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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: Wake up and help put an end to the nightmare, congresswoman

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 3, 2020

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, left, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue tour Eat Good Cafe, part of the department’s Farmers to Families Food Box program, on June 11.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Revie)
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, left, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue tour Eat Good Cafe, part of the department’s Farmers to Families Food Box program, on June 11. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Revie)

Upon winning her umpteenth nonrigged mail election last week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers – or perhaps a tipsy aide – took to Twitter to thank voters and proclaim: “Together, we will find the courage to dream again.”

Have we lost the courage to dream now?

Boy, 2020 sure does suck.

In seriousness, McMorris Rodgers is half right with this empty, prom-theme diagnosis. We’re not suffering a dream deficit, or at least one that Congress can fix. If anything, we’re trapped in a collective, inescapable nightmare. But the country is reeling from an epidemic failure of courage – congressional courage.

This has been true since the GOP sold its soul for a mess of pottage in 2016. But now, with a raving Ahab at the helm, their failures of courage are costing lives through their implicit support for a disastrous pandemic response, their threatening the legitimacy of the election, and through their silence as the U.S. Postal Service is seemingly being monkey-wrenched to discredit the coming election.

These are no longer the merely astonishing daily hypocrisies of the Trump age. People are dying while the president golfs. The legitimacy of our elections is being actively undermined with lies and groundless conspiracies.

And whatever malfeasance is occurring with the post office right now – with delivery delays resulting from an upheaval in agency operations, and the strong suggestion that ballot delivery might be slowed down to a degree that would disenfranchise voters – should have the entire nation up in arms.

Instead, from the offices of McMorris Rodgers and the amen chorus comes a soft, steady, familiar snore.

Wake up, congresswoman.

Rediscover the courage of your convictions, and leave the dreaming to us.

Trying to rally people to defeat the pandemic should be a no-brainer for anyone who considers themselves a public leader. So should rejecting a wholly false narrative about mail elections that is being used to sow doubt about election outcomes.

Outcomes such as McMorris Rodgers’ repeated victories in our state’s secure, user-friendly and effective system of mail voting.

Were those victories rigged? Are you legitimate, congresswoman?

Then say so.

At this point, given the echo-chamber reality of the Trump era, the onus falls most heavily on conservatives to speak the truth about the pandemic and the post office. It would be more valuable, even lifesaving, for McMorris Rodgers to become an outspoken mask proponent than it is for Dr. Fauci to be one; most Americans who are within the reach of the factual world are already persuaded, and most Americans who are mask deniers and virus scofflaws are not within the reach of that world.

They might, however, listen to someone simply because they have an R by their name. But as far as I can tell, the sole example of McMorris Rodgers using her bully pulpit on the pandemic was an appearance a few months back on Fox News, where she complained that Gov. Jay Inslee wasn’t letting Spokane open soon enough.

Nothing since on Fox News, or anywhere, about what a misbegotten idea that was.

It would similarly be more valuable for McMorris Rodgers to defend the post office and ramp up efforts to deal with the election than it is for bureaucrats and Democrats to do so. It would be more valuable for her to inject facts into the presidential echo chamber regarding all-but-nonexistent voter fraud, about the security and efficacy of her state’s system.

She might point out most of the very real problems faced by the post office and the coming wave of mail ballots do not remotely support the fraud conspiracy, either. Fraud in those systems is vanishingly small; uncounted ballots that arrive too late to qualify, though – that’s a real concern, and one that will be exacerbated by current changes in the agency.

What’s happening now is inexplicable by any reasoning other than the most nefarious: It’s a purposeful attempt to sabotage mail voting. Facing a monumental challenge in dealing with a record number of mail ballots, the Trump donor appointed to run the Postal Service has ordered changes that guarantee delivery slowdowns, such as removing day-to-day operations managers of the agency, eliminating overtime in a crunch time, and taking steps to further limit the post office’s ability to deliver mail ballots on time.

Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman, for example, was informed by the U.S. Postal Service general counsel that the agency was changing the way it categorizes ballots in ways that could raise costs for states and slow down the delivery of some ballots. That would mean on-time delivery of ballots from late-registering voters “may be incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards,” the general counsel wrote in a letter.

If it’s not sabotage, it’s doing a very good imitation.

These are the disasters the congresswoman sleeps through. Actual, fatal disasters. Constitutional disasters that, it is no hyperbole to say, threaten the foundation of the country – the vote of the people.

Instead of speaking to those issues in any way, McMorris Rodgers wants to help us be brave enough to dream.

Wake up, congresswoman.

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