On Wednesday, Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty laid out a compelling argument for why President Donald Trump is keen to rig the 2020 Census to interrogate people on citizenship and cause an undercount — even after the Supreme Court put the brakes on the scheme and left the path to enact it very narrow.
What is notable, wrote Tumulty, is that Republicans used to be massively opposed to any attempt to use the census to intrude on people's lives.
"Conservatives also used to raise alarms that a nosy federal government would go beyond the narrow mission the framers spelled out for the census," wrote Tumulty. "As preparations were underway for the 2010 count, then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced: '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.'"
Now, however, Trump is leading the whole party on a crusade to weaponize the census. And the likely reason, Tumulty wrote, is that he simply feels it excites his supporters.
"Trump has thrown in a number of other rationales, none of which were among the initial reasons his administration cited," wrote Tumulty. "The real reason, however, is probably the most obvious one. This is simply a fight that Trump wants to have. Most polling indicates that Americans are in favor of adding a citizenship question to the census, regardless of whether it skews the results."
"Even more important to the president is the fact that this issue lights up his base," added Tumulty. "Trump's reelection campaign has been sending a fundraising email telling supporters: 'The American People deserve to know who is in this country and there's only one way to find out: We need to ask every person 'ARE YOU AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, YES OR NO?'"
"It is already pretty clear what is going on here," concluded Tumulty. "Republicans who once warned that the census could be manipulated for political gain are now giving us a master class in how to do it."