In his speech Thursday to attendees, former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo invoked the loaded pre-civil rights era buzzword, saying that President Barack Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country."
Southern states used literacy tests as part of an effort to deny suffrage to African American voters prior to Johnson-era civil rights laws.
"Prior to passage of the federal Voting Rights Act in 1965, Southern (and some Western) states maintained elaborate voter registration procedures whose primary purpose was to deny the vote to those who were not white," a website for civil rights veterans explains. "In the South, this process was often called the 'literacy test.' In fact, it was much more than a simple test, it was an entire complex system devoted to denying African-Americans (and in some regions, Latinos) the right to vote."
Gosh, and sure is unfair to paint any of these Tea Baggers as racist, isn't it?
Among the questions on one of those old Alabama literacy tests [PDF], as highlighted in Byrne coverage, are these questions which we wonder if Tancredo himself would be able to answer (not that it would matter, because he's white):
"If a president does not wish to sign a bill, how many days is he allowed in which to return it to Congress for consideration?"
"If the United States wishes to purchase land for an arsenal and have exclusive legislative authority over it, consent is required from [fill in the blank]."
After it was revealed that the sponsor of the "National Tea Party Convention" in Nashville, TN, was a for-profit corporation charging some $500 for admission, previously confirmed Tea Bag speakers Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) dropped out.
None of that was a problem for Tancredo, apparently. Nor for Sarah Palin (R-FOX), who is still scheduled to be the weekend's keynoter for a reported speaking fee of $100,000. Perhaps she'll up Tancredo's racist ante and call for a repeal of that pesky 13th Amendment.
And speaking of literacy, below the fold is a photo of TeaParty.org founder Dale Robertson, taken at a Tea Bagger event in February of 2009. Plenty of literacy, no racism there...