Republicans Blew A Big Hole Through The Redistricting Process With A Really Bad Census
During the last census, we saw an administration bent on ignoring data. Bent on excluding data. Bent on denying the benefits of living in the United States to some people. You know, because some people are better than others. The words that come to mind are made up things like “immigration crisis” and “border crisis”. Those are the buzz words that former president Donald Trump used to rile up his base to get them out to vote, despite the fact that the actual number of people migrating illegally to the United States is far lower than it used to be. It seems to me that Republicans are going to have to eat those buzz words come next year in November.
I can vividly recall the acrimony over the citizenship question, “Are you a citizen of the United States?” that Trump and his hoard of rentier class heroes wanted to put on the census questionnaire. I can also recall how they fought over the question, right up to the Supreme Court, and the court said “no”. There is nothing in the constitution about requiring “persons” to answer questions about citizenship on the census because the census is more concerned with counting persons than citizens. I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see just how far the xenophobes would go to scare people away from participating in the census.
All of this is about demographics. In the past few years, several studies have shown with zero evidence to the contrary, that non-Hispanic whites will be in the minority relative to all the other minorities combined by 2045. As the Brookings Institute put it in 2018, America will be “minority white” in about 24 years from now. To wit:
New census population projections confirm the importance of racial minorities as the primary demographic engine of the nation’s future growth, countering an aging, slow-growing and soon to be declining white population. The new statistics project that the nation will become “minority white” in 2045. During that year, whites will comprise 49.7 percent of the population in contrast to 24.6 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Asians, and 3.8 percent for multiracial populations.
During those four uncomfortable years with Trump in the White House, all I could see on his forehead was the word, “hegemony”. I could see then, a shrinking white majority beginning to fear that, barring any miracles for fertility medicine, their progeny would have to contend with life as just another minority. Granted, whites will comprise just under 50% of the population in 2045, whites won’t have an overwhelming advantage at the polling place. Someone is going to have to get used to sharing power.
So it was with at least one raised eyebrow that I noticed some agitation on the part of the Latino communities across America. These are the same people who gave rise to the phone menu prompt, “para la prensa española 2” (“For Spanish, press 2”). These are also the same people who were courted by Republicans in support of their hegemony hero, Donald Trump in 2016. I have to say that was a bit of a turn to see the GOP successfully court the Latinos and then turn around to minimize them as much as possible, or at the least, to avoid counting them in the census.
Politico covered that story a few days ago in “Census data leaves Latinos wondering: Were we counted?”, noting that several states spent big money to get Latinos to fill out the census forms. Several others did not. And those states that did not spend money on outreach are on track to a smaller allocation of federal funds, despite their recent engorgement with fresh new people from other places. From the article:
But the official apportionment numbers released Monday sent only three new seats to those three states — two in Texas, one in Florida and, perhaps most surprisingly, none in Arizona — shocking members of both parties and raising concerns among Latino politicians and activists that the Census Bureau, despite years of warnings and advocacy, undercounted their communities in those heavily Latino states.
I’d say that there are more than a few uncertain Republican Congresspeople who will have to come up with “excuses” as to why young, sometimes politically active Latinos were not counted in the previous census or why there was not a greater engagement of the minority communities in the Sun Belt states. This is data that will go missing, and that can be a problem especially if those missing people have or manage to find a legal route to citizenship, and then the right to vote.
Another trend with the census has been noticed as well. The gap between the popular vote and the Electoral College is widening. According to another article on Politico, “GOP scores an early win in 2024 race” The vote count in 2020 would incur a loss of 3 electoral votes for the Democrats and the GOP would gain 3 if we voted the same in 2024. Now that wouldn’t be enough to change the outcome, but it would narrow the path to the White House for Democrats. This might seem a worrying trend for Democrats:
And by improving the math for Republicans even slightly, the latest reapportionment did something even more significant for the GOP: For a party that is struggling to compete with Democrats for the popular vote, the latest population count preserved — even enhanced — the Electoral College edge that keeps the Republican Party competitive in presidential elections at all.
The GOP has managed to win 3 presidential elections despite losing the popular vote in 7 of the last 8 presidential elections. But even when Democrats win the popular vote at the national level, they can still lose seats in the House and sometimes the Senate. And now, with the GOP in control of the majority of the statehouses around the country, they will draw many pretty little dragons to carve up the Democrats so as to reduce their power as much as possible.
So there is some hope on the way. At least one observer thinks that the GOP scheme to not count recent immigrants and to steer federal funding away from states that have seen a net population gain as a result of immigration could backfire. Another says that “Trump’s plan to weaponize the census against immigrants has failed”. According to Vox, census workers have stopped following Trump’s plans to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census:
The move brings an apparent end to Trump’s controversial attempt to erode the political power of immigrant communities. Excluding undocumented immigrants would have reduced the population counts in areas where foreign-born populations have traditionally settled — primarily Democrat-run cities — and therefore undermined their political power. But it could have also affected red states with large immigrant populations, including Texas.
Clearly, the plan was intended to work against Democrats in a country that is slowly being overrun by the people who are making the most babies or bringing them in. If Republicans really wanted to slow down the rate at which the immigrants will fill the country, they could just invest in high-quality education for everyone, especially girls. Why? Every study that has ever been done on population growth and control shows that girls who are educated tend to delay childbirth and then have fewer babies. What do Republicans do instead? They cut education funding while crowing about anti-abortion laws and school choice.
2022 and to a greater extent 2024 are beginning to look to Republicans the way 2016 did to Democrats. In 2016, elite Democrats did everything they could to undermine progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders. In the 2016 primaries, there were endless questions about how Hillary was winning primaries with very little ground game. Sanders supporters could not understand how Hillary was winning when, relative to Bernie, there was no excitement. I believe that all that effort to undermine Bernie Sanders cost the Democrats the White House and at least a few seats in Congress. I believe that something similar will happen to the GOP in 2024.
In this census, the GOP has been doing everything in its power to undermine how immigrants are being represented. Never mind that immigrants are still people, that they have friends and relatives who are connected to this country, and that between 2020 and 2024, those same immigrants who were discounted in 2020 might still find a voice in 2024. A determined immigrant, with loyalty and admiration for this country and all that it has to offer, may yet find a path to citizenship and the ballot box.
Now I’m not saying that all immigrants are enamored of the United States. But I’d say that most of them came here for a better life, burning with the hope that they could live here in conditions that are far better than their homeland. I think that many of those same immigrants who find a way to settle down, earn a living, pay taxes and work hard, might not take kindly to the way the GOP sought to discount immigrants in this census. They have effectively been ignored by the GOP. Unwittingly, the GOP blew a hole in the redistricting process by ignoring the immigrant population, first by reducing the number of seats they could have gotten in Congress, second by not recording the data required to know what’s going on in this country.
I also think this experiment with neglecting to document the undocumented will come back to haunt the GOP later on, just as all the efforts to undermine Bernie Sanders came back later to haunt the DNC. Whatever is repressed becomes obsessed, and whatever is obsessed will be expressed sooner or later. We’re seeing this now with Joe Biden going “progressive” on a few very visible fronts. We’re going to see it again next year and in 2024, when more than those undocumented people that remain here, find their path to citizenip and a chance to vote, and I doubt they will forget what Trump did by then.