Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution provides
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States … Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States … according to their respective Numbers … The actual Enumeration shall be made … every subsequent Term of ten Years…
Australia had its census last week and is conducted every five years. In the United States it is done every 10 years and, as the Constitution outlines, the results determine how many members of Congress each state can have, and how the population numbers affect the flow of taxes and dollars to and from Washington.
The census is decisive in determining the makeup of the House of Representatives in Congress – how many seats each state has, and which party controls each seat.
The recently released 2020 census revealed some shockers – not only in trend but in quantum.
The United States is fast becoming the United States of Americans of colour. As has been often noted, demography is destiny, and America’s future is undergoing profound change.
The United States is headed to be a majority-minority country by 2045. By 2060, today’s Hispanic and Asian communities are expected to double.
- The White population shrunk for the first time since the first census in 1790. Whites dropped by five million people, declining from 63.7 per cent in 2010 to 57.8 per cent in 2020.
- The majority (52.7 per cent) of those under 18 are now people of colour.
- Hispanic population has doubled since 1990 and is now 18.7 per cent.
- Asian Americans also doubled over the same period, to 6.1 per cent.
- The Black population is steady at 12.1 per cent.
As Alan Abramowitz, a leading political scientist at Emory University in Georgia, which is ground zero in the struggle for voting rights in America, said in correspondence with me last week:
It appears to me that the demographic trends that we have been seeing develop over the past few decades and expecting to continue have accelerated. The size of the decline in the white population is stunning. The increase in the size of the multi-racial population is equally stunning. The United States is becoming more and more of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society. The Trumpsters cannot be happy about this.
In raw political terms, the population shifts mean that Republican-leaning Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Montana will gain four seats in Congress and Electoral College votes; while Democratic-leaning New York, California, Michigan and Illinois will lose a seat each. There are shifts in some other states. But it looks like a net gain of perhaps six seats for Republicans even as the White vote is in big-time decline.
The census also revealed a further surge in suburban growth. This means that the drawing of congressional district lines will assume even greater importance for Republicans seeking to maintain majorities in state legislatures and in turn Congress.
As Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia noted in correspondence with me, “Of course it [the census] may fuel far-right anger rather than resignation.”
Sabato is right. These political dynamics will absolutely grip the state legislatures that draw the lines for their House electorates. And here, the Republicans have a decided edge for now.
The Associated Press analysis reported, “The GOP will control redistricting in 20 states accounting for 187 U.S. House seats, including the growing states of Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, where the governor is a Democrat, but the legislature has complete control of drawing new electoral lines. Democrats will control redistricting in just eight states accounting for 75 seats, including New York and Illinois, where the loss of a seat in each gives them a chance to squeeze out Republican incumbents.”
The bottom line: The redistribution of House seats driven by the census means that Republicans have added momentum going into the midterm elections for control of the House of Representatives. Today’s Democratic majority of just four seats in the House can be easily erased by the drawing of lines in Texas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
This means that whatever legislation President Biden wants to get enacted must get enacted now, in this Congress, where the Democrats control both the House and Senate. And that means Democrats must stick together and not let passions for “left” or “moderate” perfection in legislation frustrate passage of the Biden agenda.
Because they likely will not have another chance before the 2024 presidential election. But here’s the kicker: The more concentrated White vote in states that have been Republican in the past two presidential elections means that the Electoral College is still skewed to Republicans, even as their share of the popular vote for president is expected to decline.
The changing face of Americans of colour may mean the Democrats will romp into dominance in Washington in the future – but not the immediate future.