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I hope this doesn’t mean that Census takers will have to wear riot gear

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, June 18, 2009 13:29 EDT
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I know that we’re supposed to hold our noses and ignore the hard right looniness (until it rolls up into another 1994 congressional takeover, and even then, let’s not look too hard, since it’s catching), but when it comes from undeniably mainstream sources like sitting Representatives and the head of the Republican Party, well, I’m going to look. Jeff Fecke reports that the right, with Michele Bachmann and Michael Steele taking the lead, are going to turn the Census into a political paranoia point for the right. Wingnuts have both long (still worried about how Bill Clinton invented the blow job and Ted Kennedy invented the drunk driving accident) and short memories, depending on what they need, and in this case, they’re being instructed to forget that the Census happens every ten years, that it’s constitutionally mandated, and that so far, it has not sapped you or any family members of precious bodily fluids. Instead, wingnuts are being instructed to be up in arms about the Obama administration’s new invention that is surely designed to rape your daughters and take your guns.

The far right has issued dire warnings of the Census; on a May 29th episode of Bill Bennett’s radio show, RNC Chairman Michael Steele intoned, “Certainly the collection of this information is going to be part of an ongoing political campaign by this administration.”

I think I remember something about this during Clinton’s administration, but I can’t remember the particulars. Perhaps the idea is to exploit the workaday wingnut’s ignorance to make them think that only Democrats run a Census. Of course, the excuse for kicking up paranoia is that they ask too many questions, but that’s just a cover story for the real grievance, that the government counts its citizens at all. Naturally, Michele Bachmann has gotten involved.

The motherload of all data information will be from the Census. … Unfortunately, the Census data has become very intricate, very personal, a lot of the questions that are asked. I know for my family, the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home. We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.

I’ve got vague ramblings in my brain about the Clinton-oriented scare tactics from the last Census, and how part of the “concern” was that gay couples might also be counted. In what case, I have to say that the more wingnuts who opt out, the more the Census is going to make that population look like an even bigger percentage of the overall population than there is. But this won’t matter—Obama’s out to get you! The Census wants to ask how many guns you’ve got and if you’ve beaten your wife recently. And if you have any doubt that you should be afraid, Bachmann has so more race-baiting code words to scare you.

….and she also fears ACORN, the community organizing group that came under fire for its voter registration efforts last year, will be part of the Census Bureau’s door-to-door information collection efforts.

For better or worse, my decade plus of kicking around Austin hasn’t completely erased my understanding of the wingnut mentality that’s drilled into your head if you live in Texas, and so I can translate this for you: She’s saying that not only is Obama behind this Census they speak of, but that he will be sending black people directly to your home to ask you questions. In case there was any doubt what “ACORN” means to wingnuts. And really, unless you understand that dog whistle, her remarks make zero sense. As far as I know, since I did some Census-taking to make extra money to pay off my student loans after college, the government hires people directly to take the Census, and they don’t farm that work out to non-profits. Of course, even if they did hire non-profits to do this, Bachmann’s still sending racist dog whistles, because that would mean that it would mostly be Junior Leaguers and church groups, though I suppose ACORN help out, too. But it’s not—like most of the sensible things the Founding Fathers enshrined in the Constitution (like the Post Office) the government cuts out expensive middlemen and does the job directly.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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