The Census as Metaphor for America’s Future

It was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

By Bruce Poli

The US Census is an enormous, complex, decade-by-decade constitutionally mandated national undertaking. You could call it a behemoth. We take it very seriously for a good reason…it shapes who we are as a country.

But—wait a minute—it’s also a metaphor for America’s future… And WHAT a dysfunctional metaphor it is!

I’ve been walking the beat as an enumerator for this year’s count.

Here are some unbelievable roadblocks to completing a fair and equitable census in 2020 (it just ended Sept 30th):

1) Covid. New York is a ghost town. I would guess that of the millions of New Yorkers who didn’t respond, one out of 20 (five percent) are actually here and can be contacted and interviewed.

2) Immigration paranoia has been a prevailing theme of the Trump administration. Tens of thousands are scared to be interviewed.

3) New York is filled with confusing housing units—hidden living quarters, rented storefronts, a mishmash of buildings and places where people stay, including shelters—and, of course, the proverbial Airbnb to confuse things further…

4) April 1st is the Census date of record. So, we are four-five months removed from the determining date of the American population—the VERY TIME that so many New Yorkers had fled the pandemic… So many West Villagers, for instance, have second homes they escaped to, which complicates the process.

5) Election frenzy and the great distrust across the country.

The bizarre and unrelenting news from the media affects everyone; and very few residents, for instance, are willing to give information about a neighboring apartment, let alone their own phone number. We are living in the throes of a frightened public’s response at a time when we need everyone’s help. In this month’s WestView News Brian Pape wrote about his experience as a census taker. When considering whether it had been “worth the effort and hassles” he concluded, “…yes. Encourage everyone to complete the census.”

But the REAL problem is: 

The President has ended the census September 30th (it was originally supposed to continue through October) so he can Make America White Again by limiting the outreach. He wants sole control over America’s future; neither Joe Biden nor anyone else should have any decision-making powers. 

To put all this in perspective, I refer you to a phrase I have used since 2016: “Karma is NOT Fake News.” If we don’t get this right, we are in serious trouble. 

This census, if it is properly managed and completed, will take at least six months to finish. And then it needs to be reviewed and considered by a non-political administration. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!!

Like the election, the census outcome is a LONG way off. In the meantime, be optimistic, be good to others, and follow democracy’s journey. We CAN do this!

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