Browns: Control the census, control the country - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Browns: Control the census, control the country

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Posted: Friday, February 20, 2009 3:20 pm | Updated: 1:38 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

“This is nothing more than a political land grab,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said of Barack Obama’s Chicago-style political decision to bring the influential role of conducting the U.S. Census under White House influence. This single act should end any further bipartisanship. Obama is executing raw power politics as taught by his role model, leftist Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky. Alinsky pioneered this in-your-face style of political move.

Practically, this means that Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and the former Democratic congressional campaign chairman — who has tax problems, ethics problems and negotiated with impeached former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich — will be in charge of the process that determines congressional redistricting and the makeup of the Electoral College.

The census has tremendous political significance. Political parties are always eager to have a hand in redrawing congressional districts so that they can maximize their own party’s clout while minimizing the opposition, often through gerrymandering. This explains some of the bizarre, crazy-looking congressional district maps in America. The census decides how many congressional districts are in each state.

Experts note that the method of counting can significantly skew the census. The well-known college textbook, “How to Lie with Statistics,” comes to mind. Democrats advocate using mathematical estimates, a practice known as “sampling,” to count urban residents and immigrants. Republicans say the Constitution requires a physical head count, which entails going door-to-door and is much more accurate. As expected, the Democrats models overstate the population in urban areas, traditionally Democratic strongholds.

The census also determines the composition of the all-important Electoral College, which chooses the president. If one party controls the census, it could try to perpetuate its hold on political power. The system we have is the result of a finely crafted compromise by our founding fathers when the constitution was drafted.

When Obama nominated New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be commerce secretary — who later withdrew for scandal reasons — he indicated that Richardson would be in charge of the census. All that changed with the nomination of New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican. Greg favors actually counting individual citizens rather than using statistical samples and computer models. Therein lies the source of the debate.

So far the situation is still unresolved, Obama has yet to fill the commerce secretary post and the administration contends that they aren’t actually bringing the census inside the White House, quickly retracting an earlier White House statement. Either way, the most important issue at hand is the methodology of the census. This power play led to Gregg wisely removing his name from consideration for the post.

The Constitution is clear: “the actual Enumeration shall be made” and enumeration means “to ascertain the number of, to count.” The Constitution is straightforward in setting up the purpose and practice of the census. America is supposed to count each person. As detrimental as it would be to have a hardened operative such as Rahm Emanuel playing politics with the census, it will be just as damaging to have whomever Obama finally appoints as commerce secretary if they violate the Constitution by employing statistical sampling with the purpose of exaggerating the population count in urban areas.

If Obama and his Commerce Department bow to leftist pressure groups and trample the Constitution, our very democracy will be undermined. Our system of voting is a sacred trust. Attempts to manipulate that system violate that trust. This issue will be a test of Obama and the U.S. Constitution.

“The last thing the census needs is for any hard-bitten partisan (either a Karl Rove or a Rahm Emanuel) to manipulate these critical numbers. Many federal funding formulas depend on them, as well as the whole fabric of federal and state representation. Partisans have a natural impulse to tilt the playing field in their favor, and this has to be resisted,” says Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, in an e-mail to Fox News. “I’ve always remembered what Joseph Stalin said: ‘Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.’”

Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are bestselling authors and speakers. Contact them at browns@caglecartoons.com.

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