SCOTUS Seems Sympathetic to the Effort to Corrupt the Census

According to Greg Stohr of Bloomberg Politics, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court sounded very supportive of the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census during oral arguments on Tuesday. This is in spite of a lower court ruling that, “in deciding to add the citizenship question, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross committed a ‘veritable smorgasbord’ of violations of the federal law.” The common sense response to the Census enterprise is summarized very well by Ari Berman at Mother Jones:

The administration added the question—“Is this person a citizen of the United States?”—in March 2018, claiming it was needed to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. The decennial census hasn’t had a citizenship question since 1950, and civil rights groups say the question will depress responses from immigrants who worry it could be used to initiate deportation proceedings against them. If large numbers of immigrants don’t respond to the census, the areas where they live could lose representatives in Congress and federal funding, transferring economic and political power to whiter and more Republicans areas. The Census Bureau opposed the addition of the question, saying it could cause as many as 6.5 million people not to respond to the census and increase the cost of conducting the census by millions of dollars.

But there was an actual point to denying Merrick Garland a spot on the Supreme Court and eliminating the Senate filibuster so the Democrats could not stop the confirmations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. That point was largely about using the nation’s highest court to entrench Republicans’ power. The Census question will likely be approved, resulting in extra seats in Congress for red states, and more votes for them in the Electoral College.

This is just one of their assaults on precedent in the service of gaining a political advantage. They’ve already defanged the Voting Rights Act and made it easier both to deny people the right to register to vote and to purge undesirable people from the voter rolls. They obviously delivered the Citizens United ruling and will likely strike down any progressive legislation aimed at curbing the influence of big money on politics.

This concerted effort to use the courts for political advantage is the reason that more and more Democrats are talking about adding more seats to the Supreme Court. It’s an idea the left abandoned after Franklin Roosevelt tried and failed to do it in the 1930s. Ever since, it’s been considered a non-starter, but you cannot expect half the country to take repeated beatings without having an aggressive response.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com