Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Census gives us a chance to (mostly) count in the political process

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Even with the right to vote for most of us — at least those who aren’t targeted as not deserving the right to vote — we don’t always feel like we count even when we do vote.

Now is the one time in a 10-year period that we do count, and we don’t seem that excited by it. Of course, this is all about the Census: the one time we are supposed to count.

Your latest part-time job may be participating in implementing the census. Or you may have seen the Christopher Guest directed 2010 Census TV spots. Or you may have seen the signs in other languages in your neighborhood.

There is this much attention because the dread that comes over the Census also matches the mood over possible jury duty.

If you live in a Rust Belt industrial state, you will likely lose at least one Congressman; if there are fewer people in your area, you get less representation. And you get reduced federal funding. Cynical though you might be about the Census, you do benefit directly from its implementation.

Also  cynical is the notion that the 2010 elections matter because they affect how those Congressional districts are drawn.

Depending on where you live, you might be getting a new Congressman, even if you don’t move. Districts are redrawn every 10 years, and if you are on the borderline, you might shift into a new district.

You could go from a Republican district to a Democratic one, or a long-time stranglehold by the incumbent to a district that has flipped a few times.

The Census is that update on who we are and where we are, and the results do matter.

What would make the census more exciting, other than living in an area of the country that is growing in population, is if we didn’t have to rely on partisans redrawing the districts to reflect keeping those in power from having to seriously sweat re-election.

The redrawing of the 2000 Census put me from a district where I liked the incumbent, one of the harder working representatives in the House to one where the seat jumped from one jerk to another with little regard for the views of the people in the district. Oh yeah, I’ll admit which two jerks I speak of: Rod Blagojevich and Rahm Emanuel. No other explanation necessary.

Imagine a scenario where you have two major parties: one that is dominant in a district and one that isn’t. Districts that are drawn to favor incumbents give you two major choices: one whose political philosophies you hate, and one who you might agree on certain items, but with whom you can’t communicate on a host of other topics.

One example from this district: Rod Blagojevich voted for the Iraq War as a representative from the district. This wasn’t likely the view of the people. You could argue that the people could then get rid of him in the next election, and on paper, you’d be right.

The reality of running someone in a primary, given the power of incumbency and the significance with getting signatures on a ballot, is a cold slap of reality. There is a powerful sword implemented by incumbents that gets legitimate signatures to magically not be counted on ballots. And even if you wanted to vote for someone in the other party, that party won’t run a significant candidate, unless the incumbent was with a dead hooker and maybe not even then.

In districts that are drawn on a non-partisan basis, you get Republicans who will run against Democratic candidates, and vice versa. You actually get debate; what a concept in a democracy.

Voters get discouraged over the Census because when they are told it does matter in Congressional districts — and it does — they wish it meant more competitive races, since that increases the chances of having politicians respond to the needs of the people.

Participating in the 2010 census is the best thing you can do short of voting. But it would be nicer if the census meant better representation in Congress.


Written by democracysoup

March 19, 2010 at 12:21 am

One Response

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  1. Some people have said that the US immigration office is going to trace census respondents, find out if they are in this country legally, then locate and deport them if they are not. It’s part of a crackdown on undocumented workers — SO wrong!


    March 24, 2010 at 8:04 pm

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