Over the past months I’ve written several times about Steve Bannon, the avowed Communist sympathizer who was President Trump’s senior strategist during Trump’s first year in office.
For eight months Bannon was a revolutionary in the White House, with unprecedented power and an “enemies board” on the wall of his West Wing office. He was an admirer of Vladimir Lenin, who created the Communist Party and, with his fellow Communists, began the Bolshevik Revolution that gave birth to the Soviet Union. “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too,” Bannon said. “I want to bring everything crashing down. It only helps us when . . . . they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
From his first day in the White House, Bannon was an anti-immigration powerhouse. With his pal, Stephen Miller, he doubled down on Trump’s intent to build a wall at our southwestern border with Mexico, and he worked in every way possible to block immigrants from entering America.
It turns out that he was at the calcified heart of Wilbur Ross’s desire to change the Census.
Bannon was no sooner in the White House than he wrote to Ross, Trump’s multimillionaire Secretary of Commerce, asking him to add a question to the looming 2020 Census. It was a loaded question, a malignant question. Bannon wanted to have the Census ask everyone: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
That’s a loaded question in these times when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is arresting and deporting thousands of men, women, and children.
To get what he wanted, Bannon collaborated with Kris Kobach, a Kansas voting official who was making it his life’s work to restrict and deprive Kansas citizens of their voting rights. He hates Democratic voters specifically.
Rachel Maddow, the astute MSNBC-TV reporter and three-time television Emmy award winner, made Kobach a ridiculous figure, following him step-by-step as he tried, throughout 2018, to block Democratic voters. He lost his bid to become the governor of Kansas; but, with Bannon, he tickled Wilbur Ross again and again to put the citizenship question on next year’s Census.
One of the dirty tricks that Bannon and Kobach arranged was to encourage Wilbur Ross to get the U.S. Justice Department to request citizenship data from the Census. That finally took, and in December 2017 the Justice Department asked for citizenship data, which the Census Bureau didn’t have. The Justice Department’s planted question became a pretext for Ross to put the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
The Census hasn’t asked American households about citizenship since 1950. When I was a boy, in 1950, census-takers indeed asked about citizenship; but at that time it was innocent, because the American population then was settled and relatively homogeneous. The census-takers were not seeking to find and arrest illegal immigrants and migrants.
Nevertheless, citizenship questions can be dangerous, as the Army showed in the 1940s when it used Census information during World War II to locate and arrest Japanese-Americans and imprison them in concentration camps, where more than 1,800 died. The Census Bureau denied for 60 years that it had been complicit in this illegal action, only ‘fessing up and apologizing in 2000.
People with long memories are concerned that, as Steve Bannon planned, the Trump Administration will use the Census data, with block-by-block addresses, to round up migrants and undocumented immigrants. It’s much easier to erode trust in the government than to build it.
There are estimates now that as many as 30 percent of American households won’t stick their necks out for next year’s Census; and that percentage would be even higher in areas where large numbers of people don’t have access to the Internet or don’t know how to use it. (For the most part, people will respond to the 2020 Census on line.) In a Census Bureau sampling, analysts found that one-quarter of the people responding were “very concerned” or “extremely concerned” that their answers would not be kept confidential and could be used against them. And that rate shot above 40 percent among people born outside the United States and having low English proficiency.
Besides the dangers to individuals fearing that the Census could hurt them, large groups opting out of the Census would bring other consequences. For one, states counting fewer people would get less money when Congress allots it according to population
And, by law, the House of Representatives has a maximum of 435 members. Every 10 years the Census count of people in the 50 states determines how many men and women will represent individual states in the House. As the count in each state goes up or down from the previous Census, a state may gain or lose representatives, and gain or lose power according to the size of its population. Based on the 2020 Census, states will re-draw the boundaries of their congressional and legislative districts. That always opens the door to the kind of gerrymandering that cheats one party or the other of representation.
Eighteen states and five immigrant-assistance organizations have sued to block the citizenship question from appearing on the Census. But the lawsuit is being fast-tracked to the Supreme Court, which has already heard oral arguments on it. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by Trump, has already indicated that he accepts the Trump Administration’s argument on the Census issue. The full court will decide shortly whether the Census may ask the question: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”