Pssst. Hey, conservatives ... I want to let you in on a devious little plan being hatched by your leaders in the media.
It goes something like this: President Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the federal government are evil. They already have too much power and want to take even more control over your life. They're out to take away your guns, liberty, freedom, paycheck, and perhaps your mother's apple pie! Worse yet, now they want to count you. Have they no shame?
That's right. In Obama's unyielding quest to impose a socialist-fascist-communist-Marxist police state, the president is going to send his minions from ACORN to your door to count you for the decennial census.
And their solution to the president's pompous power grab? Sitting out the census.
Over the past few months, an increasing number of conservative media figures and news outlets have encouraged their audiences not to complete the 2010 U.S. census or expressed support for those who've decided to skip the count. Some have even stated that they wouldn't complete it, either -- even though the law requires respondents to complete it.
They often cite the participation of the community organization ACORN -- the right's bogeyman du jour -- in the recruitment of workers who will collect data as a reason to be wary, even frightened of the census.
Never one to skip an opportunity to put his special brand of crazy on full display, Fox News' Glenn Beck recently said of the census, "[T]here's a lot of people that are concerned with it because they don't want to fill it out. They're not comfortable with ACORN members coming to find out all this information." One can't be sure where Beck got such precise numbers -- "a lot of people" -- but it's a safe bet the U.S. Census Bureau won't be following his methodology. Later in the segment, Beck confessed that he's "considered not filling it out."
Over on Clear Channel's The War Room with Quinn & Rose, a caller stated that he, too, wouldn't fill out the census because of ACORN's involvement, prompting co-host Rose Tennent to Beck-ingly say, "ACORN being recruited by Obama for a mission -- that is so frightening," adding that "it scares me to think that these thugs are getting this information from us."
Then there's syndicated radio host and convicted Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy -- a man who has acknowledged plotting, but not following through on, a few murders, kidnappings, and a bombing. He praised Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota for her refusal to complete the census, saying that "she's worried about the involvement of ACORN ... in next year's census. ... I hope that she refuses, and I hope that they charge her, and then I hope she takes ... that thing right up to the Supreme Court of the United States and gets this question resolved." You see, Liddy is no fan of government "intrusion." During the 1990s, he reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents.
All this ACORN paranoia from the right is pretty nutty, but it is hardly its only problem with the census.
On his radio show, Neal Boortz told a caller, "I received a census form the other day asking me a whole bunch of questions about my small business. I threw it in the trash. I'm not going to answer it. None of their damn business." He added that "the federal government and the state government, they have a legitimate reason for knowing how many people live where. ... [M]ost of the rest of the information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They're looters."
A sentiment apparently shared by former Bush administration speechwriter Meghan Clyne. She recently wrote that the census questions "forc[e] Americans to disclose sensitive information about their finances, health and lifestyles." While Clyne did let readers know that answering the census is mandatory, she went on to write, "The good news is that I called the help number on my form and a Census representative finally conceded that the government was unlikely to pursue punishment if I didn't respond, saying it would be 'a waste of time and money.' " Apparently, Clyne doesn't mind if folks break the law, so long as the law isn't likely to be enforced.
I suppose this would a good time to let conservatives know why their war against the census is both politically naïve and tremendously foolish.
Those detailed questions that seem to be causing conservatives such heartburn? They help determine where federal money is best spent. The U.S. Census Bureau notes, for example, that "long-term care providers and community planners use information about disability to help them decide where to locate services and facilities." It would be a shame if conservatives actually listened to the right-wing chattering class, skipped the census, and missed out on badly needed public service projects.
Of a more pressing concern to political junkies: The census helps determine population shifts throughout the country that inform the redistricting of congressional seats and truly impacts the balance of power in Washington. So, if conservatives aren't counted, they could lose seats in Congress -- something a high school government student would likely know.
If the right wants a path back to power, it might first consider putting an end to this fool's errand, lest it cut off its nose to spite its face.
Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to receive his columns by email.