Saturday 6 February 2010

Voter literacy test would have stopped Obama, Know Nothing tells Tea Party

The "Know Nothing" US nativist movement and party of the 1840s and 1850s got their name because of the secrecy of their activities, rather than the content of their views.

Yet both nativism and ignorance usually inform the fiery rhetoric of Republican ex-Congressman Tom Tancredo, who ran a faltering mostly single-issue anti-immigration campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination.

Tancredo is now one of the leading voices of the right-wing Tea Party movement, and got their convention off to a fizzing start on Thursday night:

And then, something really odd happened, mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.

People who could not even spell the word "vote," or say it in English, put a committed socialist idealogue in the White House. Name is Barack Hussein Obama.

(Video from Media Matters)

Literacy tests were made illegal in the 1965 Voting Rights Act after being one of the key measures used to systematically disenfranchise black voters in the US South.

The Denver Post reports that:

Told his remarks were creating an uproar — particularly among liberal bloggers — Tancredo laughed and joked that they were "quoting me accurately again." He then bemoaned what he called "the left's obsession with race."

Barack Obama won 67.4 million votes to 58.4 million for Republican John McCain.

Exit polls show he led among voters of every level of education.

Earlier in the race, Obama had trailed McCain among voters with the least formal education and led heavily among those with post-graduate degrees. And the Democrats' particular difficulty in appealing to lower-income and less educated voters had been a significant topic of debate after the 2004 election, particularly in response to Thomas Frank's book What's the matter with Kansas.

Promoting literacy tests for voters does not just show an astonishing blindspot about the recent American history.

Surely, the wingnut right has a rather more self-interested reason to shy away from the idea, even if Tancredo does not seem to have said anything about civics tests for Presidential candidates yet.

Sarah Palin is the most prominent speaker at the Tea Party Convention this weekend.

"Know Nothings for a Civics Test" is surely a slogan which would risk disenfranchising not just her base - but quite probably the candidate too.

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