As I mentioned earlier, Newt Gingrich is hobbled by a frenetic mind and a total lack of intellectual sobriety. He grazes up and down the intellectual salad bar; rather than plucking out the choice offerings he grabs handfuls, without regard to quality. The result is often nauseating.
The Washington Examiner deserves credit for highlighting a perfect example of Gingrich’s intellectual gluttony:
As for Gingrich’s bad idea, it is especially surprising coming from a man who is one of the country’s most knowledgeable politicians, as well as a history professor. Speaking at the Georgia GOP state convention, Gingrich said: “But maybe we should also have a voting standard that says to vote, as a native-born American, you should have to learn American history. You realize how many of our high school graduates, because of the decay of the educational system, couldn’t pass a citizenship test?” Gingrich surely knows the sad truth about how literacy requirements for voting were used for many decades to prevent Southern blacks from voting. And he must also know that most states’ high school graduation requirements now include at least minimal knowledge of U.S. history.
The problem is that what is taught too often conforms to the “presentism” of liberal educators. They judge the past not by contemporaneous standards but by their own politically correct notions, dismissing as inconsequential or even primitive many of the nation’s leading figures and their debates over fundamental principles. Conflating voting requirements and the failure of schools to teach American history is just the kind of shot-from-the-hip remark for which Gingrich is famous and that could easily derail his candidacy.
I’d quibble that his candidacy already went off the rails. But the Examiner is entirely correct. In the post-Jim Crow America, does Gingrich imagine a literacy test would pass muster under the 15th Amendment? Then there’s the Voting Rights Act. Oh, that. Yes, that would be the federal legislation, amended in 1982 to provide: “No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” That might account for the complete absence of literacy tests as a condition of voting.
You’d expect this nonsense from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) or his son, Rand Paul (R-Ky.), but Gingrich fancies himself as a conservative intellectual, a historian and a political innovator. Actually, he’s ignorant about some basic historical facts and legal principles. The notion that he might be president has always seemed preposterous; actually, it’s downright scary.