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Anti-Census Fearmongering: GOP Tries To Walk It All Back

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For the past year, the right has overindulged itself in all sorts of crazy fearmongering over the 2010 census. From fears that President Barack Obama's appointee to run the census, Robert M. Groves, might use statistical sampling to nefariously ensure a more accurate count of poor people, to darkly warning that ACORN would be entirely in charge of conducting it, we've heard it all.

Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), was famously allowed to use her celebrity and her ability to rile up the paranoid to inveigh against the 2010 count. At times, she's vowed to flout the law and not participate, encouraging others to do the same. She's stoked the same bonkers fears over ACORN, as well. She's also darkly alluded to internment camps, because why not?

BACHMANN: If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations, at the request of President Roosevelt, and that's how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps. I'm not saying that's what the Administration is planning to do. But I am saying that private, personal information that was given to the census bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up.

Well, that was all a lot of fun back in the heady days of 2009 when it was important to get angry people out in public as often as possible to draw Hitler mustaches on health care reform. But now that the census is being conducted, there's a worry that people might actually take all this craziness seriously, so Republicans are frantically trying to put their bipolar census anger-genie back into the bottle. As for today's Wall Street Journal, Republicans are concerned that "an anti-government surge among conservatives will lead to lower participation in the U.S. census," which could have a negative impact in terms of reducing the number of safe GOP seats in Congress -- including Bachmann's. [UPDATE: Lucky for Bachmann, her constituents didn't listen to her warnings about the census.]

In a counter move, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.), the top Republican on the House subcommittee that oversees the census, posted a message last week on Redstate.com, a popular conservative Web site, pleading with conservatives to fill out their forms.

The unstated concern: An under-representation of conservatives could mean fewer Republicans in Congress and state legislatures for the next 10 years.

"It's your constitutional duty to respond to this," Mr. McHenry said in an interview. "It's often difficult for conservatives to separate overall government intervention from a question as simple as the census."

I'm sure McHenry's effort wasn't undercut at all when RedState proprietor and newly-minted CNN infotainer Erick Erickson went on the radio and told people that if a census worker shows up on his doorstep to beseech his participation in the longer American Community Survey, he would threaten them with bodily harm:

"What gives the Commerce Department the right to ask me how often I flush my toilet? Or about going to work? I'm not filling out this form. I dare them to try and come throw me in jail. I dare them to. Pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They're not going on my property. They can't do that. They don't have the legal right, and yet they're trying."

Erickson later said that everyone "misconstrued" his comments, because, you know, air was going to be rushing by his vocal chords anyway, so why not shape those vibrations with his lips and teeth and tongue and palate to form some crazy words that he doesn't even really mean? At any rate, this is entirely beside the point, because really: no one is going to throw away their shiny new media career by threatening a census worker with their wife's shotgun. (I guess Erickson's own shotgun is reserved for "runnin' off dem revenuers.")

Still, the anti-census talk is apparently so bad now that even Karl Rove has gotten into the "Seriously, please fill out the census, pretty please" act:

It's hard to say whether Rove's participation will encourage greater Republican participation, or depress the participation of Democrats. Just fill the thing out, for Pete's sake, et al.

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