Apr 27, 2021

The census results are in.

The census results are in.

Plus, a question about Congress's hate crime bill.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can read Tangle for free or subscribe for Friday editions, and you can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to sign up. You can do that by clicking here.

Today’s read: 10 minutes.

The census results and what they mean for the future. Plus, a question about the anti-Asian hate crime bill passed in Congress.

A census worker counts a family in 1940. Photo: Census Bureau

Quick hits.

  1. President Biden says he plans to recoup over $700 billion in unpaid taxes by beefing up IRS enforcement on individuals and corporations that avoid paying federal taxes. (The New York Times, subscription)
  2. Republican lawmakers are calling for John Kerry to resign over claims he revealed sensitive information about Israeli military operations in Iran. (The Washington Examiner)
  3. The Justice Department announced it will investigate the Louisville, Kentucky police department’s practices in the wake of the killing of Breonna Taylor. (CNN)
  4. President Biden is planning to sign an executive order requiring a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors. (Wall Street Journal, subscription)
  5. The CDC is expected to announce new guidance for fully vaccinated people that includes an easing of mask restrictions outdoors. (The New York Times)

What D.C. is talking about.

The census. Every 10 years, the United States government counts its population. Last year, the 2020 census was conducted amidst a global pandemic and a partisan battle over whether to count undocumented immigrants or not. Each decade, the results of the census are used — in part — to apportion the 535 seats of Congress. These seats are also what counts toward a state’s electoral college votes in presidential elections. The process is based on a formulation signed into law in 1941.

Yesterday, the preliminary results of the census were released.

The total population of the United States is 331.5 million people, an increase of just 7.4 percent since 2010 — the slowest rate of population growth since the 1930s and the second slowest rate since the first census, taken in 1790. Growth has slowed due to an aging White population, decreasing fertility rates and reduced immigration, according to a Washington Post analysis.

There were seven shifts in Congressional seats and electoral college votes. Six states gained seats in Congress: Texas (+2), Colorado (+1), Florida (+1), Montana (+1), North Carolina (+1), and Oregon (+1).

Seven states lost seats: California (-1), Illinois (-1), Michigan (-1), New York (-1), Ohio (-1), Pennsylvania (-1), and West Virginia (-1).

Many experts were surprised by these results, which deviated by about one percent from census predictions, and apportioned fewer seats to Texas and Florida than expected. Some of the margins were incredibly small. New York lost a seat by just 89 people. Minnesota held onto one by just 26 people.

The fastest-growing states were Utah (18.4%), Idaho (17.3%) and Texas (15.9%). The slowest growing states were West Virginia (lost 3.2% of its population), Mississippi (lost 0.2%) and Illinois (lost 0.1%).

All told, the census represents a shift of political power to the South and Mountain West, and Republicans are expected to benefit with red-leaning states gaining more seats on net. State Republicans are also in charge of redrawing 187 congressional maps this year, compared to just 75 for Democrats, meaning they will have outsized ability to gerrymander the country’s congressional districts. Other seats are in states with split power, single House seats or those using bipartisan commissions to draw their maps.

Importantly, though, the census count is always a snapshot of a specific date and this year’s was April 1, 2020. That means most of the census count was conducted before the worst wave of COVID-19. It doesn’t account for the 500,000 people who have died from COVID-19 since then, the declining birth rate, stricter immigration restrictions or the five percent of Americans who moved because of COVID.

To my surprise, there weren’t many columns and reactions to the census as of this morning. But I put together a few pieces from the right and left on this quietly important news.

What the left is saying.

The left views the census as a win for Republicans, though they feel things could have been worse.

In CNN, Lincoln Mitchell said it was a lucky win for Republicans.

“At first glance, things look good for the Republicans and not so much for the Democrats,” he said. “States are allocated one electoral vote for each senator and one for each member of the House. Therefore every state that gains a seat gains an electoral vote. In 2020, Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes to Donald Trump's 232. Had the electoral votes been allocated based on the new census, Biden would have still won, but by a margin of 303-235. A change of three electoral votes may not seem significant, but in a very close race this could be hugely important.

“Although Michigan and Montana also have non-partisan redistricting commissions, most of the remaining states that are gaining or losing representatives have Republican state legislatures or partisan commissions,” he added. “Texas, Montana and West Virginia, as well as more politically competitive states like Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania can be expected to draw new lines that favor the Republican Party. That means that if a new seat needs to be created, it can be expected to be one a Republican can win relatively easily. If a seat has to be taken away, as in Ohio, it can be expected to be where the current incumbent is a Democrat. Given that the Republican Party only needs to flip nine seats to win control of the House, every one of these new seats, and each new set of district lines, will be of great importance to both parties.”

In The Washington Post, Aaron Blake said it was surprising not to see bigger shifts.

“To be clear, just because a red state gains seats doesn’t mean those districts will go red, and vice versa for a blue state,” he wrote. “But seats and electoral votes migrating from red states to blue states or the other way around at least present opportunities, especially when one party or the other gets to draw the new maps through the upcoming redistricting process… Five of the seven seats being added also go to states under complete GOP control of redistricting, with three of seven being taken away coming from states in which Democrats have some measure of control over the maps. Other states have more divided control or redistricting commissions.

“That should help Republicans, at least marginally, draw better House maps for 2022. The Cook Political Report estimates the shifts are worth about 3.5 seats which, if no other seat shifted in the coming midterm election, would put the House near-even (either 218-217 or 219-216 in Democrats’ favor, versus the current 222-213),” he added. “The best perspective might be how things have shifted in the electoral college over time. If we reran the 2020 electoral college with the new electoral votes by state, Biden’s margin would shrink from 306 to 232 to 303 to 235. That seems negligible. But if you overlay the 2000 presidential results — three reapportionments ago — on the current electoral vote totals, George W. Bush’s narrow win with 271 electoral votes becomes a much more decisive win with 290. That gives you a sense where things have trended.”

What the right is saying.

The right also sees the census as a win for Republicans, and also as a reflection of people moving out of states like California.

In Fox News, Chuck DeVore said the big surprise is that California will lose a seat for the first time since becoming a state in 1850.

“The handwriting was on the wall after the 2010 Census—California’s House delegation stayed at 53, the nation’s largest, but for the first time, the Golden State didn’t see its delegation grow,” he wrote. “The reason is simple: California’s high taxes, heavy regulatory burden, and terrible lawsuit climate have conspired to make the state among the costliest in the nation. People can’t afford to live there. Plus, as the epicenter of cancel culture, many non-woke Californians are growing weary of self-censoring, elsewise damaging their careers.

“More than 2.1 million Californians channeled their frustration into signing a recall petition to force Newsom out of office as early as mid-November—just after a summer of power blackouts due to the state’s overdependence on periodic solar power and unreliable wind,” DeVore wrote. “What U-Haul charges to rent a truck to move to another state is one real-time indication of the imbalance of people migrating… As a result, renting a 26-foot truck from Austin to Silicon Valley will set you back $1,084 – but moving from the once-Golden State to the Lone Star State will cost the new Texan $5,896, more than five times as much—the highest that ratio has been in at least a decade.”

In The National Review, Dan McLaughlin said the winner was “American democracy.”

“There were real fears that the Census numbers would come in too late to be practically applied to draw new district lines in the House, which could have set off all manner of trouble,” he wrote. “Fortunately, while the time frame is a bit more compressed than usual, there should be ample time for states to draw new maps.”

Another winner, he said, was the future Republican presidential candidate. “States won by Donald Trump in 2020 gained five electoral votes, and lost two, for a net gain of three,” he wrote. “States won by Joe Biden in 2020 were the opposite — five losses, two gains. Moreover, the shift from the trio of midwestern states that made Trump and Biden president (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio) to Texas and Florida is probably good news specifically for a candidate such as Ron DeSantis who can build a home base in those states… All told, the impact of the new map is probably less dramatic than we had been led by recent projections to believe. Still, the overall trend is away from the Midwest and Northeast and toward the Sun Belt — and for the first time in its history, California is not reaping the benefits of that trend.”

My take.

Last summer, my dad was employed as a census bureau worker, so I asked him to write up a paragraph or two about his experience. Here’s what he said:

It was enlightening, both for the level of simple ignorance people so often had about it and for the exceptions to that generality. With the virus running rampant, we were delayed over two months in getting started and did much of it during the hottest two months of summer, making longer shifts almost impossible, as so many of our interviews took place on front stoops or porches. The political controversy around whether or not to count undocumented people could make it unpleasant, with staunch Trump supporters who tended to view us skeptically if not with outright hostility. It also seemed to make any immigrant at least a little wary, but once they understood the Census position — that we count who lives here on 4/1/20, regardless of why or how you’re here — they tended to be very cooperative.

Training was interesting too, and a little like sales training, because The Census Bureau understands well why people are often hesitant. They geared training towards their fears (rational or not) and the civic duty aspect — “be sure to be counted so your state doesn’t lose out on Capitol Hill” kind of thing — as well as dispelling myths, like this may impact their benefits (it doesn’t) or be used by other government agencies (strictly prohibited) to hassle them somehow. They encouraged us to use the term enumerator, the postition’s actual name, as a way to remind people all it means is counter. We were only there to count, nothing else.

My perspective on this is more around the absurdity of what it means for redistricting. That’s an issue I plan to tackle in Tangle soon, but for now, we should all be appalled at how openly Republicans and Democrats are simply choosing their voters through gerrymandering, rather than voters choosing Republicans and Democrats.

It also can’t be overstated how much Democratic losses at the state level during the Obama years are continuing to hurt the party. 10 years ago, Republicans had control of 219 state redistricting committees compared to Democrats’ 44. This time it’s 187 to 75. Both are monstrous Republican advantages with huge implications for the future. That we still allow parties to draw up their own maps — and choose their voters — is not a sign of a functioning democracy. Frankly, all states should have independent, non-partisan commissions doing the mapping.

We also got confirmation on another fascinating story: the slowing birth rate in the U.S. That Americans continue to have fewer kids may not seem particularly important now, but the demographic shifts it could usher in — if immigrants are making up a larger chunk of the new American citizenry — will have a fascinating impact on politics. For now, immigration has been severely limited by the Trump administration and the pandemic. But if it ramps back up, while the low fertility and birth rates persist, it could make for some much more dramatic swings between now and the 2030 census.

Your questions, answered.

Q: I am curious about the anti-Asian hate crimes bill passed today. Why is there a bill specifically for Asians and how does it define Asians? And I also read that Republicans put in a measure about punishing colleges that discriminate against Asian applicants—which is an interesting turn in a bill that I otherwise would have perceived as squarely leftist. How is this bill different than the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

— Hannah, Washington, D.C.

Tangle: To answer two of your questions directly off the bat: The bill does not define Asian-Americans and it is basically nothing like the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Because the bill passed with a 94 to 1 vote, it got very little fanfare. While it was called an anti-Asian hate crime bill, that’s also a bit misleading — it was far broader than that. The bill’s essential function was to establish a position at the Justice Department that expanded channels to report hate crimes and expedited the agency’s review of them. It also may set up the creation of state-run hate crime hotlines and help fund training for officers to identify hate crimes.

As for how it targets anti-Asian hate crimes specifically: the bill calls for a series of public education campaigns that will educate people about bias against those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. It also explicitly denounced attacks against Asian-Americans. The bill was sponsored by Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii who is of Japanese descent. At first, Republicans didn’t seem enthusiastic, but Hirono worked with Maine Republican Susan Collins to amend the bill.

Ultimately, the only Republican to vote against it was Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who argued the bill’s data collection practices would amount to government overreach.

There were some other amendments that got shot down. One proposed banning federal funds for universities that discriminate against Asian-Americans, which is already law. The Republican effort was really an attempt to end affirmative action, which many conservatives have argued harms Asian Americans while disproportionately benefiting other racial groups. Another called for government reports on the restriction of religious gatherings. A third would have made it illegal for the Justice Department to track cases of discrimination that were not crimes. All of those amendments were ultimately omitted.

If you want, you can actually read the bill here. It’s only 21 pages long.

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A story that matters.

Bills designed to prosecute protesters are spreading quickly across the country. In Oklahoma and Iowa, Republicans passed bills that would create immunity for drivers whose vehicles strike protesters if the drivers are “fleeing a riot.”

In Indiana, a Republican proposal would bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment. In Minnesota, a new law would prohibit anyone convicted of unlawful protesting from receiving student loans or unemployment benefits. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that increases protections for police and penalties for property damage or violence during protests.

In total, 34 states have introduced 81 bills aimed at targeting protesters, including increasing the punishment for blocking roadways. Republicans have largely labeled the bills as “anti-riot” legislation, but civil liberties experts say most of the new bills infringe on the right to peaceful assembly or increase the severity of penalties for actions currently considered low-level offenses. (The New York Times, subscription)


  • 65%. The percentage of taxpayers making more than $500,000 a year who are Democrats.
  • 25%. The percentage of women who say they are worse off financially after the pandemic.
  • 18%.The percentage of men who say they are worse off financially after the pandemic.
  • 52.7%. The percentage of the eligible population in the U.S. that has now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
  • 95%. Percent of seniors who are Democrats who say they are likely to get the vaccine or already vaccinated.
  • 78%. Percent of seniors who are Republicans who say they are likely to get the vaccine or already vaccinated.
  • 84%. Percent of seniors who are Independents who say they are likely to get the vaccine or already vaccinated.

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Have a nice day.

Congress can’t agree on much these days, but one thing they can agree on is that they love Clarence, the 160-pound St. Bernard now roaming Congress’s halls. Clarence is a comfort dog who is “on duty” with some law enforcement officers in the building, but has quickly become a uniting force for Democrats, Republicans, reporters, and cops alike:

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