A comedy sketch from this weekend’s installment of Saturday Night Live might have been poking fun of Americans who are a little pensive with regard to filling out and remitting their 2010 census forms, but I’ll tell you what: you can count me among those concerned about this year’s census — but not for the reasons those on the left might think.
Because of the fear inherent in those on the American left of normal, everyday citizens who have minimal trust in government, and because of the derision we’ve seen toward the Tea Party movement as a manifestation of that fear, a lot has been made this spring with regard to wary conservatives and libertarians who are choosing not to return the census forms.
And there’s a legitimate fear there. Reasonable people fearing the government–rather than the government fearing the people–is a tell-tale sign of tyranny. Allowing that fear, however, to bar you from returning the census form is not just taking things a bit overboard, but it’s also quite a bit counterproductive.
And therein lies my fear.
My fear stems from the vital importance of the United States Census. It isn’t just about determining how many city buses we need and how many new hospital beds are required to better service a given area. It’s about representation. It’s about power. It’s about whether our votes count.
In this growing entitlement society, it’s easy to look at the census as a mailing address for that next government check. That’s certainly how it is being aggressively marketed in America’s urban areas. But the census is about the power of the vote.
Say, for example, that of the 100,000 people in a rural area of Pennsylvania, 75,000 of them were not counted because they did not feel comfortable with the census forms. Now, say that an urban area containing 100,000 people was mis-counted and, instead, that area showed 140,000 people instead of the real number. As far as the U.S. House of Representatives is concerned, only 25,000 people live in that rural area while 140,000 live in that urban area — when the congressional district lines are redrawn, when the electoral college lines are restructured, guess which area will receive more representation? Guess whose votes will count more?
That’s right. And that’s my fear. I don’t worry that the government wants to know how old my daughter is. I don’t worry that the government wants to ask me three different questions to determine just how Hispanic I am. I worry that, after this count is done, I will not be represented as well as I should.
Heck, isn’t this what this renewed sense of political activism on the right is all about? Aren’t we all clamoring to be actually heard by those on Capitol Hill? By not returning the census forms, we are only silencing ourselves.
And it’s worse than that. By actively refusing to comply, we are doing the left’s dirty work for them.
Poll after poll has shown, for years, that the United States of America is a center-right nation. We know this. But for years, the American left has been trying desperately to find ways in which they can level the playing field, downplay that center-right advantage and increase the political viability of their own popular minority. The census, and the power which it holds, has been at center stage.
Of course, we all heard about how the White House was pushing for ACORN, the same organization which registered Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and so many other fraudulent entities and personalities to vote in the 2008 presidential election, to be involved in the count. If ACORN could register Freddie Jackson, an Ohio resident, 73 separate times to vote in that year’s election, after all, consider the effect they could have on the census. Thankfully, it didn’t work out, as public scrutiny actually won the day.
Perhaps the biggest way that the left has traditionally attempted to mess around with the count has been through the way in which the count was actually performed. It’s the difference between two methods–actual enumeration and statistical sampling–which matter. And, with control of the2010 having been successfully moved by this White House away from the apolitical Commerce Department, and with both the reapportionment of U.S. House seats and the redistricting of the several states depending upon accurate census numbers, the distinction between actual enumeration and statistical sampling has never been so crucial.
Statistical sampling uses mathematical equations–or “guesstimates”–to estimate the amount of people in a given area. To be honest, I’m not certain how people are counted without being counted (I’m amazed that the Census folks know how many forms to send out in the first place!), but I do know that one of the biggest supporter for statistical sampling is a man by the name of Robert Groves, a former professor from the University of Michigan who was chosen by President Barack Obama to serve as director of this year’s census. In other words, to orchestrate a vital count of the American people, the president chose a man who really doesn’t like counting.
Actual enumeration, on the other hand, is the practice of actually counting those who live here—legally or illegally—in the United States of America, and using those actual numbers to reapportion House seats and re-draw the boundaries of congressional districts in each state. Sounds good, right? Well, there’s a bonus — actual enumeration is actually required by Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, and our founders were quite clear about its use. From a year-old piece here at America’s Right:
The third clause of Article I, Section 2 is fairly straight-forward: “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 shall by Law direct.” The Constitution says nothing to distinguish citizens from non-citizens, nor do any of the contemporaneous writings from our founders.
Alexander Hamilton wrote, in Federalist No. 36, that “an actual census or enumeration of the people must furnish the rule, a circumstance which effectively shuts the door to partiality or oppression.” George Washington, in a 1791 letter to Gouverneur Morris, cited the advantages of and need for an actual count rather than an estimation by arguing that an estimate “of the number of inhabitants which would probably be found in the United States on enumeration” was likely too large. And even the Census Act of 1790 stated unequivocally the requirement of “a just and perfect enumeration and description of all persons resident within [census takers'] districts.”
Unfortunately, as I also pointed out in that year-old piece, the Constitution and many contemporaneous writings by our founders are very clear that everybody is to be counted. Including people here illegally.
See, the census is intended to essentially serve as a “snapshot” of America on April 1 of the census year. If you have a Guatemalan family in your basement, they are to be counted. Partiality? Oppression? In the words of Alexander Hamilton: “Shut the door.”
As I look at it, those of us who want to reclaim America as a nation made unique by its limited federal government are already fighting an uphill battle against a growing entitlement society and the mounting debt and dearth of liberty which accompany it. Why make our mission all the more difficult by stacking the deck against ourselves in terms of redistricting and reapportionment?
So, that’s my fear. I fear that the very people who do not trust the government to represent their own values and perspective will only weaken their own voice. I fear that they will unconsciously do the bidding of the left while believing themselves to be right.
Ten questions. That’s it. They want your name. They want to know how many people live in your house. They want to know if you’re Hispanic. They want to know if you’re sure you are/are not Hispanic. And they want to ask how Hispanic you are. That’s it. Fill it out, mail it in already, and please tell your family and friends to do the same.