The decennial census probably affects more people in the United States than any other federal government function. Drawing congressional districts and allocating federal funds are two of the best-known uses of census data but it is critically important in numerous other government programs. The census database also provides detailed statistics that are invaluable to industries across the economy and data from past censuses give us some interesting historical perspectives.
When Ronald Reagan was first elected president in 1980, the white population in the U.S. was over 80% of the total, as tabulated by the census that year. The 2020 census determined that the number of whites slipped below 60% for the first time but still maintained a comfortable majority at 57.8%. Yet, there were five million fewer white residents in 2020 than in 2010, the only decrease since the inaugural census in 1790. The share of whites in the under 18 age group dropped from 53.5% to 47.3%. This statistic on the percentage of white children is hugely significant for estimating the coming demographics of white America.
In fact, demographers predict that it’s just a matter of time before white people in the U.S. will no longer be the majority of the U.S. population.
Republican politicians are well aware of what is happening to the largest segment of their base. That’s why they want to severely limit immigration of black and brown people and why most GOP-controlled states are attempting to enact strict voting laws that almost always limit the ability of minorities to vote. Instead of appealing to them by supporting policies that benefit middleclass and lower income working people, Republicans are attempting to exclude or discourage people of color from participating in the most democratic right of a U.S. citizen, voting.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) believes that politicizing the federal courts will help the GOP stay in power. That’s why as majority leader of the Senate during former president Trump’s four years he was totally focused on packing the federal courts with conservative judges. That’s also why he rushed Trump’s Supreme Court candidate, Amy Coney Barrett, through the Senate right before the election after liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020. McConnell is hoping that conservative judges will block Democratic legislation on immigration and side with Republicans on state laws restricting voting rights and abortion.
Well, McConnell’s gambit paid off when five conservative justices on the Court denied an emergency request by a women’s health group to block Texas’ radical new abortion ban, which took effect on September 1. With this decision, far-right justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, plus the three justices appointed by Trump, displayed their power over the Court and Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted with the three liberal justices on this request, can’t stop them.
In an unprecedented, blistering dissent Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights —-, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.” She reasoned that the bill is “clearly unconstitutional” under 50 years of federal precedent, including Roe v. Wade. “This equates to a near-categorical ban on abortions beginning six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, before many women realize they are pregnant, and months before fetal viability,” she wrote.
Because the Texas law allows any private individual to file a civil lawsuit against anyone who aids a woman to get an abortion after the first six weeks of her pregnancy and collect $10,000 if successful, Justice Sotomayor added, “In effect, the Texas Legislature has deputized the State’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures.”
No doubt anti-abortion zealots will file numerous lawsuits whenever an abortion is performed in Texas, even in situations where the pregnant woman has the procedure done within the allowed six-week period. These legal actions are certain to have a very chilling effect on any abortion in Texas, which is exactly what the Republican-controlled state legislature intended.
Actually, it’s not too surprising that the five conservative justices on the Court allowed the Texas abortion law to take effect. All six conservative justices are members of the Federalist Society, and organization that strongly supports states’ rights. Consequently, we can expect the current nine-member Court to pay deference to most state government actions. They proved that in 2019 when five conservative justices ruled that federal courts would not get involved in disputes over radical gerrymandering by state legislatures. And I believe that conservatives on the Court will attempt to block the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act or any other voting rights act Democrats pass that impedes state control of elections.
The 2020 census revealed that America is diversifying most in small town mid-America, according to the Wall Street Journal and the growing minority population is expected to help Democrats at the polls. This confirmed the GOP’s worst fears and no doubt Republicans will become even more of a threat to our democratic processes than they are today. And it seems likely that conservatives on the Supreme Court will help them.
I would prefer that the Court not be expanded. But perhaps a 13-member Court with four additional justices appointed by a Democratic president is the only way to preserve democracy in the United States.