Our Opinion: Census chicanery on full display

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The ongoing controversy over the White House's determination to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census says plenty about President Trump, from his petulance to his willingness to undermine his own agencies, to his subservience to right-wing extremists and their causes. The lie continues to be put to the administration's insistence that it actually has worthy motives for the question.

In an editorial on Friday, June 28, The Eagle welcomed the Supreme Court's decision to block the White House's transparent apparent to politicize the census by discouraging many voters likely to vote Democratic from going to the polls next November. However, the headline stating "Good census decision if it holds up" testified to The Eagle's concern that the White House would try to do an end-run around the Court's ruling.

By a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority, the Court declared that the Commerce Department failed to make an adequate case for adding the citizenship question. The chief justice gave the White House an opportunity to come up with a good explanation even though it had months to do so and failed.

The Commerce Department claimed the question would somehow protect the Voting Rights Act, a feeble excuse that lower federal courts rejected before the administration appealed to the Supreme Court. A citizenship question could discourage those with family members who are non-citizens, resulting in undercounts that skew results in favor of the Republican Party's strongly white constituency. The census is used to determine electoral representation, and in 2010 caused a congressional redistricting in Massachusetts that impacted Berkshire County. The census is also used to determine how federal dollars are apportioned. It is critical to the county and to the state that every vote be counted.

In the absence of a plausible explanation for wanting a citizenship question, the likelihood of an undercount favorable to Republicans appeared to be the real reason. This was all but confirmed last month when the New York Times reported that computer documents from the late Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller asserted that a censorship question would provide an electoral advantage to "Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites" by isolating African-Americans and Hispanics in a relatively few districts. One of the three federal judges who rejected the census question asserted that the Trump administration obscured Mr. Jofeller's strategy in bringing its case.

The Justice Department reacted to the Supreme Court's decision by giving Commerce the go-ahead to beginning printing census forms without the citizenship question, but on Friday, President Trump blocked this by — not surprisingly — issuing a fuming tweet, blasting his administration for giving up "the fight too easily." The Washington Post reports that the president reversed the Justice Department decision after he "talked by phone with conservative allies who urged him to not give up the fight."

Are President Trump and the right-wingers in his ear that determined to fight for the integrity of the Voting Rights Act? If so, it would be the first time they've stood up for an act that champions the rights of minorities to go to the polls. Their real fight is to implement the Hofeller strategy in the name of maintaining white supremacy at those same polls.

It is unlikely that the Commerce Department will be able to come up with yet another phony defense of the citizenship question that would please Justice Roberts. It is for this reason that the president Friday threatened to put the question on the census through executive action. If President Obama had threatened to do the same, Republicans would have accused him of behaving like a tyrant in trying to do an end run around the Supreme Court. Congressional Republicans maintained their usual silence on Trump's actions yesterday.

The Eagle will conclude this editorial the same way it ended a recent editorial on White House and Republicans election-rigging: by urging Americans to vote in great numbers next year. That will be the only way for America to overcome the inevitable election chicanery to come.



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