ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Moyers on Democracy. Lisa Graves is one of the nation’s foremost experts on how special interest groups work to distort our political system. She served in Washington at the Department of Justice, the US Senate Judiciary Committee and the Administrative Office of the US Courts. She’s an adjunct law professor at George Washington University Law School and has testified as an expert witness in both houses of Congress. She’s a frequent guest on TV and radio news and her research has been cited in critically acclaimed books, newspapers and magazines. Her new report, THE BILLIONAIRE BEHIND EFFORTS TO KILL THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE is a deep dive into how Charles Koch marked the U.S. Postal Service for privatization in the early 1970s and how he is using the Koch empire to push his political agenda to this day, when the postal service is ripe for taking. There’s a link to the report at Billmoyers.com. Here now is Bill Moyers.
BILL MOYERS: I really am glad to talk to you, and appreciate your taking this time.
LISA GRAVES: I’m really glad to be with you, Bill, and I really appreciate the invitation.
BILL MOYERS: You’ve taken this deep dive of research into the efforts over the last 40 years to kill our Postal Service. Summarize what you found.
LISA GRAVES: Well, I was shocked by what my research showed, which was that this outlier idea of privatizing our Postal Service is not a recent idea. It’s one that Charles Koch has been staking for more than 40 years. And Charles Koch, as many people know, is one of the richest men in America, one of the richest men in the world. And he runs a privately held conglomerate known as Koch Industries. And back in the early 1970s, he started funding men who were pushing the idea of privatizing our Postal Service.
BILL MOYERS: What was his goal? Why did he want to abolish the government Postal Service? It’s the only agency of government mandated in the US constitution?
LISA GRAVES: Well, when I looked into his background, and I’ve been looking at him for a number of years, one of the things that becomes quite clear is that he actually really represents a pretty radically reactionary view of government. It’s one that believes that government should not be doing anything that they think the private sector can do or should do or could profit from. And so it’s rooted in a fundamental hostility to the idea of the public, the notion of things being public and held for the public, for the benefit of the public, and not for the benefit of private individuals. And so it really is an ideological objection to the Postal Service. And when he became the main funder for the Libertarian Party in the 1970s, one of its planks became expressly to abolish the U.S. Postal Service. And then in the 1980s they pushed for that through a commission that Reagan created at their instigation. The privatization commission, which again called for privatizing our Postal Service.
BILL MOYERS: You write in your report, THE BILLIONAIRE BEHIND EFFORTS TO KILL THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE, that Koch has used his connections, his influence, his vast wealth, one of the richest men in the world first to wreck and ultimately privatize the post office. How has he pursued that goal?
LISA GRAVES: At the end of the Reagan administration, what Koch did was bring onto his team the man who was the head of the Office of Management of Budget for President Reagan, a man who’s a little notorious for being the guy who signed off on the notion that ketchup should be considered a vegetable for school lunches. James Miller came over to Citizens for a Sound Economy. He’s the longest serving member of that board, of that operation for Charles Koch, which now goes as Americans for Prosperity. And from that post, he continued to argue for the privatization of our Postal Service for there to be competition for first class mail. He helped instigate efforts with the Cato Institute, which is another part of the Koch operation to push for privatization. And then ultimately, in 2003, James Miller was rewarded with a post on the Board of Governors for the Postal Service. And from that perch in 2006, he pushed through this bill called the Postal Accountability and Efficiency Act, the PAEA, which really has dramatically harmed our Postal Service.
BILL MOYERS: What exactly did that 2006 legislation do for the Postal Service?
LISA GRAVES: That bill did three things. The first thing was that it required the Postal Service to use its reserve of about $17 billion to fund this novel fund, which was to pay into a pool about $5 billion per year for a number of years, to fund future retiree health benefits. That’s different from retiree pension benefits. So, it was an unprecedented fund to fund the future health benefits of basically future retirees. Most companies in America that offer that benefit have offered it on a pay-as-you-go basis. No other government agency and no private business has such a requirement to fully fund decades of potential healthcare benefits in advance.
BILL MOYERS: They were singling out the Postal Service, loading it with this burden for the future that they would not ask of any other government agency. Right?
LISA GRAVES: That’s correct. Only the Postal Service, no other agency and no other business has a requirement to fully fund decades of healthcare benefits in advance. And so that was unprecedented. It was an effort to really weight down the Postal Service. And either they would succeed by pushing the Postal Service into bankruptcy, so that it could be basically privatized. Or if the Postal Service managed to pay all that money into a pool, it would make the Postal Service more attractive to future investors as part of an initial public offering. In fact, one of the efforts of the Bush administration before this bill described how investors would be reluctant to take on the Postal Service because of its potential future liability. So, it was clearly designed with a view toward privatization in mind.
BILL MOYERS: There were two other things you said.
LISA GRAVES: The two other things were first it limited the Postal Service from raising the cost for the first-class stamp by about a penny a year. So that throttled its potential for revenue artificially. And then the third thing it did was it barred the Postal Service from offering banking services or other commercial services that would compete with the private sector, even though the Postal Service historically had been involved in some banking operations.
BILL MOYERS: Some people would claim perhaps or argue perhaps that they were trying to assure the failure of the post office.
LISA GRAVES: That’s how I read that 2006 act. You can call it an accountability and efficiency act, but it really was an effort to undermine, fatally undermine our U.S. Postal Service.
BILL MOYERS: Long-term strategy, that was 14 years ago on a campaign that had begun in the 1970s.
LISA GRAVES: That’s right.
BILL MOYERS: You report that Charles Koch created a shadow Republican Party, calling it Americans for Prosperity, and there were other groups connected to it. But in time what began as a Libertarian right-wing effort became the agenda of the Republican Party.
LISA GRAVES: And that was really made possible by the terrible decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United, which unleashed these dark money operations. It’s called dark money because it’s not disclosed necessarily who gives money to these groups. And Charles Koch began operating an expanded set of organizations. They’ve gone by three or four different names, and then they have these little shell groups beneath them that they give money to. And Americans for Prosperity is a key component of that operation. What that allows them to do is to spend millions and millions on ads in our elections without disclosing who the true donors really are. In many ways, the Koch operation is superior to the Republican Party’s operation in its ground game in the states, because it has pretty regular contact with its members throughout the year to prepare them for the election, while the parties come in mostly toward the end of a cycle and reach out to people to get them to vote.
BILL MOYERS: Wasn’t Koch’s group behind the Tea Party?
LISA GRAVES: One of the things I did earlier this year was write an op-ed for the NEW YORK TIMES in which we detailed some of those data points, in which we know now that Charles Koch’s operations, Americans for Prosperity and its sister group called FreedomWorks were really providing the infrastructure for the Tea Party in 2009-2010. And that’s when Jane Mayer wrote about the Tea Party, and tied it to Koch money. What Jane documented was that the scaffolding, the infrastructure for the Tea Party was really provided by FreedomWorks and by Americans for Prosperity. They were holding a number of events for the Tea Party. And really advancing their position through that Tea Party effort. And the thing about the Tea Party is that, you know, it arose in 2009 that sort of was launched during, on tax day, at least that’s the mythology of it, of that year after President Obama was sworn in. When in fact he had only been president for a couple of months, and suddenly there was this effort to blame him for the economy, for taxes and more. And so those roots, that’s another way in which Charles Koch’s money has really helped fuel the far right in America.
BILL MOYERS: What I take away from Jane Mayer’s book, DARK MONEY and from your report, THE BILLIONAIRE BEHIND EFFORTS TO KILL THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE is that it was a well-coordinated and a well-financed movement to try to turn much of the American government over to private, for-profit organizations, corporations in particular.
LISA GRAVES: What’s really surprising in a way about the way they were able to construct this was that, if you recall, during the Bush administration, the economy had crashed in a cascade leading up to a massive financial crisis in September of 2008. And at that time, there was a clamoring for controls on Wall Street, for efforts to rein Wall Street in, because it had really gambled extensively. And so there was a push for reform. And Obama won in part based on his desire to redress Wall Street. To hold these companies accountable, to rebuild our economy. And what Charles Koch and his operations were able to do was to turn the anger from Wall Street toward the government, to blame the government for that crisis, rather than to blame the big banks. Americans for Prosperity lobbied extensively against the financial reform package that the Democrats were trying to put through in Congress to try to prevent another meltdown like that from happening again.
BILL MOYERS: At the risk of repeating myself, let me sum up. It’s no longer just Koch’s cause- shutting down the Postal Service, privatizing it, eliminating universal service. These have become open Republican priorities, right?
LISA GRAVES: Yes. Open in the sense that you can see the obstruction happening. The Senate under Mitch McConnell has refused to take action to provide funding. There’s this force for privatization. And in fact, Charles Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has been running ads this summer against senators to urge them not to provide funding for the Postal Service. But at the same time, you have these predatory capitalists who would be eager to have the Postal Service fail and have the profitable lines to go to private businesses. And there’s also a very partisan, extraordinary political agenda by this president to say that he doesn’t want to support funding the Postal Service because of the probability in fact that many people will vote by mail during this election because of this deadly pandemic.
BILL MOYERS: The man named Postmaster General by President Trump, Louis DeJoy, he’s become the poster boy for getting rid of the Postal Service. He was once the finance chairman of the Republican National Convention. He’s given more than $2.5 million to the Republican Party. He helps finance a Republican group that’s trying to suppress the vote, that’s their goal. He and his wife have invested millions of dollars in competitors or contractors to the Postal Service. And David Sirota, the independent investigative columnist wrote that the former chairman of the Postal Service board of governors is also chairman of a $100 million Republican Super PAC, and he has a lot of connections to companies that have a direct interest in the Postal Service he now oversees. I mean, it seems that Republican multi-millionaires have a hammer lock on the Postal Service and are quite frankly, squeezing the life out of it.
LISA GRAVES: Well, that’s what it seems to me. It was shocking to learn that among the other things that Mitch McConnell had been doing or not doing in the Senate, he wasn’t just blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees and then packing the courts when Trump became president. He has also been blocking appointments to this Board of Postal Governors. And for five years, the Board of Governors did not have a quorum due to Mitch McConnell’s obstruction. But as soon as Trump became president, McConnell began filling these posts. And as you point out, the two top men at the U.S. Postal Service right now are deeply, deeply embedded in the Republican Party infrastructure. They’ve spent enormous amounts of time raising money for the Republican Party. And they have held leadership posts within the Republican Party. And that’s Louis DeJoy who is the postmaster general and a guy named Mike Duncan, who is the president of the Board of Governors for the Postal Service. And both of them are extremely partisan people. And, in fact, with respect to Mr. DeJoy, he’s the first postmaster general who does not come within the ranks of the Postal Service. He was hired for this position by this packed, stacked board at this time to lead this Postal Service. And his most recent position was basically helping with the fundraising for Donald Trump, the person Donald Trump chose along with Michael Cohen and another man to be the deputy finance chairman for the RNC.
BILL MOYERS: So President Trump is trying to close the deal that Charles Koch began to pursue almost 50 years ago?
LISA GRAVES: I think that’s right. It’s a terrible deal, but it’s the deal that the billionaires want, that the American people definitely don’t want, haven’t been asked about this push, and in fact oppose efforts to weaken the Postal Service and to weaken the delivery of mail.
BILL MOYERS: The Postal Service is one of the most popular democratic institutions in the country.
LISA GRAVES: It is the most popular. In fact, its brand is more popular than every other commercial brand in America.
BILL MOYERS: Well, why do you think the Republican Party is taking such gamble on undermining, sabotaging this highly popular agency?
LISA GRAVES: Well, I think it’s all about power unfortunately. For many, many years, support for the Postal Service has been bipartisan. There are people on the right and the left who’ve written in support of it. A lot of members have insisted the Postal Service not cut back hours, not cut back days, making sure that rural routes get served. It’s not characteristic for it to be seen as this political prize or as this political operation. But in the Trump administration, that’s exactly what it appears to be. And we’ve see the press about this new postmaster presiding over this effort to basically allow mail to accumulate. The ethos of the Postal Service is that, every time mail comes in, it gets processed that day and goes out, otherwise it accumulates. The Postal Service can’t allow that sort of accumulation, because then people don’t get their mail, they don’t get their medicines. And so DeJoy is limiting the capacity of the Postal Service to process, to sort mail.
BILL MOYERS: We all know the Postal Service has been experiencing some significant financial problems in the last few years. And Louis DeJoy says he’s only trying to streamline the Postal Service and cut costs to make it more profitable. What’s your response to that?
LISA GRAVES: There are two components of the financial crisis of the Postal Service. One is the crisis that’s facing all of America, in terms of this pandemic. And how business has slowed. But costs continue for the Postal Service. But it has a longer issue in terms of its finances, because of that 2006 act, which soaked up all of its financial reserves and also put this huge anchor of a liability on its books that make it look more illiquid in essence than it is. While Lou DeJoy is making this public showing of being concerned with efficiency, what he really should be doing is embracing the request of his predecessor, Megan Brennan, the former postmaster general, who said we need $75 billion to help the Postal Service survive and thrive. But DeJoy is silent on that point.
BILL MOYERS: That 2006 law that in effect put financial handcuffs on the Postal Service was spearheaded by Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Done with the backing of the Republican Policy Committee in the Senate. Were they trying to stack the deck against the Postal Service even then?
LISA GRAVES: Well, what I know is that the Bush administration issued a report in which they talked about privatizing the Postal Service more than 150 times. And they laid out different ways to privatize it, while also acknowledging in that report that there was no public support for doing so. That this was not an idea or policy that was promoted by the American people. And then when the bill came to Susan Collins, that 2006 act, it only mentioned privatization once. In fact, it was described as “modernizing the Postal Service,” or in the words that we’re hearing from DeJoy, “making it more efficient.” I don’t know how the chairperson of the committee in Congress that has responsibility over the Postal Service, and that was Senator Susan Collins, could have proper oversight knowing that the year before that bill passed, the Postal Service had net revenue of about a billion dollars. I don’t know how anyone could think in that oversight role that the Postal Service could then absorb an additional nearly $5 billion liability for that year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and so on, to create this big fund to have this unprecedented funding for future retiree health benefits decades into the future. I have to assume that she understood the financial books of the Postal Service and signed off on it anyway. She helped shepherd that bill into law and proudly stood over George Bush’s shoulders as he signed it into law.
BILL MOYERS: So, I’m going to assume that you were not surprised last week to hear President Trump admit openly, he wasn’t pressed, he just acknowledged, he in effect confessed that he is starving the Postal Service of money in order to make it harder for Americans to vote by mail in November. Do you agree that that’s the strategy, openly acknowledged?
LISA GRAVES: Well, I think, as the saying goes, when someone tells you who they are, believe them. And in this instance, Donald Trump has expressly acknowledged that that’s his goal. And he has also been spreading a lot of disinformation about vote by mail and making false claims about fraud, assertions that many, many people have refuted. He apparently perceives this as people voting by mail during this pandemic as something that could increase the number of people who vote against him. He is signaling out loud that he does not want the Postal Service to be able to do its job. A job that it’s done in election after election. And here he has his close friend in essence, a person who has held fundraisers at his house in North Carolina for President Trump. A person who he entrusted with being the deputy finance chairman for the RNC, someone in essence handpicked by him for that and for this role. And that man is now engaging in these very disruptive actions that are really hindering the ability of people to get the mail. And also telling the states that they may not be able to meet the deadlines, the statutory deadlines the Postal Service has met in prior elections for delivering the mail.
BILL MOYERS: Talking about the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, right?
LISA GRAVES: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: You probably remember that earlier this year, President Trump told FOX & FRIENDS, one of his favorite programs on FOX NEWS, that if voting reaches certain levels, quote, “You would never have a Republican elected in this country again.” So, he’s clearly linking high turnout to Republicans losing elections.
LISA GRAVES: Yes. There are two parts to that that I think are particularly noteworthy. One of the benefits of voting by mail where people have the capacity to do it is that there’s a paper record of those ballots. And so, if there’s a recount, those ballots can be hand counted there to be, you know, no doubt in terms of what the machines might say. But the second part is that, what we’ve seen across the country since the census of 2010, since that midterm election and the hyperpartisan redistricting that’s happened in states across the country, what we’ve seen is many of these legislatures moving to make it harder for Americans to vote. And those are legislatures controlled by Republicans. So for many decades in this country, starting with the Voting Rights Act in 1965 the trend was toward making it easier for Americans to vote. Expanding voting hours, expanding ability to vote by mail, expanding the number of polling sites. What we’ve seen with the Republicans over this last decade has been a concerted effort to try to limit the ability of Americans to vote, to limit the ways that they could vote, how they can vote. And to make it harder for them to vote. We’ve also seen efforts by Republican elected officials to limit the number of places that people can vote. Which would increase the length of time people have to stand in line for voting. But we’ve also seen that some of these suburban locations have been fully staffed, have had more polling places. But cities, or the edges of cities where there are more potentially Democratic voters to vote, those places have had fewer polling places by a lot.
BILL MOYERS: Does this help you understand why conservatives on the Supreme Court including led by Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Republicans in Congress and the Republican Party across the country, why they’re all working against voting rights?
LISA GRAVES: I think what we’re seeing is minority rule in America. That’s certainly the case from the standpoint of the popular vote in 2016 for the presidency. Trump won a minority of the popular vote but won a majority of electoral college votes. In my state, in Wisconsin every statewide elected office is held by Democrats. And the vote tally in the state was majority Democratic, but both houses of the state legislature here are controlled by Republicans. And that’s due to districting. And so what you have in essence is a Republican Party that is embracing many extreme ideas that are actually not supported by the majority of people in their states. The way they’re able to accomplish that agenda is by controlling the structures of our elections and making it harder for their opponents, the Democrats to vote. So I see, you know, in the longer arc of things a party that really represents a minority of Americans doing everything it can to stay in power for as long as possible. Including, really, wrecking and undermining the very principles of our democracy, a representative democracy, including the central right in a representative democracy, which is the right to vote and have your vote counted.
BILL MOYERS: I’m old enough to remember that Paul Weyrich who’s a founder of some of the basic organizations of the modern Republican Party, the Heritage Foundation among them. That Paul Weyrich said that it was not in the Republicans’ interest to encourage large turnouts. That if they did, they were going to get beat.
PAUL WEYRICH: I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.
LISA GRAVES: I think his confession is in fact the philosophy that this modern Republican Party has embraced. They have actively embraced efforts to make it harder for Americans to vote. Right now, what we see is organizing by right-wing lawyers to prepare to litigate this election, and to try to have in essence a repeat of Bush v. Gore in 2000. They’re preparing potentially to challenge in court the results in elections where people have voted by mail where they can vote by absentee ballot, as well as on other grounds as well.
BILL MOYERS: So it’s to President Trump’s advantage to throw the presidential election into chaos?
LISA GRAVES: One of the things that has struck me as someone worked on judicial nominations at the Justice Department, is that Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the federal courts, to the people that he’s put on the courts as “his judges,” including the Supreme Court. He has a perception that he can win before the courts. That he could win an election in essence, or anything else, I suppose, by pursuing it in courts or at least tying it up in litigation. He hasn’t won every case he’s taken. In fact, there’s been a number of judges who have stood up to him who he’s attacked. But he has repeatedly talked about, in essence, the Supreme Court and some of these other courts as his “his judges.”
BILL MOYERS: It’s really hard for me to conceive of people who would so determinedly destroy a democratic– a key, primal pillar of American democracy just to stay in power.
LISA GRAVES: It really is astonishing. It does remind me of the claims that Karl Rove was making back in the Bush administration when he was trying to create—
BILL MOYERS: Karl Rove was the right-hand man, chief strategist, chief fundraiser for George W. Bush.
LISA GRAVES: He talked about creating a permanent Republican majority basically, meaning majority of control, not necessarily majority of citizens. But to have a permanent control of government. And one of the things that he was pushing for in the first term of George W. Bush was for these U.S. attorneys to investigate what I consider to be false claims by right-wingers of massive voter fraud. And so, there was a pressure on U.S. attorneys to actually use that prosecutorial office to investigate voter fraud. And some of the U.S. attorneys who were Republicans who did not play ball lost their U.S. attorney positions. They were forced out by the Bush administration. So this effort to lift up this notion of fraud, to try to claim that voter fraud is rampant, is part of the playbook of the part of the Republican Party that thinks that it can game the system and use these false claims of fraud in order to undermine confidence in the election. And with Trump, I think it’s even worse, because he has signaled that he thinks that he has a right to stay in office even perhaps to a third term that our constitution doesn’t even allow. Basically he was asked directly would he support an orderly transition if he loses. And he refused to make a commitment to do so. I don’t know of any president in modern U.S. history, that has has refused to make such a commitment.
BILL MOYERS: Well, there are scholars and there are observers and journalists and others who can now envision the possibility of a one-party country with that one party being governed by one man. Does that strike you as bizarre?
LISA GRAVES: It’s certainly antithetical to the American experiment in democracy. And it’s also– it’s really disturbing, because certainly for most of my observation of politics in America, while there have been very hard-fought battles over policy, for most of that time there was some compromise. A notion that compromise was good for America– meeting people in the middle and finding solutions. And there was a notion that you had to find some solutions. You just couldn’t have a scorched earth policy, because you might be out of power in the next election. And so there was an incentive for cooperation and for not engaging in these sorta scorched earth tactics. But with the rise of Rove and this expansion of this dark money that’s distorting both the elections of representatives as well as judges in some of the states, what you see is a rise of a party that acts like when it takes power, that it’s basically taken over a company, and it starts to just behave in a super unilateral fashion.
BILL MOYERS: Can you imagine Charles Koch smiling right now and thinking, I’m this close to my goal of the last 40-some-odd years.
LISA GRAVES: I think that’s exactly what he’s doing. Americans for Prosperity told CNN earlier this year that this was going to the biggest year ever for its operations. And we know from the research in 2016 that Charles Koch’s operations really helped buoy Trump and helped Mitch McConnell secure that United States Senate which has allowed all this court packing and board packing to happen. They’re planning to spend big in this election, and they’ve just said that they are retooling their operations for these next three months to try to preserve Republican power. It’s a huge risk we’re facing.
BILL MOYERS: I understand that they are engaged in about 200 races, state, national and local around the country in this election. And they’ve got all the money they need to spend, and the Supreme Court says they can spend it all.
LISA GRAVES: Well, that’s right. They do have a lot of money. And they have a lot of organizing happening. But I know that there’s a lot of organizing against their efforts happening as well. But I do think Charles Koch– when I think about him, I think of him as the engineer. In essence, he’s an MIT engineer who has used his engineering skills to basically work a reengineering of America to fit his image. This very, dis-utopian view of the world, in which we don’t have an effective government that is able to respond to a pandemic. In which we don’t have fully funded public schools, in which we don’t have elections that are that have the budgets to support them. That we don’t even have a public Postal Service. He planted many of those seeds in the 1970s and ’80s, and he’s fertilized them with his cash. And then with the power of Citizens United, he has been able to leverage his wealth to have a massive effect on the Senate, and the presidency, and on the courts. And so he’s in a period of harvest from all of those seeds that he’s planted.
BILL MOYERS: By coincidence, I’m reading Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography of Benjamin Franklin. I’ve been wondering since I asked to talk to you– Benjamin Franklin was our first postmaster general of what would become the United States Postal Service. How would you compare Benjamin Franklin’s understanding of the Postal Service to Louie DeJoy’s?
LISA GRAVES: That’s a fascinating question, Bill. I mean, I think with Ben Franklin, you had someone who was an innovator in lots of ways and obviously was also a person who was engaged in the press. He had a press shop there in Philadelphia. And they really stood up the Postal Service as a way to ensure that the American people were getting information that was not just the information that the King of England wanted the people to have. And so it was designed to really help our revolution move forward, and make sure that the American people, the people who became known as Americans, would have access to mail no matter where they were. And he, you know, really helped set that tone. And the constitution actually expressly provides for the creation of the Postal Service, and postal roads. Roads to make sure that that mail could get delivered to every remote location that Americans were living. And so Franklin was devoted to this nation as a democracy, as a great experiment in democracy. And he wanted to ensure a Postal Service that would serve all the American people as a public entity, not as some sort of private corporation. There were hardly any private corporations around. In fact, the only ones around were despised because they were so attached to the crown. And so, Lou DeJoy, he can’t hold a candle to that founding father, and he is acting in ways that would undo this core component of our democracy rooted in our constitution. It’s just so outrageous in a way for these men who claim to be conservatives or claim to appeal to conservatives in America to be so willingly destroying one of most conservative institutions in America. One that was created at our founding to serve all Americans equally no matter their political party. So it’s a shame that there’s someone like Louis DeJoy at the helm of the Postal Service. I hope that he will be removed from office, personally. I don’t think that he’s suited for this job.
BILL MOYERS: But behind him is the president of the United States. And behind him is the enablers in the Republican Party, and behind them is a whole ideological tidal wave of Libertarianism, privatization, that has dominated politics most of the last half century.
LISA GRAVES: Well, that’s true. But I think one of the things that is happening in America is that more and more people are waking up to ways in which we need to have a well-functioning government, a well-funded government, in which we need great schools. We oughta have great schools. Every attack that Trump has made so express, basically what he’s done is to make clear, crystal clear some of these agenda items that Republicans have sort of hid behind or used ambiguous language about. He just does not have that subtlety. And I think that that has really opened up the eyes of a lotta people. Our parks are at risk from this man. He’s attempting to dismantle the idea of National Parks, which also is an American innovation that the world followed. And that is one of the things that help makes our country great. You know, at every turn, what you see with Trump is making express some of these parts of the Republican agenda that have not been perhaps as visible. And I think a majority of the American people on issue after issue after issue reject those ideas, those efforts. And the question is whether they’ll vote that way in November, and whether those votes will be delivered. And they’ll be counted.
BILL MOYERS: What drives you? I’ve known you a dozen years or so now. You have always had this passion for public causes. You could have gone to any huge law firm when you left the Justice Department, or left the staff of Congress, the staff of the Senate. And yet you’ve committed yourself time and again to tough causes like this. Why?
LISA GRAVES: I believe in our constitution. It certainly has flaws, but it sets out a set of ideals for human rights in America, for equal protection of the law. For voting rights in America, for people to have freedom of expression. And I think that it’s worth, you know, in essence fighting for. And I think that, from the positions I had in Washington, certainly at the Senate, what I saw was this massive effort on the right to tip over those core values to pursue a pretty radical agenda. And I really believe that we can prevail. I think that the American people are not radically regressive. I think the American people for the most part, certainly majority want to have a greater America, want to have an America that has this beautiful gorgeous diversity that makes us stronger. And that has great public parks and great public schools. And that has modern innovations for the 21st century that we face. And so my view, Bill, is that you can’t win every fight you take, but you lose all the ones you don’t take. And so I think we’ve gotta fight for the things we believe. And I think we have to have strategic patience, because we can’t win every battle instantly, particularly with some of these battles that have been going on for a long time. But we have to know that this isn’t just a policy. This is about who we are as a people, who we are as Americans.
BILL MOYERS: Lisa Graves, thank you very much for being with us today. And thank you for your work.
LISA GRAVES: Thank you, Bill. And thank you to your audience paying such close attention and taking action. Taking action to make our world a better place.
ANNOUNCER: Thanks for listening to Moyers on Democracy. You’ll find more on the post office crisis and a link to THE BILLIONAIRE BEHIND EFFORTS TO KILL THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE report at Billmoyers.com.
Note: On Tuesday morning, after it had been announced that DeJoy would testify before the Senate homeland security committee on Friday and the House oversight committee on Monday, the postmaster general issued a statement that when it came to his earlier directives, “To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described DeJoy’s directive as “a necessary but insufficient first step.”
Reporters are also cautioning people to take a look at the details. ProPublica has just published a study on what the post office needs to get through a pandemic election.