Conservatives must stop demonizing the census

The U.S. Constitution requires that the government conduct a census every ten years. Population counts determine federal funding for various programs, as well as the number of Congressional districts allocated to each state, so the public interest in conducting a thorough census is obvious.

The next census will take place in 2010, but some right-wing loudmouths and Republican politicians have unfortunately demonized the effort as an intrusive government plot. Over at Think Progress, Faiz Shakir recaps some of the paranoid chatter from Representative Michele Bachmann (MN-06) and Glenn Beck of Fox News. Shakir also cites radio host Neal Boortz, who told his listeners, “Most of the rest of the [Census] information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They’re looters.”

Not long ago I discussed my worries about the rhetoric of armed resistance coming from the political right, and I’ve been reflecting on this problem since I heard about census-taker Bill Sparkman’s murder. Sparkman was found naked and bound with “fed” written on his chest and his census ID taped to his neck. In rural Kentucky,

Sparkman’s gruesome death has ignited a debate over whether it was a byproduct of harsh anti-government rhetoric on talk shows, blogs and protests. Residents of impoverished Clay County say most people harbor no resentment for agents of the federal government, and they’re baffled by Sparkman’s apparent killing.

Sheriff Kevin Johnson, a native, said most residents feel a measure of gratitude to the federal government.

“We’ve been a poverty-stricken area pretty much all our lives,” he said. “The government’s taking care of 70 percent of people here, through Social Security, SSI, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid.”

None of those programs could function without the demographic data the Census Bureau provides.

If conservative politicians and opinion leaders keep stoking fears about the government using census data to steal from or perhaps even round up law-abiding citizens, I am concerned that mentally unstable individuals will commit further acts of violence against census-takers next year. Republicans should condemn the hatemongers and make clear that the census is not only permitted, but required under the Constitution.

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Seeking Republican willing to denounce armed rebellion

Now that we’re done with the Joe “You Lie” Wilson sideshow, I want to talk about a different kind of Republican disrespect for normal political disagreement.

Having been raised by a Republican of the now-extinct Rockefeller variety, I am often struck by how extreme the GOP has become. Chuck Grassley and Terry Branstad were on the far right in the early 1980s, but many Iowa conservatives now consider them “moderate” or even “liberal.”

Mainstream extremism in the Republican Party is depressing on many levels. It fosters ignorance, as when Iowa Republicans are led to believe that the judiciary is not supposed to interpret the constitution. It encourages politicians to put their theology ahead of civil laws.

Most troubling is when prominent conservatives use language that condones physical violence or “revolution” to resist Democratic policy proposals. I fear that people will get hurt or killed if some mentally unstable person takes these appeals too literally.

More thoughts on this subject are after the jump.

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Profile in Extremism on Postville Anniversary: Congressman Steve King (R-IA)

(Why am I not surprised? - promoted by desmoinesdem)

A year ago this week, nearly four hundred men and women were corralled into  the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa, in an immigration raid that has  come to be known as one of the least-just immigration operations in U.S. history.  

In fact, since the raid happened on May 12th, 2008, religious leaders and  elected officials across the nation have come out strongly in condemnation of the abuses that took place in Postville, Iowa. Not Congressman Steve King, however.

In a December 2008 op-ed in the Des Moines Register, King praised the immigration raid in Postville, calling it a “step in the right direction.” 

Then, in a February 2009 interview with Radio Iowa, King said that the raid “was a good thing in the long run.” From that interview:

King is the top-ranking Republican on a House subcommittee on immigration, and King says he will keep pressing for action to reduce the number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. “I do have to carry that banner and I do so willingly…”

King’s perspective on the Postville raid, and his likening immigrants to cattle, are just two examples of a Congressional leader out of step with mainstream America and in step  with the most disturbing arm of the extreme anti-immigrant movement. The Congressman’s record is the focus of our  latest report: “Rep. Steve King (R-IA): Carrying the Banner for Anti-Immigrant Extremists.”  

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