Monday, September 8, 2008

Rethinking the Wisdom of Abolishing Literacy Tests

We may have fallen prey to a Constitutional sleight of hand when we abolished the use of a literacy test to determine who was qualified to vote. While focusing on efforts to eliminate Southern states' discriminatory practices designed to prevent African American voter registration, we ignored the consequences of allowing the emergence of an uninformed, functionally illiterate, mob mentality electorate.

I'm talking about the Republicans.

I learned not to assume an informed electorate back in 1982. My father lost his bid to run as the DFL candidate for Minnesota Treasurer (after winning endorsement at the nominating convention) when he was defeated in the primary. Bob Mattson, a Florida barbeque restaurant owner won the primary while
still living in Florida by relying on nothing more than the name recognition inherited from his father, a former Minnesota Attorney General. Betty Wilson, the grande dame of Minnesota political reporters, later apologized to my father, telling him they did not take Mattson's candidacy seriously and, therefore, never bothered to report on it during the campaign.

Nothing compared to the disgust I felt over that outcome until I witnessed the enthusiastic support Sarah Palin has received over the past 10 days in her bid to be one very old heartbeat away from the presidency. I am personally deeply offended that Mr. "Country First" would stoop so low and put us all at risk just to shore up the conservative Republican base and inject some faux excitement into a lackluster campaign. I am even more offended that so many of my fellow Americans, freed from the shackles of having to demonstrate literacy as a condition of voter eligibility, choose to make no independent investigation of Governor Palin's qualifications for office and, instead, mindlessly repeat the spoon fed propaganda absorbed from the self-proclaimed straight talker at the head of the ticket.

Here's some "prairie pondering".

a.) It makes no sense for Republicans to be so excited about a Palin candidacy in light of their failure to more strongly support Governor Mike Huckabee during the primary/caucus process. Governor Huckabee and Governor Palin share the same evangelical Christian viewpoints. The obvious conclusion one draws is that Republicans are more concerned about style than substance.

b.) As I write this, it has been 10 days, 9 hours and 27 minutes since Senator McCain announced his choice for a running mate. It has been the same 10 days, 9 hours and 27 minutes, and counting, since Governor Palin has submitted to an unscripted news conference or one-on-one interview with the national news media. How can anyone in their right mind pontificate on what a wonderful candidate Governor Palin is when they have no way of knowing what she really stands for or how qualified she is? Every other candidate has been vetted
ad nauseum by the media and by those members of the electorate who opt to pay attention to the fruits of our Fourth Estate's labors. The McCain campaign's decision to limit Governor Palin's exposure to the public smacks of a Cheney-esque obsession with controlling the public's ability (forget "right") to know and should, in and of itself, disqualify either the old codger or his trophy running mate from seeking the public trust. The obvious conclusion one draws is that Republicans are more concerned about style than substance.

c.) Apparently, Senator McCain is in the "If you can't beat them, join them" camp when it comes to offering leadership to the country. After months of attacking Barack Obama for his celebrity status and insisting that the Democratic front runner, then presumptive nominee and now candidate lacks the experience to occupy the Oval Office, Senator McCain bet his candidacy on the human interest stories to be dredged from running with a modern day Annie Oakley. Six colleges in six years? Who cares? She can shoot. Doesn't believe humans have a significant hand in climate change? So what? She supports expanding drilling to the point that it will be someone else's problem by the time we run out of oil. No foreign policy experience? Big deal. W had rarely been out of the country before we elected him and that worked out okay. The important thing, according to Senator McCain, is that his running mate can get all cutesy when she delivers speeches written by President Bush's scribes, follow the script when out on the campaign trail, draw exuberant crowds of
illiterati who fawn over his pitbull with lipstick and cry "foul" and "sexism" in response to any legitimate inquiry about her qualifications. The obvious conclusion one draws is that Republicans are more concerned about style than substance.

d.) The Emperor is naked. Enough of this nonsense. I hereby impose a new literacy test on anyone desiring to vote for the next president of the United States. If you can't take the time to inform yourself about the respective candidates' positions, including the candidates for vice president, by READING some detailed, thoughtful, unadulterated analysis, you can't vote. If you insist on voting anyway, I will call you an idiot to your face. I've already implemented this policy and my phone has rung less often this past week.

I refuse to risk my future and my family's future on the mood swing of an uninformed electorate. If you qualify to vote under my proclaimed standard, you don't have to agree with me. You don't have to vote for the candidates I support. We live in a democracy and I'll gladly risk my future and my family's future on the decisions of an
informed electorate (however misguided). We now find ourselves in a situation where Republicans insist that Senator Obama lacks substance and depends entirely on style while they promote the candidacy of Governor Palin, who depends entirely on style and is sequestered from demonstrating any meaningful substance. It's time to crawl back through the looking glass.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. You may now vote.

1 comment:

marvin said...

Great post.
I wish I could say that the American public deserves who they vote for, but the people I love live here, and they are getting hurt by the ignorance of the average American voter. Ignorance brought on not only by their own laziness, but the laziness of the press. Case in point, this morning (9/9) Jessica Yellin on CNN's American Morning supposedly was reporting on the "exaggerated" claims made by Palin on her record. After reporting in a lackluster and muddied sort of way that some of what the VP candidate is claiming is incorrect, Jessica went on to end her report with a clear, loud and emphasized litany of talking points that the GOP provided her. So instead of truly vetting the candidate she left uniformed viewers with the incorrect conclusion that Palin is, in fact, the "reforming maverick," she claims to be. We can't force the press to do their job, but we can live up to our responsibility of entering the voting booth with at least a basic idea of what the facts are. Obviously as a people we are not ready to expend the mental energy to do so, so maybe a literacy test would not be such a far fetched idea at all. We all need to pass a test demonstrating basic driving knowledge before we get a license.
Isn't knowing the facts before we vote as important as knowing how to make a U-turn?