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Now playing at the Supreme Court: How to preserve white power in four easy steps

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration and Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices Tuesday held a legal seminar on how to preserve white hegemony in four easy steps.

Step 1: Devise a discriminatory policy.

In this case, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, after consulting with Stephen Bannon, who was then President Trump's nationalist "alt-right" adviser, resolved to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census for the first time in 70 years. This would have the well-documented effect of reducing responses to the census by Latinos (from citizens and noncitizens alike), resulting in the undercounting of that population for purposes of congressional apportionment and $900 billion in federal funding.

Step 2: Create a pretext.

In this case, Ross lied to Congress, saying the Justice Department wanted the citizenship question added to help enforce the Voting Rights Act -- a claim three lower courts dismissed as pretextual. In fact, emails showed that Ross (with White House encouragement) was the one who pushed for the citizenship question and quietly dragooned the Justice Department into asking for the question to be added.

Step 3: Muddy the waters.

 

In this case, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and conservative justices raised doubts about the statistical capabilities of the Census Bureau, claiming it couldn't accurately "quantify" the damage that would be done by adding a citizenship question because the alternative way to get such information was an "untested statistical model." Why "untested"? Because the administration denied its experts' requests to run tests before leaping to a decision.

Step 4: Blame the victim.

Francisco, the top Trump administration lawyer, saved this nastiness for the final minute of the 80-minute argument. If the court disallows the citizenship question, he said, "you are effectively empowering any group in the country to knock off any question on the census if they simply get together and boycott it," he said, raising the possibility of a boycott by gender-nonbinary people.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the only Hispanic on the high court, interrupted angrily. "Are you suggesting that Hispanics are boycotting the census? Are you suggesting ... that they don't have a legitimate fear?"

...continued

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