Jacob Heilbrunn

The Numbers Game: the 2010 Census

The Obama administration is releasing the first census in several decades to be overseen by Democrats. Despite fears that the administration would try to taint the numbers, the results don't appear to be good for the Democratic party. Quite the contrary.

The 2010 census suggests that the Democrats are going to lose congressional seats. Overall population growth has slowed. Immigration appears to have come to a standstill since the 2008 recession. The total population is estimated at slightly over 300 million people.

Yet on Monday White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pooh-poohed the idea that the census is bad for the Democrats:

"I don't think shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can't make a politically potent argument in those new places."

U.S. News agrees with Gibbs:

Republicans have a problem with minority voters. Multi-racial coalitions gave Barack Obama victory in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, California and other crucial states in 2008. Yes, the Sun Belt is growing, but to a great extent that growth is Hispanic. Newt Gingrich can take all the Spanish lessons he wants, but the Tea Party Republicans won't let their party bend on immigration. Senate Republicans did themselves no favor by rejecting so moderate and fair a measure as the DREAM Act last week.

Still, the question is whether Obama can resurrect that coalition. While Texas, Arizona, and Florida are expected to gain seats, New York may lose several. California is unlikely to gain any and may lose one. Those are forbidding odds for the Democrats.

Perhaps the biggest question is going to be overall population growth. Without it, the Social Security system and a host of other government programs are going to go under. The one advantage America has had over Europe and Japan is that its population continues to increase. Will Obama propose a population increase program along the lines of Germany, offering special subsidies for parents to have three or more children?

On the political side he could adopt another strategem--a relocation program. Obama could offer economic incentives for liberals to leave the Western states and congregate in New York and California to up their numbers. But that would be an act of desperation and Obama's liberal base is turning against him, anyway. The real challenge for the GOP and the Democrats is going to be to woo the increasing number of Hispanic voters who don't fall into any traditional political camp.