Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gingrich ignorant on voting rights

Fmr House Speaker wants voters disenfranchised based on Jim Crow traditions

Former House Speaker and current presidential candidate New Gingrich is proposing a radical idea -- one that has its origins in the Jim Crow south.

Gingrich is proposing that there ought to be a requirement in place that all voters pass a history exam before they are able to take part in the democratic process.

The proposal certainly has its appeal -- putting this requirement in place would undoubtedly disenfranchise Gingrich's own base, the Tea Partiers, who have a warped and ultra-right wing view of American history that would disqualify them from voting. Under such circumstances, someone with an equally warped view of history (such as Gingrich himself) would be prevented from holding office.

But stripping the people of the right to vote if they fail an examination is a troubling condition towards what should be a universal right. Nothing, not skin color, age, religion, economic status, or even historical perspective, should restrain any individual of the right to take part in their own democracy.

Gingrich's proposal ignores decades of struggle, of the right of those who may not always know the answers (whether through lack of education or deliberate manipulation by the test-givers) to still have a voice in choosing their government leaders. Gingrich is also insensitive to the history of setting conditions towards voting, a history he should be all-too familiar with being a native of the American South. These conditions have been notably racist, purposely favoring white males over people of color during the time of Jim Crow.

In the end, it all boils down to one simply question: Do we really want a guy like this, who would probably fail his own history requirement (if it were indeed administered fairly), to be running the country? Say what you will about President Obama -- at least he has a comprehensive knowledge of American history that is greater than a ninth grade level. Gingrich, it seems, can't make the same claim.

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