The Census, Gerrymandering and the Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court did not place the citizenship question on the Census. However, they left it as an open question and sent it back to lower courts. President Donald Trump did something that is hardly unexpected if you know how an authoritarian acts. He stated on Twitter that he is asking his lawyers about delaying the census. This way, he will give time for the Courts to rule his way.

Let’s make one thing clear. This is exactly how Constitutional Crisis come to be. We are in the midst of a long one, that keeps deepening. Why? He has yet to face any real consequences for what he is doing. His party refuses to hold him accountable, and Democrats are not that much better.

Incidentally, for those who do not understand this, the census is mandated in the Constitution. It is a count of all people present in the country. Migratory status is not part of the requirement. It is done at the beginning of each decade, by law. The only requirement to count Blacks as two-fifths of a person went away after the Civil War, and this is still relevant to the current fight we are in the midst off.

Why is Trump, and many Republicans, insisting that this question be part of the decennial count? To be blunt, racism. They know the country is becoming browner, and that threatens their place in the pecking order, or at least they fear such. It is a clear attempt, and we know this from the emerging documentation from a Republican strategist computer, to suppress minority participation.

The function of the census is to determine representation in Congress. It is also used to direct federal funds to states. Reduced participation by Hispanics will directly affect states such as California, who could see fewer members of Congress, and less federal funds for roads, education and other services. It is a way to punish blue states with larger minorities and to benefit the influence of less populous, but whiter states. It is going to entrench, is the hope of Republicans, majorities in Congress that will prevent the passage of policies they do not like.

This is not unprecedented in American history. What is unusual, at least in modern times, is how brazen Republicans have become. They fear demographic changes in the country, that is clear as day. Why they celebrate that they can go ahead and gerrymander at their pleasure. This was the other decision taken by the Roberts Court. Democrats do it too, but they are less brazen and less aggressive about it.

What this is doing to the country is very dangerous. I have written in the past on how the country is moving ever so slowly towards a civil war. And I do not mean a war of words. I mean the shooting kind, which the country tasted in 1860. The decision by the Supreme Court on gerrymandering will be a direct cause once historians look at this after the dust settles. To a lesser extent so is the attempt to suppress both votes and representation of people of color. Remember, slavery was the main cause for the First American Civil War.

Both decisions signal deepening social cracks, that could lead to a major crisis. The last time the country was this divided was before the first civil war. The major issue that led to that war was slavery, and today the major issue that is dividing the country is the rights of people of color. In particular, the rights of immigrants from Latin America, whether they came to the country legally or not, is immaterial. They are a threat to the caste system of the United States, which places white Protestant males at the top. Many of these immigrants, as well as African Americans, are running for office. They are winning elections, in particular in coastal areas, such as California, and large urban centers. This is a threat to many whites in the middle of the country, who increasingly vote Republican. For them making the country great again is ensuring their place in the pecking order.

These are the same exact people that Trump activated in 2016 with what were no longer dog whistles but open racist appellations. These are the same exact folks who admire him and do not think he is doing anything wrong. He is defending the country, indeed he is. He is protecting a status quo that is starting to melt, like ice dripping away into the river of time.

There is one rule about things. Change is constant for both societies and nature. History does not stand still. The SCOTUS decisions are an attempt to protect a social order that benefits the top tier of society. But it will ensure that the divisions between the urban and rural regions, as well as the coasts and the interior, deepen. If any party can choose their own voters, and not the other way around, it means that less radical candidates need not apply. It will also lead to the further self-sorting of the country into deep Democratic zones and deep Republican regions. This is a recipe for more dysfunction in the US Congress and Senate, as well as state legislatures.

Chief Justice John Roberts stated publicly that he intends to keep the courts above politics, in particular, the Supreme Court. Both of these decisions are political.

Leaving open the citizenship question, and sending it back to lower courts, is intended to suppress participation. Suffice it to say, authoritarian regimes rely on a supine legal system. It is not just Nazi Germany where the courts were taken over. Every dictator needs the mirage of legality, even when those laws go against long-held principles.

Trump has stated that he would like to be president for life, and perhaps have his children inherit this power. The process we are seeing is not unfamiliar to students of history.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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