Now that the failed nomination of Senator Judd Gregg as Secretary of Commerce has called renewed attention to the importance of who runs the census, a bureau in the Commerce Department, it is time for the Obama Administration to intensify the search for a U.S. Census director.
In the past, census directors have generally been low-key bureaucrats. But this time, it would be good if that were not the case.
A big-name director of the U.S. Census would call renewed attention to it, and make being counted in the U.S. Census a major topic of discussion around the country. It would enable local grass-roots efforts, and give the army of short-term census workers a real espirt de corps.
Would Oprah Winfrey be available? How about Caroline Kennedy? Bill Clinton? Jesse Jackson? Jimmy Carter? Al Gore?
It's time for people in the White House to start brainstorming and come up with a serious strategy to make the 2010 census count a subject of ordinary conversation among Americans.
The Census Bureau is not just an ordinary bureau. It is a key agent of American empowerment. Nothing like appointing a household name to head that bureau would better make that point.
Nothing like appointing a household name would integrate the Washington-based bureaucracy with breaking through the indifference of all too many Americans to the development of statistics which shape federal aid and representation in the U.S. House, all 50 state legislatures, and the many local governments with district election systems.