EYA Experiences: Michael Hsu
Michael Hsu is interning at Democracy Initiative as part of Church and Society’s Ethnic Young Adult internship program. He reflects on a week spent in Washington D.C. earlier this summer.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued two major rulings on issues that were relevant to my placement site, Democracy Initiative. One was on the question regarding whether or not to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census, and the other one centered on two gerrymandering cases that were wrapped into one ruling. We went to the Supreme Court for a rally ahead of the decisions, and we stayed for the press conference which followed the decisions. I was a little nervous on what the ruling was going to be because this could affect much of the democracy that we have left in the United States.
A citizenship question could heavily affect undocumented immigrants, because many would not want to indicate their citizenship status for fear of deportation. As a result, this could result in loss of federal funding to communities that have a large number of undocumented immigrants, such as my home state of California. As for the gerrymandering cases, we are living in a “democracy” where voters are not choosing their politicians, but politicians are choosing their voters. We are in a situation where elected officials can draw maps that are extremely skewed in an effort to achieve partisan gain.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from adding the citizenship question. However, in their opinion, the justices of the court ruled that the administration provided inadequate explanation on adding the question. Therefore, the court’s explanation leaves a lot of grey area. The court also ruled that it’s not up to the federal judiciary to decide whether it can end the practice of partisan gerrymandering. The court acknowledged the amount of danger that partisan gerrymandering plays in the function of a democracy, but decided not to intervene.
If it wasn’t obvious enough, we are living in a dangerous time. We are living in a time where democracy is under attack. The unlimited amounts of money spent on campaigns and lobbying as a result of Citizens United v. FEC, the gutting of a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, and now the continuation of partisan gerrymandering will affect us in ways that extend beyond these issues. Those who benefit from these decisions are in favor of policies that help the wealthy and the powerful, while discriminating against the poor. This is largely why healthcare remains unacknowledged as a human right, why we hesitate to take action on climate change, and why we continue to spend money on endless wars. Many elected officials call themselves Christians, but the policies they favor and have already enacted are contradictory to the calling that Jesus asks of us.
God help us all.
Editor’s note: This reflection first appeared on the Ethnic Young Adult program’s blog. It has been edited slightly for publication here.