The census: A retreat on citizenship question
America’s “swaggering, bar fight–picking president” has finally surrendered, said the New York Daily News in an editorial. After months “of lies and evasions,” President Trump admitted he doesn’t have “a kosher reason” for forcing a citizenship question on to the 2020 U.S. Census forms. Spinning his retreat as a victory, he promised to issue an executive order for federal agencies to compile a tally of citizens and noncitizens from existing databases. We should all be relieved. After the Supreme Court ruled that the administration could not include the question because it had lied about its real motivation—to reduce the number of Hispanics participating—Trump was left with only two options: “go rogue or back down.” It’s fortunate for our constitutional democracy that he backed down.
Actually, Trump’s capitulation was a defeat for our democracy, said Henry Olsen in The Washington Post. There are now 22 million to 25 million noncitizens living in the U.S. Counting them in data used to redraw districts means some citizens’ votes “will count more than others—in many cases, by a lot more.” The total population in House districts averages 747,000, but in certain California districts with lots of noncitizens and children, there are as few as 346,000 citizens. This gives the vote of people in those heavily Democratic districts more weight than in high-citizen districts. That’s simply not fair. Democrats “now reject the whole concept of citizenship,” said Jonathan Tobin in the New York Post. They have adopted a “transnationalist, open-borders ideology” that seeks to absolve illegal immigrants of any crime and grant them equal status, with driver’s licenses and taxpayer-funded health care. Viewed in that context, Trump’s loss over the citizenship question was also a defeat for “U.S. sovereignty and the rule of law.”
For progressives, “Trump’s retreat on the census question is not a victory,” said Elie Mystal in TheNation.com. “It’s a warning.” From the moment the Supreme Court ruled, Trump angrily threatened to defy it, seeing how the country and cowed Republicans would react. Trump “walked the country up to the edge of a full-blown constitutional crisis,” treating the rule of law like a suggestion that Chief Justice John Roberts left in his inbox. What happens next time a high court ruling doesn’t go Trump’s way? “I’m reminded of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, who once said: One other victory and we shall be utterly ruined.”