Unhappy as it may be to admit it amid his worsening demagoguery and hatefulness, President Trump has a better position than his Democratic critics do about including a citizenship question in the national census. While everyone’s motives are bad here, people often do the right thing for the wrong reasons. That’s life.

The president, a Republican, wants the census to ask people about their citizenship because illegal immigrants congregate in heavily Democratic cities, and the more the census counts illegal immigrants, the more congressional districts will be drawn in Democratic areas.

Meanwhile the Republicans figure that a citizenship question will scare illegal immigrants out of responding to the census, since it may identify them to immigration law enforcement. With fewer illegal immigrants counted, not as many Democratic districts will be drawn.

But however badly the citizenship question is intended, it is legitimate and useful. It has been asked by the census before and even now is asked by other federal surveys without complaint from Democrats, since those other surveys do not determine congressional apportionment. The country needs a good indicator of its citizen and noncitizen population. Bad political motives don’t change that.

Meanwhile, in opposing the citizenship question, Democrats aren’t seeking an accurate population count as much as they are trying to shield illegal immigrants against enforcement and to gain Democratic districts by getting credit for people who are in the country illegally and can’t legally vote.

Connecticut’s attorney general, William Tong, is typical of Democrats in this respect. “The citizenship question,” Tong says, “has been a key part of the administration’s campaign to undercount immigrants and undercut their voting power.”

But the citizenship question in the census doesn’t impede voting by legal immigrants who have become citizens. While the question may discourage illegal immigrants from responding to the census, they do not have the right to vote. So the census can be said to “undercut the voting power” of immigrants only if illegal immigrants deserve representation in Congress through their own illegal voting or the legal voting of compatriot immigrant citizens.

If illegal immigrants get representation in Congress, it will be the product of a system similar to the one used when the country permitted slavery. In that era slaves could not vote but slave states still could count three-fifths of their slave population for congressional apportionment. Thus the votes of free men in slave states were worth far more than the votes of free men in free states. This increase in political power greatly incentivized slavery and sustained the slave states’ control of Congress for decades.

Just as slave states loved the power they gained from counting people who couldn’t vote, today’s “sanctuary states” — all largely Democratic — are eager to be credited in Congress for their own disenfranchised population. Having the census count as many illegals as possible, Democrats would make voters in “sanctuary states” worth far more than voters where immigration law is enforced.

Of course there should be no disenfranchised population, but then there should be no illegal immigration either, even as the Democrats are striving to devalue citizenship in their pursuit of power.

Though the president is often a demagogue, if the Democrats really want to be the party of open borders and devaluing citizenship, he may not need as much demagoguery to defeat them next year.

Connecticut Media Group