When the 2020 Census numbers were released, it was an open question as to whether the Republican effort to insert a citizenship question into the census had hampered counting in three red states with large Hispanic populations. Many number-crunchers expected Arizona to gain one seat, Florida to gain two and Texas to gain three; instead, Arizona stayed even, Florida gained one seat and Texas gained two.

It turns out, Republicans may have undercut their own census counts, and it was not simply a result of the failed gambit to insert a citizenship question. As former Obama administration speechwriter David Litt writes in Democracy Docket: “In places like Texas, Florida, and Arizona, many local and statewide officials supported the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional attempt to add a citizenship question to the census, even though the people most likely to be deterred by such a question live disproportionately in those states.” He also noted that the “Florida GOP underfunded census outreach” and that “[Texas’s] outreach campaign operated on what the New York Times described as ‘a shoestring.’” The most remarkable finding was this: “even before the pandemic hit, 24 states were not planning to spend a single dime of their own money encouraging residents to sign up — and 17 of those 24 states were run entirely by Republican politicians.”

This is nuts. Not only did these states possibly miss out on additional congressional seats; they may also receive fewer federal dollars from federal programs based on the Census count. What did they get in return? They apparently hope that the undercount in Hispanic populations will allow them to shift district lines more heavily in favor of White, more conservative voters. It seems Republicans put such a high premium on depressing non-White voting power that they are willing to lose electoral voters (or in the case of the Jim Crow-style legislation that Republicans are pursuing across the country, they are willing to dampen their own voters’ turnout by imposing new barriers to voting).

The irony is even greater considering that the disgraced former president beat expectations among Hispanic voters in Florida and Texas. In return for supporting the MAGA leader, these voters get less political power and influence — and possibly fewer federal dollars. Perhaps they will not be so willing to vote for the GOP in the future.

The Census is yet another example — as with immigration, voting laws and health care — of Republicans allowing their irrational nativism, cultural resentment and anti-government fervor to hurt themselves (e.g., lost economic growth, reduced political power, foregone federal benefits). Such strategies are reminiscent of the mind-set of the Old South, where politicians got away with doing very little to improve the lot of poor Whites because they could ensure those voters at least had greater political, social and economic power than Blacks.

Whether it is in propagating anti-mask and anti-vaccination hysteria (resulting in lower vaccination rates — and thus greater risk of death or illness — in red states) or in undercutting their own electoral power, Republicans’ obsession with nativism and cultural resentment is leading to perverse ends that diminish the well-being and status of their own voters. It is so much easier — especially with the lure of right-wing media fame — to stoke anger than to drop their racist worldview and work to improve the lives of their followers. So long as the voters do not catch on, Republican politicians will keep relying on the nativist bullhorn at the expense of voters and the country at large.

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