Democrats have thumped the Republicans in two consecutive elections, but they are taking nothing for granted. Maybe they are expecting Republicans to change their ways and start acting like fiscal conservatives again. That could explain the Democrats’ multi-pronged attempt to stack the electoral deck in their favor, an approach that includes President Obama’s decision to politicize the Census Bureau by placing the Bureau under the direct control of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel instead of the Secretary of Commerce.
If all goes as planned, the Democrats will be holding at least three aces in their hand by the time 2012 rolls around. The first ace is card check, an anti-democratic process that bypasses secret ballot elections when employees are deciding whether to unionize or not. While unions’ share of the workforce has increased recently, labor union membership has declined dramatically in the past twenty-five years from 20.1% of the workforce to 12.4%. Most of this decline has occurred among private sector workers. Democrats want to recoup their losses of the past several years and make it easier for their Big Labor bosses to unionize more companies. After all, more unionization means more union money and organized support for Democratic candidates. Card check bypasses all the inconveniences of democracy and secret ballots by allowing union hacks to intimidate and pressure workers to sign cards. Once a majority of workers has signed on, the shop is unionized.
The second ace is representation for the District of Columbia. While such a move is clearly unconstitutional, Democrats are hoping the Supreme Court will pretend it’s not. If this move is successful, Democrats will immediately get one extra vote in the House, and more importantly, eventually two additional votes in the Senate. Democrats have been peddling their Utah-will-get-an-extra-seat-too snake oil, but everyone knows that Utah will get an extra seat in 2012 anyway. Utah just barely missed getting a fourth seat in 2002, and Utah has been growing nearly three times as fast on a percent basis as the rest of the nation.
The third ace is transferring direct control of the Census Bureau from the Secretary of Commerce to the White House, which means über-partisan Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel will be calling the shots at the Census Bureau. The Democrats have plenty of reasons to be interested in the work of one of the world’s premier statistical organizations. Apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives is based on the results of the Census Bureau’s constitutionally mandated decennial census, and apportionment has not been kind to Democrats in recent decades as population continues to shift from traditionally business-hostile Democratic states in the Northeast and Mid-West to business-friendly Republican states in the South, Southwest, and Mountain states. (Democrats tend to blame the population and job shift on the weather).
As a representative from Utah, I am personally concerned about the situation at the Census Bureau. Practically everyone admits that the Census Bureau knowingly undercounted Utah’s population in 2000, and I have little faith that Rahm Emmanuel will correct this undercount in the 2010 census.
Accurate congressional apportionment is not the only thing being jeopardized by Obama’s decision to politicize the Census Bureau. Results of the Census Bureau’s population count impacts how federal dollars are doled out to the states. Moreover, the very reputation of the Census Bureau as a trusted, non-partisan source of statistical analysis and information is on the line.
Obama campaigned on hope and change, but Americans should hope that Obama changes his mind on replacing statistics with politics. While the Census Bureau should stop undercounting residents of my home state, it is not fundamentally broken and the decennial census certainly does not need to be "fixed" by Rahm Emmanuel.