A Census That Divides and ‘Nudges’

COMMENTARY Government Regulation

A Census That Divides and ‘Nudges’

Mar 23rd, 2017 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Mike Gonzalez

Senior Fellow, Center for Foreign Policy

Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Today’s U.S. immigrants and their descendants must not be allowed to embrace a simply American identity, as did previous generations of newcomers to these shores. iStock

Key Takeaways

Strong group identification is the lifeblood of the “progressive” project.

New ethnic groups created in Washington are the building blocks of the progressive plan to transform America.

The 2020 census will drive redistricting for the 2022 election.

In its waning days the Obama administration proposed two new wrinkles for the 2020 census: creating a brand new pan-ethnic category for people of Middle Eastern heritage and classifying Hispanics as a race.

No doubt Hillary Clinton’s administration would rubber-stamp these changes, further remaking America a nation of groups. But the election didn’t turn out as expected, and the Trump administration should reject these divisive proposals, both of which will come before the Office of Management and Budget after a brief comments period that began last week.

The first proposal would create yet another interest group, this time out of Americans who originate in that vast expanse of land that stretches from Morocco to the Iran-Afghanistan border. The new group would be called “MENA,” for Middle East and North Africa.

The new Hispanic classification would make it harder for Americans who originate in Latin America to identify themselves as black, white or some other race. The new question would collapse what are now two separate questions—Are you Hispanic or not? What race are you?—into one: “What is this person’s race or origin?”

The proposed new census form, for example, defines “white” as “German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, etc.” If you are “Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran, Dominican, etc.,” you are directed to check the box for “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.”

Proponents say responders can always check more than one box. But the reality is that the growing number of Americans of Spanish or Portuguese ancestry who now check the “white” box—more than 29 million out of 56 million in the 2010 census—would be nudged into not doing so by the new definitions.

A recently released Census Bureau study finds “Hispanic respondents identified as Hispanic alone at significantly higher rates when responding to the combined question formats compared to the Separate Questions format.”

Why is this important? Strong group identification is the lifeblood of the “progressive” project—which is why today’s U.S. immigrants and their descendants must not be allowed to embrace a simply American identity, as did previous generations of newcomers to these shores. New ethnic groups created in Washington are the building blocks of the progressive plan to transform America.

Prior to the 1980 census and going back to the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, Mexican-Americans were considered white. To this day, the census classifies Arab-Americans and others of Middle Eastern descent as white. Creating MENA would transform them into official minorities.

Many Arab-Americans are descendants of Ellis Island immigrants and do not see themselves as minorities. People like Ralph Nader,actress Marlo Thomas and Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) could find themselves enrolled as members of a protected class in 2020—eligible for “racial” preferences in school admissions, housing, loans and government contracts.

They could also find themselves in new, bizarrely contoured congressional districts. The 2020 census will drive redistricting for the 2022 election. Tortured reinterpretations of the Voting Rights Act hold that members of minority groups must be cramped into racially gerrymandered districts.

When these two divisive proposals posted last week, the Federal Register made clear that the OMB can “modify or reject” them and has the “option of making no changes.” Rejecting both is the best option.

This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal