Back to the Future

One thing that’s striking about the “Tea Party” movement is it’s almost exclusively white racial composition. This inconvenient truth was very much in evidence at last week’s TPN convention in Nashville, Tennessee. It shouldn’t be terribly surprising therefore that when former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo suggested a return to the odious practice of excluding people of colour from voting by means of a so-called “literacy test” his remarks were greeted with cheers from the virtually all-white crowd.

This latent racism is just one of the more disturbingly regressive aspects of the Tea Party movement, along with a general desire to roll back the clock to some vaguely defined time in the past where it’s imagined that laissez-faire Capitalism completely unhindered by meddlesome government regulation resulted in freedom and prosperity. This of course is nothing short of delusional ignorance.



Filed under Racism, Right-Wing Haters

24 responses to “Back to the Future

  1. Tancredo was born in Denver, Colorado to Adeline Lombardi and Gerald Tancredo. Both sets of his grandparents emigrated from Italy

    …wonder how much English they spoke when they arrived.

    Bay Buchanan (Pat Buchanan’s sister) was his campaign gal…another bigot.

  2. benalbanach

    Now I see why Sarah Palin is always smiling. No chance of her ever having to explain the Constitution.

  3. While I think the “tea partiers” are simplistic crackers, by and large, who don’t want to move forward into the 21st century because they are still comfortable living in the 19th century… it is a little bit, uh, dangerous making a statement like…

    ..excluding people of color from voting by means of a so-called “literacy test”

    The suggestion that illiteracy is a “black” issue, in this day, I think in a small way promotes a racial stereotype we’re all better off without.

    I’m sure there are throngs of illiterate trailer types of the Caucasian persuasion as well.. I mean, we have a recently appointed very white Canadian to the Senate who confessed his own illiteracy until very late in life.

    The question is less of color than of broader cultural arrogance… that those who may be “literate” are more likely to make good decisions about their leaders.

  4. I’ve been frantically googling to find some stats that show that there is a major literacy problem in the African American community, but I can’t find any. There are a couple interest groups that claim the literacy rate to be in the 50% range, but that doesn’t seem to jive with the 98-100% I’m seeing in most academic work that I’m seeing. Rob might be right about this being a particularly stubborn stereotype.

  5. Rob — Given the staggeringly high rates of so-called “functional literacy” and widespread cluelessness about civics in general, the idea of administering such a test of electoral competency certainly wouldn’t just affect “blacks” or as I put it, people of colour. But that’s not the point and it never was. As illustrated by the obscure questions that Maddow read out from a “literacy test” that was given in Georgia during the early 60s, it’s clear that almost nobody could have passed it. The problem was in how the “test” was selectively administered to exclude non-whites.

    It’s also kind of ironic considering how much right-wing panderers are always railing on about the “elites” that there could be almost nothing more elitist in nature than barring certain people from voting based on their ability to pass an arbitrary test of some kind…

  6. Shiner — I believe Rob’s point was a bit of a red herring.

    But aside from that, official statistics about literacy usually show rates that are 98% or so. These are quite misleading however. In the USA only 13% of the population is proficient in following three areas involving basic literacy skills: able to compare viewpoints in two editorials; interpret a table about blood pressure, age, and physical activity; or compute and compare the cost per ounce of food items.

    Rates in the UK and here aren’t that much better…

    According to findings reported in the Daily Telegraph several years ago, “one in six British adults lacks the literacy skills of an 11-year-old.”. The UK government’s Department for Education reported in 2006 that 47% of school children left school at age 16 without having achieved a basic level in functional mathematics, and 42% fail to achieve a basic level of functional English.

    Nearly 15% of Canadians can’t understand the writing on simple medicine labels such as on an Aspirin bottle and an additional 27% can’t figure out simple information like the warnings on a hazardous materials sheet. In total, it’s estimated that 42% of Canadians are semi-illiterate.

    It doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to deduce that the problem is disproportionately prevalent amongst lower-income groups, thereby creating a sort of vicious cycle.

  7. counter-coulter

    Rob: As RT points out, it’s not so much about having an actual “literacy test”, but rather the dog-whistle politics involved in using such loaded terms.

    Looking back in America’s not-too-distant past, it’s easy to find examples of blatant discrimination with the use of ideas like “literacy tests” or “poll taxes” to discourage certain people (namely blacks) from voting.

    The fact that Tancredo received rousing applause for using such a term should be tip-off as to the mentality of the “tea party” supporters. Remember too that the original “tea party” involved them dressing up as Indians when they famously dumped the crates in to the harbor.

  8. Penny N.

    Nearly 15% of Canadians can’t understand the writing on simple medicine labels such as on an Aspirin bottle……………..

    I just wish I could read it without a magnifying glass:-)

    All joking aside, you’re right Red.

  9. MW

    A *joke* I heard when I was living in the South a few years ago.

    It was voting day and an elderly black gentleman went to try and cast his ballot. Confronted by the regristrar of voters, he was told that he needed to pass a literacy exam in order to vote.

    The black gentleman who had been well schooled by his parents and could read as well as write competently agreed happily to take the exam.

    The registrar pulled out a sheaf of paper – and the only thing on the paper was a series of columns – apparently mandarin chinese in origin.

    The blackman looked at the paper and sighed. Then he said “Sure, I can tell you what that says”

    The boss-hog ballot worker sneered with contempt and grew a little nervous.

    “Oh yeah? What does it say”

    “It say’s – clear as day… Ain’t no way any black man’s gonna be voting here today”

  10. Feyenoord

    Here is a Tea Partier who is running for Congress.

    American Liberal elites are like Canadian Liberal elites. They do not understand middle America.
    They did not understand Scott Brown in his pickup truck. Its beneath them to shake hands in the cold outside Fenway.
    They see everything in racial numbers. They thumb their noses at middle America, its fly-by-country.
    Let them watch Maddow, Olberman, Mathews and the rest on MSNBC, the rest of America is watching FOX, and the ratings prove it.
    This LA, SF, Georgetown, Manhattan attitude will result in further loses this November.

    Ignatieff, and Rae are no different. Elitist to the core. Starbuck drinkers from Upper Canada College.
    No idea how to appeal to Canadians outside 416-905 type areas. Hint- its not by pushing abortion in the third world, or long gun registries.

  11. Penny — I hadn’t thought of that aspect of the problem, but considering the atrocious condition of my eyesight these days, it could be a factor. Too bad basic optical and dental coverage are part of our “universal” healthcare plan.

  12. Feyenoord — Oh, please. Spare me your lame talking points, roster of supposed grievances and the hackneyed “elitist” bullshit — at least in terms of how you imagine it translates into the left/right ideological divide.

  13. austin

    In this day and age I do not think that a literacy test would be used against blacks or any other minority. If anyone is being rediculous it is those that are suggesting that that is why they cheered. Ask yourselves if you truely believe that those people know enough about history that they were cheering blacks not being able to vote. I do not care if it unproportionatly affects blacks, whites, natives, poor or the rich we need some form of test so people who can not spell or read the word ‘vote’, don’t get to vote.

  14. Austin — Fair point. And also thanks for demonstrating the validity of my own assertion in this regard. 😉

  15. counter-coulter

    Austin: This is so rich it must be fattening. From the folks that decry “liberal elites” lecturing from their ivory towers, we get the idea of some sort of voting test.

    Let me be the first to support this idea. Considering how the more educated someone is the more likely they were to vote for Obama; I’m all for even more lopsided electoral victories.

  16. austin

    I have no doubt that if there was a test in place Obama would have won without campaigning. In the U.S. most of the dumbest are white trailer trash that find thier siblings quite attractive who would never vote for the Democrats never mind a black Democrat. In Canada I believe it would hurt the left a lot more than the right.

  17. counter-coulter

    Austin: In all seriousness; given the abysmal failures and corrupt nature of creating “arbitors of fitness”, especially for exercising a constitutional right, it’s probably best not to do so.

  18. It’s a slippery slope that nobody wants to venture down because we’d all quickly realize (as if we don’t know it already) that a frightening number of people aren’t actually “qualified” to vote. Fortunately perhaps, a good percentage of them don’t bother with it anyway and voluntarily absent themselves from the process.

  19. ingoring that the denial of voting rights is tantamount to a lack of representation, i’m not certain it’s not even fair to equate illiteracy with ignorance, especially if semi-literacy would be insufficient for qualification (keep your fingers crossed, austin). we live in a world of multiple media, and the tradition of oration is still practiced, and effective, in some communities. the written word isn’t the only source anymore.


  20. Feyenoord

    Kieth Olberman calling Scott Brown a sexist homophobic, teabagging,…… can fill in all the rest of the elitist rant against the pick-up driving Senator. A candidate her elitist opponent ridiculed for shaking hands outside of the Winter Classic in Fenway.

    The people of commonwealth of Mass. the most liberal state in the Union, (dems out number republicans 3-1). have a different view then you Kieth, MSNBC “crown elite jewel” of Scott Brown. They thumped the elitists choice, Martha Coakley, and sent Obamacare packing to the grave along side Hillerycare.

    A Canadian equivelent would be as if Ignatieff would win a by-election in rural Alberta.

  21. *yawn*

    hackneyed blawg talk, with that invariabilty of conservotard semi-literacy, and only quasi-provocative, at best.

    D+, ’cause i’m feeling generous.


  22. Feyenoord — What KEv said.

    Get stuffed. You’re boring.

  23. sapphireandsteel

    Feyenoord you’re bland argument does more to prove you as one of the redneck elite more than anything else.

    Epic fail…

  24. Naked Ape

    I think that a civics literacy test is an excellent idea, not for the voters though, for the candidates.

    Given the misinformation campaign waged by the Conservative Reform Alliance Party, where many of these douche-nozzles referred to the possibility of our Westminster Parliamentary Democracy functioning according to it’s rules as a ‘Coup d’etat’ in the press, I think a basic civics literacy test would eliminate the eligibility of many of the most disingenuous pricks in parliament.

    That could only be a good thing.

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