Literacy tests and the Constitution, 21st century version

Well, I've been blathering on for weeks about the need for both teabaggers and disaffected/dosappointed independents to take refresher courses in basic civics and history before as a prerequisite for being qualified to lay into Obama and the Democratic Congressional majority for either "accomplishing nothing," "breaking the promise of change and bipartisanship" or (conversely) marching us backwards into Stalingrad ( or even the Munich Putsch). But at this week's convention of the Tea Party Nation (not to be confused with the Tea Party Patriots, who may actually use loose leaf tea for all we know), former (hallelujah) Rep. Tom Tancredo railed against "those who would fail a basic literacy test in civics, not be able to spell "vote" or even say it in English" having installed "a committed Socialist, Barack.....HUSSEIN....Obama."

Wow.  Literacy tests? Does the man even remember the days of Bull Connor and rubber bullets and arcane Constitutional questions being administered ad hoc against black would-be voters in the South as recently as 1965? (Or, more ominously, are he and his followers actually nostalgic for those days)?  Two points must be made:

1.   The civics literacy tests of 1965 had questions so arcane that not only would they preclude today's minority group voters but practically 100% of Tea Party adherents.......as well as most of today's incumbents, wannabe challengers, and their teachers and professors alike.

2. Not being able to say "vote" in English?  Surprise--most newly naturalized American citizens originally from even non-English-speaking countries have, in order to raise their hands and take that sacred vote, had to take and pass civics exams tougher than most native-born Anglophile Gen-X'ers, Y'ers and many Baby Boomers and Greatest Generationals ever faced in high school or even college.  Tancredo may well have brought a Cub Scout pen knife to a 9mm gunfight.

But let's not kid ourselves--"literacy tests" are, as the brave and outspoken Meghan McCain (whom I hope is to her generation of Republicans as Margaret Chase Smith and Jacob Javits were to mine and my parents') is unafraid to point out,  blatant codespeak for racism.  Leave it to someone who wasn't even a glimmer in her parents' eyes when Joe McCarthy and Lester Maddox were fulminating, to know her history lessons and be unafraid to use them with deadeye accuracy. (And while you're at it, Ms. McCain, could you possibly invite Elisabeth Hasselbeck into your study group? I'm afraid Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin are beyond hope and repair).

We need a different kind of Tea Party movement: one who knows of what it speaks and is willing to go out and learn what it doesn't know, is familiar with the definitions of realism and pragmatism, has its bullshit detectors indiscriminately set on "sensitive" rather than on "bypass" for people who appeal to them viscerally and "overdrive" for those who set off the prejudices their pundits, pastors and parents have instilled in them, and who do not believe that "bipartisan" does not mean "give us what we want or we'll hold our breaths and turn blue and them blame you just before we die."  And who can make a really good pot of tea....or coffee...or cocoa and share it and the recipe.  

As Fareed Zakaria and John Meacham (not exactly wild-eyed liberals) put it last week, if Obama wakes up and realizes independents elected him to be President and not the Democrats' Prime Minister, he may catch this new movement's ear, tell the recalcitrant hypocrites to go drink their Nestea and instant coffee, and engage those who really want to talk, listen, and meaningfully negotiate.

Now to find entities willing to fund them.......hey, MoveOn, the few brave RINOs (with money) remaining, and truly centrist counterparts, how about it?   

Or we could just sit back and hope the Tea Party Nation and Tea Party Patriots eat each others' young (good grief, they're even dissing Ron Paul as "too Establishment"), the GOP fall all over itself courting them and get rewarded by being riven in two and thus become divided and conquered......or they could backfire and coalesce, in which case we've got our work more than cut out for us.

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