Count Me In, America!

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans   The US Constitution is clear:  count everyone every ten years.  Period.  No, ifs, ands, and buts about it.

In the Supreme Court case the justices who claim to be “originalists,” meaning that they believe every single word of the document is evergreen despite the passage of almost 250 years, and all that has transpired in that time, didn’t argue that point.  Census takers, in our largest peacetime mobilizations every decade, send the forms to one and all, and hit the hard to find doors in streets and byways, but they wanted to add yet another question to the counting process.  They wanted to ask about citizenship.

Cities have routinely argued, census after census, about undercounts, especially in areas populated by minorities, particularly immigrant communities where language provides problems in both recruiting competent and versatile census workers and census takers.  Why does it matter?  It’s about the Benjamins, brothers and sisters.  The numbers trigger monies that flow from the federal government to the state and local governments for a plethora of programs.  An undercount in these communities could would shortchange local governments literally billions of dollars.

But, it’s not just about the money, it’s also about power.  The Census in our representative form of government determines the count on which districts are drawn for Congressional and other districts at the hands of state legislatures.  The Supreme Court has now ruled that gerrymandering, meaning drawing the districts to favor one political party over another, is legal or at least cannot be challenged in federal courts, except in cases of racial bias, based on the Constitution having left the line drawing to state legislatures full-well knowing they would use funny business in playing with the numbers.  State courts and state constitutions are another matter, and there are now gerrymandering cases pending in ten different states.

Of course, all levels of the courts found that Commerce Secretary and billionaire Wilbur Ross lied up and down town, including to the judges, about adding the citizenship question, claiming it for civil rights enforcement, when it was clearly about discouraging immigrants from turning in the forms in order to lower the count.  The smoking guns were revealed first when it became clear that Ross had asked Justice for a rationale for the question, even while claiming “the devil made him do it,” and then when the daughter of the premier conservative district drawer found on her recently deceased father’s computer effects, USB drives that detailed his arguments that adding such a question would favor Republicans for decades by lowering the response from immigrant and minority respondents.

Despite Trump claiming he would fight this to the death and delay the Census where printing needed to start July 1st, in a one-line message to the courts, the Justice Department threw in the towel and said they would not re-litigate the matter in the lower courts to try and come up with a justification for lying.  This is a huge victory, though not a permanent one.  It was front page news in the Wall Street Journal, but only a small item on pager 13A in the Times-Picayune / New Orleans Advocate.

Unfortunately, many observers think the damage is already done because many immigrants will be afraid to return the forms, since this government has given them no reason to trust fairness or privacy.  Nonetheless, for a change, lying didn’t work for the Administration, so their recognition that they were busted flat without a chance to get off the mat, is refreshing.  Justice has been done, and lying was not rewarded.  Something to celebrate for a change.