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Trump’s Census Whitewash

| April 1, 2018

The featured image under 'Immigration' at the White House website has nothing to do with what made America great--its immigrants--but with the heavily armed policing of the border.

The featured image under ‘Immigration’ at the White House website has nothing to do with what made America great–its immigrants–but with the heavily armed policing of the border.

The Declaration of Independence’s idea of all men being created equal was almost accurate in so far as the wording is concerned: if you were a man, if you owned property and if you were white, you were pretty much set. The overwhelming majority of Americans were excluded from the bargain, among them women, who represented more than half the population, slaves, Native Americans, the poor, the weirdly colored, the irreligious, the young. As white supremacy goes, you could hardly have found better advocates than the Founders.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive Over time we’ve gotten much closer to the ideals of the Declaration. The Bill of Rights became more inclusive. “Diversity” busted out from aspiration to reality. But the pendulum has been swinging back. Once again more Americans are being excluded from the bargain than added to it: democracy is taking on the airs of a gated community.

It’s been systematic. Voting districts have become a parody of fairness. They’re drawn not to represent the people in them but to maximize the electoral benefit to the party in power. That’s how you end up with just a 1 percent difference in actual votes cast  between parties for House of Representative elections in the 2016 election, but a 5 percent advantage for Republicans in actual number of seats.

That 1 percent difference would not exist but for the draconian voting rules in  about half the states, which make it more difficult for the young, the poor and minorities to vote, again suppressing the traditionally Democratic vote. The hysteria over voting fraud that’s led to all these rules is based on made-up fears. There is no fraud. The statistically risible exception aside, there are no undocumented immigrants voting, no citizens voting twice or dead citizens voting thrice, even in West Virginia. But voting rules such as strict ID requirements have themselves become the fraud, a form of poll tax masked by other means. If those rules were not in place, we’d have a very different make-up in the House of Representatives today and in state houses across the country.

Now the Trump Administration has come up with a new way to further gerrymander voting districts in Republicans’ favors. For the first time in 70 years, the Census Bureau will follow the Justice Department’s  order and ask respondents whether they are U.S. citizens or not. There is zero reason to do so, because the question is already asked on the Census Bureau’s annual community survey, and because the reason the Trump administration is giving for asking it, that it would allow for better enumeration of minorities and compliance with the Voting Rights Act, is laughable. This is not an administration concerned with minorities or voting rights.

But it is an administration concerned with reducing immigrants’ rights starting with reducing immigration outright. If you doubt that, just have a look at the featured image under the “Immigration” tab at the White House. No Emma Lazarus imagery of huddled masses here, no Statue of Liberty beacon, no smiling faces of the sort of immigrants–which is to say, most immigrants–who’ve been disproportionately powering this country’s economy since the 1990s. No, the only smiling face is that of a beefed up Border Patrol agent surrounded by his paramilitary posse in the sort of posture ready for assaults. This is not an image about immigration or immigrants, but about putting the cuffs and knuckles on either. Of course the Census form is going to ask you whether you’re a citizen. E pluribus unum is giving way to your papers please.

The reason Trump & Co. want the question asked is to intimidate immigrants who are fearful enough as it is of answering questions by a government interrogation, and to suppress the number of immigrants who will take part in the census. That in turn will diminish the number of immigrants counted and certain populations overall, and the Medicaid, food stamps and school aid dollars those populations will receive. Come redistricting time fewer minorities or immigrants will have been counted, and just like that, the country’s diminishing white majority will have been given an artificial booster shot that translates into whiter, and need it be said, more Republican, districts.  Keep in mind that the Census is not about counting Americans, but counting all people living in the United States, documented or not. That’s what the Constitution requires.

All questions added to the Census take extensive testing first to determine validity or usefulness. The bureau, for instance, just decided that it would not add an ethnic category of “Middle Eastern/North African” because more testing is needed. (I have my doubts: the proposal has been tested, and to make people like me, of Arab descent, have to notch up the box that says “white,” if we have to notch a box at all–itself a problematic issue–is no weirder than making blacks or Hispanics do so. But I can also understand that the nation is not too eager or ready to concede that there may be 4 million of more Arabs lurking about in these parts.)

 The one about citizenship was never tested. What’s taking place in effect is the most systematic attempt in the nation’s history at gerrymandering what’s left of our democracy. It is a  lurch back to the earlier days of the whites-only Declaration, and it is pure Trump.

At least 12 states are prepared to sue the administration over the fraud as of this week, with more certain to join. Naturally, Florida is not among them. One-party states where minorities and the poor count only as three-fifth of human beings generally aren’t. But let’s not pretend that this has anything to do with counting right. It has to do with counting white.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

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16 Responses for “Trump’s Census Whitewash”

  1. Rhonda says:

    Well said, Mr. Tristam. What a sham. What a shame. Let’s hope the wheels of justice turn in the right direction.

  2. Pogo says:


    “…Keep in mind that the Census is not about counting Americans, but counting all people living in the United States, documented or not. That’s what the Constitution requires…”

    That is correct. The slave owners wanted every body counted. Now the slave owners want only owners counted.

    And so it goes.

  3. mark101 says:

    “” There is zero reason to do so, because the question is already asked on the Census Bureau’s annual community survey”,

    so how many of these people tell the truth ? . Why not prove you are a US citizen.

  4. Palm says:

    This has absolutely NOTHING to do with Counting White. The census is used to determine, among other things, the monetary funding that is going to be needed for special assistance programs (ie. Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, etc.) These programs are a great piece of the American society put in place to help those Americans that need it. This includes born citizens as well as Legal Immigrants. No longer should the American tax payer’s contributions be going to undocumented, ILLEGAL Aliens. This addition to the census is the first step in combating the gross abuse and misuse of the system that has gone on for years. Let’s cut the crap, stop picking sides and be honest. How many American children are going to go to sleep hungry tonight? How many American children are going to be cold, are going to go without? How many American children are going to sleep in a car or worse? If the answer is anything other than 0, then this is something that NEEDS to be done. Not a single cent of tax-payer dollars should go to an illegal immigrant in ANY FORM, so long as there is a single American citizen that is going without. What about our American Veterans? How many of them are we going to keep forgetting about in order to take care of those that have flat out refused to become a part of this Nation Legally? The answer again should be 0. This is not about Democrat bs Republican. This is not about Left vs Right. This is not about White vs the rest. It is about first and foremost taken care of Americans. Once we do that, if we have resources left, then by all means use them to help the rest. But let’s make sure we take care of America First.

  5. Lou says:

    Scared, old, white men’s last stand?
    Written by an old white man.

  6. Mark says:

    “Immigrant’s rights”? Pierre, I’m disappointed in your ability to read. If an “immigrant” is here legally and they are a citizen, what do they have to fear? If they are here illegally, what do they have to fear? What the question has to do with being male or white, I can’t figure out your logic. You have gone off the deep end trying to pin something on Trump that isn’t there. Grasping at straws won’t make his Presidency disappear. Nor will it change the fact that illegal immigrants are here and they may do illegal things when asked to by liberals. Like vote, use U.S. government resources and they may also do illegal things on their own like murder, rape, beat their wives & kids, etc, etc……. Keep trying and maybe Trump will disappear, good luck.

  7. omg says:

    Illegals are a drain on the USA Financially….. You as your liberal mindset wants free medical and much more for all US Citizens. Well that ‘s not going to happen with the open border policy of you liberals.

    Even in Mexico to emigrate there you have to prove you can provide for yourself.

    AND I know your argument. Ellis Island took in the poor and uneducated… BUT GUESS WHAT. They wanted a new beginning here they got educated and worked their tales off to get it.. Did not live on the government handouts.

    And what part of Illegal don’t you get!

  8. Bc. says:

    It’s people like you that are ruining this country not white men or trump

  9. jadobi says:

    @ omg

    The term “illegal” is not even used by USCIS, the technical term is “without inspection.” They have violated immigration policy, not criminal law… which is why most state, county and local law enforcement are not permitted to detain immigrants (btw, its immigrant with an “i”). Should state, county and local law enforcement be allowed to detain them? I say no. Because then you open Pandora’s box and create a litany of problems (an I am in law enforcement). While I can agree that there needs to be a several fixes for several immigration problems, we are not headed toward any viable one.

  10. Outsider says:

    If the census is used to determine how many representatives a state should have, then don’t we need to know how many are actually U.S. citizens so only U.S. citizens are used to determine the number of representatives in Congress? If they only count the total number of residents, then inherently the illegals are getting representation without taxation, shall we say, via a higher number of elected representatives in Congress, even if they don’t actually vote. The simple fact is Democrats need a new stream of voters to stay in power. Everything they do has nothing to do with compassion and everything to do with maintaining that power. They need to import future voters who will rely on them for subsistence in exchange for their votes. This is why they are more concerned for the welfare of illegal immigrants than they are for the U.S. citizens they are supposed to represent. On a related note, while upgrading my ticket at the gate yesterday, I noticed an ID card, apparently lost by a passenger sitting on the desk. It was a federal voter ID card with photo…from Mexico!

  11. Trailer Bob says:

    “But voting rules such as strict ID requirements have themselves become the fraud” OK, I stopped reading at that ridiculous statement. I take it you do not live in the real world. Try to explain just how difficult it is to get an ID in the US. I really think you should have read your article before you decided to publish it.

  12. Richard says:

    No voter fraud, LOL. Link to the news article about a Texas woman sentenced to 5 years for voting fraud in the 2016 presidential election. And she was an American citizen. No one can tell me that there wasn’t ANY illegal voter fraud in ANY local, state or federal election. To believe that is like saying I believe in Unicorns!

    In my opinion they should scrap the question about whether you are a US citizen and substitute this question:

    “Are you registered to vote, YES or NO”?

  13. Richard says:

    The Democrats have now even turned their backs on the DACA people which tells me that they were only being USED by the Dem’s for political purposes. Open borders, higher taxes, more illegal immigrants, more welfare, free medical, more socialism; this is what the Democrats are lobbying for. Not in my country when I go to the voting booth.

  14. Lou says:

    The anti immigration people are the pro gun people. In case of pro gun, they choose to refer to the second Amendment. In case of census the same people choose to ignore the Constitution.
    Please explain WHY!

  15. knightwatch says:

    As I read these comments I am increasingly disappointed – even fearful – that America’s turn to the far right has corroded its honor and character. We are no longer honored and respected in the world. We are feared for sure with an unhinged sociopath for president and a very compliant Congress and judiciary who will not perform their constitutional duties of oversight and balance of power. Unless we change our course, in a few short years we will become nothing more than a socially decimated refuge for fearful and hateful white nationalists, mocked and abandoned by our lifelong friends and allies.

    How ugly will we get before we hit the dark depths of right-wing madness?

  16. anon says:

    I’m reading all these right winger comments who absolutely will believe ANY lie coming out of Trump’s and his demonic minions’ mouths. Disgusting. The right wing media lies, dishonesty and brainwashing continues on. As someone who went door to door for the 2010 Census, I was appalled at the right wingers trying to scare people from answering any census question, and the fraud and lies they said to make people believe their crap. I’ve watched right winger republicans split and divide and create the hatred on a constant basis since 1994 and it’s one of the main reasons I refuse to vote for ANY republican – because I know he/she will do whatever the party tells them to do or say, no matter what their constituents want.
    And it wasn’t the democrats that failed DACA, it was the republicans Ryan and McConnell and Trump who lied to democratic leadership when they were trying to get their budgets passed by ‘promising’ to do something with DACA IF the democrats would just sign off on their bills and get them passed. The Lies of the right are disgusting. Trump is lying through his teeth now about Amazon – why? Because Jeff Bezos is much richer than Trump (Trump is jealous), and Bezos owns the truth-seeking Washington Post (which also broke the Watergate scandal in Nixon’s time), which researches and reports on Trump’s doings and sayings. The Post Office made nearly $2 billion more in profits from package delivery (including Amazon) but is losing money because republicans (including McConnell and Ryan) forced them to fund 75 years worth of retirement benefits for FUTURE workers a few years back, when the Post Office was actually MAKING money. Take that horrible requirement off of them, or reduce it down to 20 years, and they will be back in the black again and not have to raise rates all the time anymore. The rest of us middle class folks don’t want to see prices rise any higher than they are now. How nice that Trump doesn’t have to worry about money, eh? He’s already stolen $100 million from us taxpayers taking his golfing vacations every single weekend since he became President. Where’s the hypocritical right winger cries of outrage over THAT????

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