and name names but legislators seem unaffected as long as campaign donations keep rolling in.
It’s hard to see how we might regain the attention of our legislators short of storming the walls with pitchforks and torches. As long as we are paralyzed by our divisions so will Congress be. Are there some things that we all agree would make America remain great? We’ll never know unless we talk to each other as equal partners. That is the definition of participatory democracy. That means we must trust a shared source of information. That is no longer delivered by the Postal Service. There is no longer a universally trusted source of national news. That is pulling us apart.
(Don Vowell gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.)