We the Ignorant

Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us
against these evils [of monarchial government]. Thomas Jefferson

It’s time someone had the guts to say it and my friend Tom Tancredo did just that at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville.   The problems in this country will never be solved by registering more voters.  Our problems will be solved by registering more informed voters.

By that I’m not suggesting, nor was he, that voting should be limited to those who hold Ph.D.’s or any degree of higher education.  However, voters should be able to demonstrate some understanding and appreciation of our system of government and how it was designed to work before they can register to vote.   At the very least, we should require new registrants to pass a  basic civics test, the kind given to immigrants seeking to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

An ignorant electorate cannot remain free.  That was the driving principle behind Jefferson’s push for public education.    In 1787, Jefferson lamented to John Adams,  “It is a misfortune that (our countrymen) do not sufficiently know the value of their constitution, and how much happier they are rendered by them, than any other people on earth by the governments under which they live.”

It would have been unthinkable to Jefferson and his colleagues that we would spend a small fortune on each and every citizen in order to provide twelve years of public education only to graduate political ignoramuses.   It is a sad fact that only about 3 percent of today’s graduating high school seniors are able to explain our political system’s simple checks on presidential power and only half of all of our citizens, 25 years or older, can name our three branches of government.

The downward spiral toward civic illiteracy began when we allowed high school government classes, deemed too boring by the education elite, to be replaced by social studies.  Instead of teaching our young people about their government, today’s social studies mixes sociology and psychology with liberal activism, guilt, group-think and a desire to become citizens of the world. Instead of teaching students how a bill becomes a law and how to hold their elected representatives accountable students learn the virtues of multiculturalism and how to combating global warming.

Service learning, in which students volunteer in the community, is another civics substitute.  This  may make students feel good about themselves but leaves them devoid of any knowledge of the political process.

It is ironic that civics was taken out of the classroom about the time 18-year-olds were given the right to vote.  This produced a steady decline in voting by young adults along with a growing skepticism and outright distrust of the political process.

The trend began to change in 2004, with an increase in the participation of young voters with at least some college education.   “Rock the Vote” used  music, popular culture, and new technologies to make voting the “hip” thing to do,  however, not without controversy.  The supposedly nonpartisan group used left-wing scare tactics and skewed ads to encourage young people to register and vote in record numbers.    .

One can only imagine how our founders would feel if they could see our attempts to chase people down, who have demonstrated no interest in the political process, in order to get them to register to vote.  That is what was accomplished when Congress passed the motor-voter bill which was signed into law by President Clinton.   Motor-voter required that anyone applying for a driver’s license be offered a voter registration form.   As a result, we put more politically ignorant people on our voting roles and we have continued to add more each and every year.

It would be unthinkable to give someone a license to drive an automobile without first requiring the applicant to pass a basic driving test.  The results would be disastrous.    Likewise, it is equally disastrous to register people to vote without making sure they understand the political rules of the road and are otherwise qualified.

Liberals will not be happy until everyone who can fog a mirror is registered to vote.  Nevertheless, there should be some requirements that could be met by anyone with a desire to take part in the civic process.

Liberals want gun owners to pass a competency test before they can own a firearm, yet will not support such a test when it comes to operating a voting machine.

Unfortunately, for many in this country, voting is a lot like Russian roulette or shooting darts, blindfolded.

The right to vote is not absolute.  If it were, we would be registering citizens at birth.  The right to vote should be based on basic civic literacy, nothing more, nothing less.

22 thoughts on “We the Ignorant

  1. I find your columns very interesting thank you for writing them. I can think of only one criticism to such a test. Who would be the one to write it? Frankly I’d be very afraid of a test written and administered by an administration with a socialist or communist agenda.

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  2. Amen and Amen!!! About the time I entered high school is when the school system in Florida changed from Civics to social studies. I was in constant hot water, with more than five visits to the principal’s office for being disruptive by questioning some of the nonsense that was spewing from our atheist, un-American teacher.
    I am a staunch defender of our Constitution not as a “living document” but rather as our Founding Father’s meant it to be.
    You hit this one out of the park; way to go!

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  3. A person who is dependent on the government for their income has a conflict of interest. Anyone who derives, say, more that 50% of their income from the government should not be eligible to vote. I have no idea, though, how you would implement this.

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  4. I agree 100%, with one addition. Since all elections have become referendums on how to spend other peoples’ money: prove you actually paid income (not SS or Medicare) tax, or you do not get to vote. Can you even imagine how the political landscape would change?

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  5. I remember what a privilege I thought it was when I registered to vote. It was like a patriotic right of passage. I was so proud. Now people are chased down to register…what a sad, sad commentary on the mindset of these so called Americans.

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  6. We need to restrict voting even further. We need literacy tests and we also should only allow property owners to vote, we also need poll taxes. States should once again decide for themselves who can vote.
    One big thing, look at the legislation, when did the big, “nurturing”, “mothering” government come into being? It was after women were allowed to vote. Just look at how much debt has been run up since 1920, and then since 1965 when the Voting Rights Act allowed many poor, unpropertied people to vote in force. Women as a whole will never really be for small government for one main reason, most of them want subsidies to “take care” of their kids, if only as a “last” resort, but mostly as a first resort, especially minority women.
    The cat will never be put back in the bag. We will never get these restrictions again. The nation will simply be destroyed.
    Don’t take my word for it though, just keep watching the news and you will see democracy at work. The founders did not set up a democracy. When you allow unpropertied, economically illiterate people to vote to take the property of the propertied, that is the end of a great nation.

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  7. Unfortunately your own evidence doesnt support your conclusions. In 1971 the voting age became 18, and then about 2004 and rock the vote. But since then there have been 6 Republican Presidential terms (ignoring Fords of course) and 4 Democratic terms. So wouldnt Liberals and their efforts to let anyone vote mean there would be more Democratic presidents. Who won in 2004 again?
    Then theres the fact that, other than the presidential election years, voter turnout is at record lows. So even though more people are registered, they still dont make it to the polls.

    I will agree with you about people in the country are idiots and public schools are terrible, but your stretching facts to fit a conclusion you had already decided upon. And that conclusion was some desperate attempt to explain 2008 loss. Too bad like I said your own evidence doesnt support that.

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  8. I agree with your reasoning behind wanted to have a test. However it would open a can of worms in which could leave us worse off than before.

    I also wanted to address another person who left a comment. Why should only property owners be allowed to vote? When I was renting a home I still paid income, vehicle, sales, etc taxes. The property tax for the property I was renting was likely included in the cost of the rent. I was also registered with selective service even though I served my country and was still subject to a draft. As a renter I still have rights and having worn a military uniform should still be able to vote. Also I have voted in every election since my eigtheenth birthday even though when I joined the US Army I was not eligible to vote as I was only 17 at the time. Everytime I voted I looked for the more conservative of the candidates to vote for.

    You might want to consider the fact that as a newly enlisted private in 1988 I only made 620 dollars a month and could not afford to buy a home. To suggest that I should not have been able to vote even though I was prepared to give my life for my country is an insult.

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  9. Ms. Chastain,
    I am a white, male, Independent informed voter who has voted in every single election, state and federal, since 1968.

    Although I agree in principle to what you said in your column, you must realize that literacy tests (along with poll taxes) are how we in the South prevented blacks from voting before > those measures were declared illegal and unconstitutional. I think it would be impossible at this point to reinstate them.

    Regards,

    Harold Harmon
    Senior Citizen
    Decatur, GA

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  10. Rick:
    Different states could make different policy on voting. You would not be forced to live in a state where only property owners could vote. I am not suggesting that the Feds set any policy on who can vote, the states would. It should be this way. I agree with the Founding Fathers on this issue. Did they insult you also? They really risked their necks and they believed that only property owners should vote.
    Why did you play the military card? I am not a neocon who loves militarism, so that one didn’t phase me too much. People haven’t given their lives “for their country” since WW2. Since then we have just had wars fought for the profits of the military industrial complex. War is the health of the state.

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  11. Jane,

    It is a very good idea to require voters to pass a test on civic literacy before they can vote, however, in all likelihood it will never happen. Liberals are street-smart, and they know that the more informed an electorate is the less likely they will vote for liberals. The only wars liberals know how to win are culture wars, but they are very formidable in those kind of wars. Liberals knew in the early 1970s that a big key to them permanently retaining their power was to dumb down students with classes such as social studies and to indoctrinate them. A lot of other evil happened in the United States in the early 1970s as well such as Roe v. Wade, and a Republican president forced to resign from office. If Ronald Reagan hadn’t come along as president in the 1980s, then the country would already be finished. Unfortunately, the liberals regained power in all three branches of government from 2006-2008, and things have been hanging by a thread, but America still has a pulse. The elections in 2010 and 2012 will determine if America continues to have a future or not.

    Clay

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  12. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that a better qualifier than property ownership is: Did you actually PAY income tax (not SS or medicare)? If not, no vote. Our major problems stem from the fact that people who are not paying into the system are determining how the money is spent (usually on programs that, unproportionally, benefit them)…and politicians are buying their votes with our tax dollars.

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  13. Johnny: I have to disagree that Americans haven’t risked their life for their country. There was the rescue attempt that failed for the hostages in Iran. Then you have the invasion of Grenada in which approx 800 American Medical students were rescued. Lets not forget the rescue of the crew of that ship that had been hijacked not too long ago by Navy Seals. Weren’t those Americans? Was that for profit? I guess we shouldn’t be going after Al-Qaeda after they attacked us and killed over 3000 people.

    I don’t agree with every war, however there are times when we need to stand up to those that attack us or our citizens.

    Could you also please cite a source for our Founding Fathers where they believed only property owners should vote? As far as playing the military card as you call it…I just think that if one is willing to serve their country they should have a voice in how things are done. Is that so bad? Most soldiers, sailors, or Marines don’t own property. Would you dent them the right to vote?

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  14. Great points! Amen! Have you seen “1948 Cartoon?” If not, Google it and you will be amazed at how contemporary its message is. Just this week we heard a remark on the radio that basically equated capitalism with communism. Does anybody really know; does anybody really care? Sadly, educating an electorate that wants to remain ignorant is an uphill battle. It’s like J.D. Hayworth saying he believes Obama was born in Hawaii. Case closed. What? His opinion is as good as hard facts? That’s what we hear even from the judge’s bench. The fact that Obama was elected proves he is eligible? What? What’s the difference between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells? Aren’t they the same? Doesn’t abortion just remove tissue? Isn’t that tissue part of the woman’s body? Don’t GLBTs have true love for each other? What’s wrong with them being married? Wasn’t Obama’s running mate Sarah Palin?

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  15. Jane:

    I too believe that a minimum standard should be met by every individual before being allowed to impose their world views on the public by casting a vote in this country whether it be Federal or State vote on any issue.

    My standard would begin with allowing a vote only to those who rise above the receipt of any form of entitlement from the State or Federal Government to include those on the payroll for the government.  There will be no way to curtail the endless supply of money from the tax paying public to those who either cannot or will not elevate themselves above the insistence on their entitlements.  We are rapidly approaching a point at which the views of the tax paying public will no longer be a consideration in the business of governing this nation.

    It would be interesting to see what a voter eligibility map might look like if the amount of government subsidy was subtracted from the government support, tax income, across the nation. If this method of voter eligibility were instituted as a measure of the need for representation in the House of Representatives as opposed to a general census of the population, I wonder how many fewer representatives would be in office as a result.  I suspect the representation of heavily populated areas could be seriously diminished and that in favor of those on whose backs the burden of entitlement actually rests.

    I would be all for the Civics knowledge on top of something like the above as a measure to assure that we are not being steered by those who would seemingly feel more at home in China, Russia or some other socialist environment.

    Thank you for your service to your readers.

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  16. Jane,
    While I agree it’s sad and appalling most natural-born U.S. citizens don’t have a grasp on government, it’s interesting your solution is a restriction of participation in the very system you you want people to be knowledgeable of. A basic civic literacy test will not educate people of the issues being voted on, therefore blind party-line voting will still be the norm. The responses listed here are an indication to the entitlement people feel in imposing laws and taking away rights based on personal opinion and speculation. Viewpoints like this perpetuate problems, not solutions.

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  17. The problem with this is – who will create and grade the test? The NEA? Kevin Jennings? Or do you even think for an instant that the Federal Government would allow anyone else to touch something like this? And if the outcome STILL did not comply with their wishes, how long do you think it would take the stench of evil in the Federal courts to invalidate the results?

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  18. Educated people think the uneducated (i.e., differently educated) should not vote. Republicans think Democrats shouldn’t vote (due to having opinions that show a lack of knowledge), Democrats feel the same about Republicans.

    Representative Democracy has a serious defect. It depends on a very large number of people choosing someone they don’t know except as a result of a sales campaign, and then allowing the chosen person to make decisions for everyone. The idea is silly.

    Democracy is flawed, but less so. It allows people to make decisions on everything — not just on who to vote for.

    However, a student of Marxism would know that it is universal suffrage that Marx counted on to bring about public ownership of the means of production and public education (among other things) — so if the hope is a movement away from socialism, it is unlikely that requiring a (government-supplied/required) education would succeed. That is what we have now.

    Finally, knowing what the three branches of government are — or about the theoretical checks and balances — or how a bill, theoretically becomes a law — would not really make individuals more skillful at choosing others to represent them.

    So, the proposed solution sounds good — but it is not practical, would not work as intended, and in the end is only a theoretical solution to a problem that is endemic to democracy.

    As Winston Churchill once observed, a five-minute conversation with the average voter is the best argument against democracy. Plato would have agreed.

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