The 2020 U.S. Census was in the news last week, raising the specter of Republican election rigging at a foundational level.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder summed it up well in an email to his anti-gerrymandering group, the NRDC:
“First: Trump’s pick to run the Census, Thomas Brunell, withdrew his nomination after it came out he is an inexperienced partisan who has defended racially gerrymandered districts and voter suppression. He even wrote a book called ‘Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America.’
“Second: Experts say the Census is woefully underfunded and short-staffed. The agency has had to cancel or narrow the scope of critical tests in the lead-up to the 2020 count.
“Third: Now the Trump administration is adding a controversial question about citizenship to the Census, which could result in the undercounting of many people, including immigrants.”
I have written about these issues of representation on several occasions, including here and here. The current issues with the Census, and the typical heavy hand of the Trump Administration coupled with its signature incompetence, is raising the profile of the problems to a much wider swath of Americans.
In fact, the history around why the number of members of the House of Representatives is based on the 1910 Census is covered in a terrific new piece by Ari Berman in Mother Jones. The article, “Hidden Figures: How Donald Trump Is Rigging the Census,” details efforts to sideline minority communities, especially immigrants.
Some former directors of the census worry Republicans could simply choose to disregard the 2020 count. There’s precedent for that, too.
Back in 1920, the census reported that for the first time, half the population lived in urban areas. Those results would have shifted 11 House seats to states with most of these new urban immigrants, who tended to vote Democratic. The Republican-controlled Congress recoiled. “It is not best for America that her councils be dominated by semicivilized foreign colonies in Boston, New York, and Chicago,” said Republican Rep. Edward Little of Kansas.
Congress refused to reapportion its seats using the 1920 census. Instead, it imposed drastic new quotas on immigration. It didn’t adopt a new electoral map until 1929.
There’s no indication Congress will ignore the results of the 2020 census. But (former Census Director Kenneth) Prewitt sees parallels between the Republican Congress of 1920 and the one today. “You could make a plausible argument that one party benefits from the current distribution of seats across the legislative bodies, and they can’t necessarily improve on the ratio they now have, so therefore why reapportion?” he says. “It’s unlikely, but not implausible.”
The 2010 Census held that 63 percent of the U.S. population lived in cities, but Congressional Republican majorities are not advocating issues important to an urban population. It is only getting worse (lack of public transit funding and roll back on emissions standards), and the new, more aggressive ICE approach on immigrants certainly point to lack of concern for cities in the GOP.
So tonight, have a Metropolitan cocktail. Via Philip Greene’s The Manhattan, the Metropolitan is:
.5 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac
1 oz sweet vermouth
3 dashes Angostura bitters
3 dashes gum syrup
Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist.