Saturday, January 6, 2018

UPDATE: Will America ever be great again? Not so long as the Grand Obstruction Party holds power.

Yesterday I posted a litany of Trump’s atrocities and reported on how the Republican leaders in Congress were committed to protecting him even at the cost of damaging the nation. To that list of transgressions I offer this essay appearing in this morning’s Daily Star.

Writing in The Washington Post (Jan 5, 2018; reprinted in Jan 6 Daily Star), Catherine Rampell exposes how The GOP is sabotaging the sacred mandate of the census.

The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves.

Not because of cavalier threats about nuclear apocalypse and attempted erosion of First Amendment rights (OK, maybe those things, too). Because our federal government is failing to execute one of its most basic constitutional duties: the decennial census.

The decennial census is the country’s largest civilian mobilization. It determines where billions of federal dollars flow each year, and how many congressional and electoral college seats each state gets. The results have enormous influence over the decisions of businesses and local governments, too.

It’s also, yes, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, right there in Article I, Section 2.

Yet despite all the brandishing of pocket Constitutions on the right, the Trump White House and Republican lawmakers are sabotaging this sacred mandate. First, they refused to sufficiently fund it. Now they’re taking actions that would severely depress participation.

As ProPublica first reported, the Justice Department recently sent a letter to the Census Bureau asking it to add a new question to the 2020 form. Adding a question — any question — this late in the game is risky; there’s no time to field-test how people will respond to it.

But this particular question is unusually hazardous: It’s about citizenship.

The Justice Department claims it needs finely grained citizenship data to enforce the Voting Rights Act, a proposition that every census alumnus and civil rights expert I interviewed rejected.

Whatever the administration’s motives, the main consequence of adding this question is clear: It would spook immigrants (legal or otherwise) and especially Hispanics anxious about how the government might use their data.

This raises the prospect that those final, critically important numbers will be — to use one of our president’s preferred adjectives — WRONG.

And those numbers would be wrong in a way that advantages Republican candidates and their Republican constituents.

The Constitution requires the decennial census to count all people, not just all citizens. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the census, seems to truly want to produce a full, accurate, nonpartisan count, not least because the business sector wants one.

But in an era of data trutherism and political tribalism, Republican lawmakers and the rest of the administration appear to have other priorities.

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