A man walks by a row of U.S. Postal Service mailboxes on his way to the post office, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Portland, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

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Let me tell you about my rural postal carrier. She’s raised three daughters while working in every kind of weather to deliver our mail, driving icy, potholed roads to bring us food, medicine, checks, and a slew of holiday cards and gifts every December. When something is too big to fit in our mailbox, she cheerfully bumps over our dusty driveway to bring it to our front door. When the pandemic hit, she donned a mask and gloves and told the elders on her route not to worry, they could do all their post office business through her. We leave a package and a blank check and she brings back stamps, padded envelopes and receipts. She is an essential member of our community, and we would be truly lost without her.

In 25 years, I never worried about that possibility. Until now.

Politically motivated attacks on the U.S. Postal Service aren’t new, but they are newly threatening to a service guaranteed by nothing less than the U.S. Constitution.

Back in 2006, the first serious attack on the USPS came in the form of legislation sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins and with broad support from both political parties, the so-called Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Retired postal workers have told me how they knew right away Collins and the corporate-funded Congress did not have their backs. Requiring the USPS to fund its pensions and related health benefits 75 years in the future was guaranteed to undercut its financial stability. And so it has. It is rare, indeed, to find any other government service or private sector business held to this kind of standard, and certainly not one that is so vital to our everyday lives.

A chorus of voices claiming the post office should be run like a business continued the attack. The USPS is not a business — otherwise, you would not be able to send a grandchild on the other side of the continent a birthday card for the price of a 55 cent stamp. Retirees in rural areas rely on the USPS to receive their Medicare prescriptions, their Social Security checks, and important communications about their retirement benefits.

You might say, “This is the Digital Age. That’s what email and the internet are for.” Well, good luck finding broadband in rural Maine. And good luck downloading your medications.

The post office is fundamental in part because it was established at the very start of our country by the Constitution. Who would think it was a good idea to destroy one of the most popular and useful institutions that serve us?

A president who was afraid of losing his bid for re-election, that’s who. As the pandemic has made in-person voting far more dangerous and difficult to organize, we turned with relief toward absentee voting as a solution. As a busy working teacher, I often voted absentee in the past to make sure my vote would be counted even if I couldn’t make it to the polls. I trusted in the USPS to get my absentee ballot to my home, and to carry my completed ballot back to my town office.

In a recent interview, President Donald Trump revealed his attitude toward the USPS and his intention to undermine absentee voting as his mismanaged pandemic rages on:

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots … But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting,Trump told Fox News this month.

We always seem to have plenty of money for the Pentagon and its wealthy contractors, yet when it comes to the services people rely on, suddenly those are too expensive for the US to afford. I’ve paid income taxes for decades and in return I expect roads I can drive on, schools I can send my children to, and a dependable, affordable postal service.

A for-profit post office would be the same kind of disaster that for-profit health care has been: good service for the rich but crumbs for the poor. In a wealthy country like the United States, we can afford to support democratic institutions like the USPS. Budgets are moral documents. Let’s get our values straight and our priorities clear in order to fully support our post office.

Lisa Savage is an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate.