Paroxysms of liberal outrage gripped denizens of the Swamp when the Commerce Department announced that it plans to find out the citizenship status of U.S. residents by asking them directly via the 2020 Census and the U.S. Mail. And as with every Census form, “Your response is required by law.” The addition of the question came at the behest of the Justice Department, which said that it wants to use the resulting data to improve its enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, whose purpose is to prevent states from keeping minorities from voting.
Naturally, the left is crying racism, because anything that the Trump administration does will be branded as such. But then again, this applies to all GOP initiatives, a situation that is masked by the left’s attempt to play timid Republicans off their President in order to stymie his agenda. Trump is the Klansman of the moment, but absent his presence in the Oval Office, that honor would easily go to Mike Pence, or Paul Ryan, or any other individual who gets in the way of the intersectional utopia that is the promise of every Democratic victory. Not long ago, MoveOn.org hosted videos comparing George W. Bush to Hitler.
Racism somehow pertains here because the Citizenship Question is predicted to result in an “undercounting” of a great number of Latino residents. In other words, we all are to assume that an illegal alien is likely to break the law: Lawbreakers are lawbreakers. It is not unreasonable to infer that anyone who concealed his entry from the federal government will conceal his continuing presence from the federal government. By the iron laws of human nature, lawbreakers are likely to break the law when, weighed against the consequences, the lawbreaking suits them—especially when they are assured by many members of their own government that the law is unjust. We thus deduce that these Latinos would rather risk paying a substantial fine (a remote possibility) if caught refusing to fill out a Census form honestly—or at all—than open themselves up to deportation (also a remote possibility).
The left’s argument has less to do with the unlikely personal consequences that hang over the lawbreaking Latinos than with the overall effect on population counts. The purpose of the Census, according to the Constitution, is to apportion the number of representatives in the People’s House to the states according to the populations that reside in them (citizens or not), and to dole out federal monies evenly. (Significantly, the number of representatives a state is granted coincides with the number of electors that state sends to that great subverter of the General Will known as the Electoral College.) If there is an “undercount” of resident Latinos, the result will be fewer members of the House representing the states in whose districts the Latinos live. And fewer federal dollars lavished on those states as well.
The undercount effect is compounded by a bit of cultural anthropology (criminology?). Many illegal aliens are likely to live under the roofs of heads of households who are here legally—mostly family members, and therefore also Latinos. But, the reasoning goes, the legal Latino residents are liable to discard their Census forms for fear that, if they filled them out, they would be tempted to lie (a federal offense) or, in telling the truth, jeopardize their illegal house wards. Thus, because the Citizenship Question “targets Latinos” in such a way that they would be “underrepresented” in Congress and receive fewer federal dollars, it is racist, Trump is racist, Jeff Sessions is racist, I am racist for writing this editorial, and you are racist if you agree with it.
By the letter of the Constitution (Article I, Section 2), the Congress has the authority only to see that the residents are counted every ten years. But the federal courts have long interpreted that authority in a broad manner, so that anything the Census Bureau (created by Congress) deems it “necessary and proper” to know can be asked on the Census form—from whether you are an octoroon (1890) to whether you own a washing machine (1960) or how many rooms are in your house (1990). “Whether naturalized” was asked as early as 1890, and, one way or another, the Citizenship Question remained on the short form until 1960.
Anything beyond mere head-counting is intrusive, but Big Government is what we apparently want—so long as our party is in charge—or at least what we’ve got, not least because every state wants its apportionment of the $100 billion pie, and whatever additional helpings of pork it can get from its federal representatives. The massive database of Census answers is a reflection of our massive central government, with all of its categories and the Nanny State policies that go with them.
Obviously, the left is not arguing against the Citizenship Question out of an abiding commitment to limited government. The left wants open borders and the Democratic voters who flow through them, and greedy state officials of both parties want the power and the money that accompany an inflated enumeration. By demanding that illegal aliens and the Latinos who house them be counted unobtrusively in the Census, the left seeks to incentivize sanctuary states, which defy the federal government’s enforcement of federal immigration laws. It does this not in the name of federalism, but out of hatred of the very idea of citizenship. To them—and to most Republicans as well—any inclination to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (a clause they assume was written by Roger B. Taney) is blasphemy against their Idea Nation, which they themselves venerate by kneeling in protest before the American Flag and vowing to repeal the Second Amendment.
As I write, 17 states and 7 cities are filing a lawsuit against the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce over the Citizenship Question. Brazenly, their suit claims that simply asking the question violates the Census Bureau’s duty to carry out Congress’s constitutional mandate of counting all the residents. If they prevail in court, they will have succeeded once again in converting every 1960’s radical’s purple-hazed dream into legal precedent: Authority exists only if I’m inclined to obey it.