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Opinion newsletter: Slow the mail, steal the election?

U.S. Postal Service trucks
U.S. Postal Service trucks outside a Chicago post office in 2009.
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020. As a parent of three young children who “went” back to school Aug. 12, I write this newsletter with deepest condolences for LAUSD parents who will begin distance learning with their children in three days. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Let’s get something out of the way: Of course it’s racist for President Trump to entertain the execrable legal theory that Sen. Kamala Harris, who was born in the same California county I was, is ineligible for the vice presidency on account of her parents’ foreign citizenship in 1964. Just as they prattled with President Obama, Trump’s allies are seizing on Harris’ perceived “otherness” — her father is from Jamaica and her mother immigrated from India, a background that Rep. Pramila Jayapal writes in a Times op-ed article stirs patriotism in so many Indian Americans — to try to make her seem unqualified on account of her ethnic identities.

Michael McGough, the L.A. Times’ senior editorial writer and resident jurisprudent, dismisses this attack on Harris with Victorian understatement: “To put it mildly, this exercise in insinuation isn’t persuasive.”

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In any normal administration, the president enabling racist attacks on a political opponent would be the scandal that defines a four-year term, but in the Trump era it’s a distant runner-up to a far greater offense just this week alone. On Aug. 4, the editorial board alarmingly compared Trump’s kneecapping of the U.S. Postal Service before an election to a terrorist attack. This week, worries that Trump was intentionally slowing down mail delivery to undermine the Nov. 3 election were all but confirmed by the president himself, when he said he opposed additional funding for the Postal Service that would enable universal mail-in voting. In response, the editorial board made six recommendations to government officials and average citizens for voting safely in a pandemic.

This is one of those moments in an election that makes the innumerable campaign-season articles on horse races, polling, the veepstakes and more seem utterly trivial — and it makes even the resurrection of birtherism seem like a distraction. The clear-as-day undermining of the U.S. Postal Service is, right now, arguably the only campaign story that matters.

This is the real travesty: mosquitoes in Southern California. Laugh all you want, but it’s kind of a big deal. Early transplants to Los Angeles from the more subtropical parts of America marveled at the region’s year-round lack of mosquitoes. The recent arrival of what Bill Gates has called the most dangerous creatures in the world brings much worse than inconvenience, warns columnist Nicholas Goldberg: “This is a lifestyle nightmare. But it’s also a serious potential health risk.” L.A. Times

If Trump loses to Joe Biden, don’t expect the president to depart quietly. Going back to his days as businessman, this president has always chalked up defeat to fraud. He did it in the 2016 Republican primaries against Sen. Ted Cruz, and he was prepared to do it when it looked like he would lose to Hillary Clinton that November. It’s simply in Trump’s DNA never to accept that he has been beaten, writes law professor Lawrence Douglas — but the president may have no choice but to submit to defeat if his loss in November is sizable enough. L.A. Times

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What gives, Gavin Newsom? After his early response to the coronavirus pandemic won praise for its decisiveness and transparency, the governor isn’t playing straight with California, says the editorial board: “It seems as if Newsom just wants us to trust that the state has fixed its data problem, which caused COVID-19 test results to be massively underreported, without providing any details of how the failure occurred.” L.A. Times

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There will not be a pandemic baby boom — and as a married father who certainly doesn’t need another mouth to feed, I could have told you that when people of a certain age predicted back in March that we’d see a spike in births down the line. To the contrary, as Virginia Heffernan notes in a column that may make some readers blush, the experts believe there will be a baby bust in 2021, and the deeper truths this betrays about the state of our country are sobering: “When people take a chance on physical intimacy, they express faith in the future. When we raise children, take care of our elders and welcome strangers, we live out our nation’s baseline moral commitments. The signs that America, under Trump, cannot care for itself — and maybe just doesn’t care for itself — are too obvious to ignore.” L.A. Times

America has a stifling case of the Screaming Memes. Black lives matter, all lives matter, no one is illegal, just follow the law — judging by catchphrases that substitute for serious debate nowadays, Americans have lost their collective ability to appreciate nuance. “Slogans can channel a protest movement’s unifying power in demonstrations,” writes film critic Ella Taylor. “Slung around the Web by shouters, however, they accelerate the impetus to bully, an example set by our vile president with his Twitter finger locked on the campaign-boosting blame trigger.” L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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