'Menacing' Census Question? David Brooks Dissolves the PBS/NPR Charade That He's Conservative

PBS and NPR both use New York Times columnist David Brooks as their one "house conservative" to assess the week in review on Fridays. And both know that isn't the slightest bit accurate. On Friday's PBS NewsHour, Brooks beat liberal Mark Shields to the punch in declaring it was "menacing" for the 2020 census to once again ask people if they are a citizen of the United States, and he proclaimed the anti-gun "March for Our Lives" was a "moderate" march that gave him hope. 

On NPR's All Things Considered, Brooks even made anchorman Ari Shapiro laugh by saying of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, "their Trump is better than our Trump" at "blowing up the system" in Europe.

On PBS, anchor Judy Woodruff worried the census revision is "raising all kinds of questions about whether this is going to be a deterrent to people participating who are living here without all the proper documents." Illegal immigrants, you mean.

DAVID BROOKS: In normal times, frankly, it doesn’t strike me as an odd question to ask, are you a citizen? And, historically, the census has asked that question.

But in the atmosphere of fear that surrounds immigration these days, with ICE behaving as they are, and with the administration really threatening in some occasions to kick citizens out or kick noncitizens out, what you’re doing, you’re — this comes at the end of that — in this climate.

And given that climate, asking this question, making this policy shift now can only be interpreted as a way to get people not to answer the question. There is an important shift of political power, because money goes to the — depends on how many people you are representing in each jurisdiction. Federal money follows those numbers.

And if you’re scaring people away from participating in the census, then that jurisdiction will get less money. And so given the climate, it strikes me as a menacing question and probably a counterproductive one.

It’s already clear that if you have a government person coming to somebody’s door and asking that same question and a private person, people answer the private person more, because there’s no fear there. But the government implies force. And so they already get a higher turndown rate.

If you then make it even more menacing, because they’re going to ask this question that could get you thrown out, people are going to close the door.

Shields then complained that the "less affluent people who oftentimes are those who are recent immigrants to this country, are silenced out of timidity, fear, and we don’t get an accurate count, that means people who need it most are not going to get it, are going to be deprived. It is going to mean less political power to states like California, but, ironically, probably to a state like Texas, too, if it’s enforced, because they’re — the large Latino population. But just the motives are — the hands are not clean coming to this question."

As for the gun-control march, I'll dig deeper into that in a later blog.

On NPR, Brooks first said he liked U.S. policy against Russia. (He just really hates Trump.)

BROOKS: I think the actions are pretty good. We worked multilaterally. We reacted. And it seemed like a pretty normal American administration doing the normal, right American thing. I think what - I think I still say it's insufficient. My thinking on all this is that their Trump is better than our Trump, that Putin, like Trump...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BROOKS: ...Succeeds by blowing up the system and by threatening to blow up the system, in this case the nation state system. He did that in Crimea. He did that in Ukraine. He did that in Syria. And he's done it here. I mean, poisoning people on an English - British territory is a complete violation of norms of how you do statecraft. And he's willing to do that. And then we do our expulsions, but he ups the ante. I'm really struck by how he wants this. He wants to go higher and higher. And so he's pretty good at using his power as a disrupter to really mess with the world.

Mark Shields David Brooks
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