Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Fighting Over the Census

It is emblematic of our abnormal time that ordinary things - like the decennial census prescribed by the constitution and conducted calmly and efficiently for over two centuries - has now become an occasion for yet another conflict. What would ordinarily be a normal activity of government has become in our abnormal time a political controversy, because of the poisonously problematic way the president and his political party have chosen to govern.

So we fight over - of all things - the Census!

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, says Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - in English as clear as can possibly be. This alteration of the earlier provision in Article 1, Section 2, of the original U.S. Constitution left unchanged that article's prescription of the decennial census: The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they [Congress] shall by law direct.

To this straightforward task of counting all the people presently living in the country (citizens and non-citizens, voters, and non-voters, adults and children, etc.), there has been added over time to the census the additional task of being the great national statistics-gatherer, Hence all the questions on the census forms! Presumably any question that could produce an appropriate and legitimate statistic could be justified . Thanks to the way this Administration and its political party have governed, however, such appropriateness cannot be presumed. Hence the obvious illegitimacy of this particular attempt to add a question about American citizenship to the census form - a question that has not been asked since 1950.

The Administration's failure to come up with a plausible rationale to justify including the citizenship question - and the Supreme Court's recent recognition that the rationale it tried to foist on the country was completely contrived - ought to have ended the matter. Instead, with appallingly perverse perseverance, the Administration is determined to keep trying. All this in order to manipulate this fundamental constitutional process aimed at maximizing the representative character of the House in order to engineer the opposite. One thing more morally obtuse than doing something bad is continuing to try to do that bad thing even after one has been warned against it and told to stop.

When normal governing is replaced by what is abnormal, what evils must then follow for a society!

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