With the concentration camps on the US border, the growing planet climate/environment emergency, the attacks on a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions, and the possibility of war with Iran still in the background, whether or not Trump can include a citizenship question on the 2020 census would seem like relatively small potatoes. Yet through this mini-drama his larger strategy is revealed.
Supreme Court to Trump: “Find a better excuse”
Just a few weeks ago, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that if he wanted to include that question, he had to come up with a better excuse. Yes, that was the actual reason for the ruling! In other words, as oaklandsocialist explained at that time, the swing vote – Chief (in)Justice John Roberts – wants the court to maintain some semblance of credibility while he sought a way to allow Trump whatever he wants.
Meanwhile, time pressures meant that they’d have to start printing up the census questionnaires right away, before a new excuse could be concocted and approved by Roberts and his partners-in-crime. But wait! Trump to the rescue! In his usual fashion, he tweeted out that he’s going to include that question, countermanding the orders of his Commerce Department.
As the Washington Post reported on July 6 “Justice Department lawyers told a federal judge on Friday that they would press ahead in their efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, but indicated they did not know yet what kind of rationale they would put forward.” How much more blatant can you get? This is all just an exercise to find a legal excuse…. for what? Why is it so important?
There are two issues at stake: First is how to divvy up billions of dollars of federal aid. Second is how to draw up the voting districts. In both cases, the issue of citizenship matters far more than whether the question would lead to an “undercount” in some areas which tend to vote Democrat. There is a deeper strategy involved:
As the Post reported, “A number of Republican state legislators have indicated a plan to press for citizen-only redistricting in 2021.” Presently, while only citizens can vote, the apportionment of representatives is based on the entire population in a district. But wait, there’s more. As Trump explained, “You need it for appropriations — where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.” In other words, federal funds (and even possibly state funds) would be apportioned based on how many citizens, not how many people, live in an area.
This is part of Trump’s wider strategy – to limit as much as possible the suffering in those areas where he has support. That’s why, for example, it has been discussed to make liberal areas like the (San Francisco) Golden Gate Recreation area pay for Trump’s military July 4 speech, which is rumored to cost some $2.5 million.
For mass civil disobedience
Despite having been caught in an outright lie, despite having perjured itself, despite everything, it is entirely possible that the executive branch and the judicial branch will find a way to collaborate in pushing this agenda. As with so many other issues, a working class victory will not be won in the courts; it will be won through mass civil disobedience, starting with a campaign now to for mass commitment to refuse to answer any citizenship question on the census.