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 12 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, groupthink 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 combat global warming.
Service learning, in which students volunteer in the community, is another civics substitute. This may make students feel good about themselves, but it 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.