THE BLOG

The Census: Reality-Based Community v. Party of Palin

05/30/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Nancy L. Cohen Author and historian, Breakthrough: The Making of America's First Woman President

Would you like to strike a blow, nonviolently of course, at the Party of Palin, the Tea Party, and Thomas Jefferson deniers? Then send in your Census Form on April 1. It's the most important political action you can take this year.

Monochromatic Tea Partiers and their demagogic leaders can carry on all they want about their country and real Americans. The Census tells otherwise.

Let's take their rhetoric at face value. Are the only real Americans white and Christian? Are the only normal Americans heterosexual and married with children? Not according to the 2000 census and related surveys. The nation is simply too diverse for such claims to stand. In 2000, the foreign-born made up 11% of the population. The non-white population was increasing at a rate such that by midcentury, whites will make up a minority of the population. The nuclear family, which in Mad Men days accounted for almost half of all households, survived in less than one quarter of of all households. At least 10 million men and women and 1.5 million lesbians and gays lived together as unmarried partners. Half of all marriages ended in divorce, one-quarter of all children were being raised by a single parent, and an uncounted number were being raised in post-divorce blended families. The fastest growing 'religious' group was those with no religious affiliation. (For geeks like me, you can plunge into this yourself here.)

The Census shows us who we really are. It offers us some hard truth about our past, as well as a portrait of the diverse and promising people Americans have become. There's a reason Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann said her family would not fill out the Census. She didn't want the truth to out. (For the record, she backed down.) Without an accurate, objective census, our history books would be fictional accounts of an imagined past -- just as the fundamentalist Texas school board has ordered.

There are few more powerful frames in politics than that of being a true American. If you want your own unique identity to be counted in politics and acknowledged in the history books, fill out your form and send it in. It's your patriotic duty.


*If you haven't received your form by April 1, call the Census Bureau at 1-866-872-6868.