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Why not have a literacy test for voting?

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Tom Tancredo, former congressman and presidential candidate, is now a charter member of the “how dare he?!” club. My stars, could it have been something he said?

Indeed it was. The hang ‘em high posse of the knee-jerk liberal wing of the American body politic has charged, tried and convicted Tancredo for using the dreaded “l” word. And the “l” word in this case is – OH THE HORROR! THE HORROR! – well, literacy.

Remember when literacy was considered a good thing? Not these days. Tancredo had the bad judgment to use literacy with the word “test” behind it. He tacked on the word “civics” in front of it.

To be more specific, Tancredo said this in a keynote address he delivered to the first National Tea Party Convention held recently in Nashville.

“We do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote. People who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House,” Tancredo said.

The “socialist ideologue” in question would be President Obama. This induced in the nation’s lefties spastic hissy fits. They rounded up the hang ‘em high posse and tried to drape the old racism rope around Tancredo’s neck.

There’s just one problem with the charge of racism: It’s been so abused and overused these days that it’s almost meaningless. Charges of racism simply won’t fly. That dog don’t bark. That gun don’t shoot.

And I’m sure there are a mess of other metaphors I can use to describe how utterly useless the charge of racism is. And there’s another problem that Tancredo’s critics have.

The man is absolutely right.

Is it asking too much that Americans know just a smidgen about how their government is run before they head into the ballot box to cast their votes?

Would knowing how many members there are in the U.S. Senate, how many are in the House of Representatives and what the three branches of government are possibly do them any harm?

Tancredo erred when he used the term “literacy test.” The lefties howled about how literacy tests were, for decades, used by Southern racists to keep blacks from voting. That’s true, but so is this: The abuse of a good idea doesn’t mean the idea isn’t good.

And literacy tests are a good idea. Quick, anybody want to explain the upside of having illiterate people vote? There’s a reason why the United States of America is a republic and not a democracy.

In a democracy, any Tom, Dick or Harry can vote. What makes a republic different is that only a select body of citizens entitled to vote can do so to select their representatives. That means certain criteria can be established to determine who can and cannot vote.

One of those criteria is age, which we already use. Property ownership used to be a criterion, but no longer is. Literacy tests used to be a criterion, until the 1965 Voting Rights Act all but outlawed the practice.

It may be time to bring them back. Tancredo’s lefty critics wouldn’t dare admit it, because they really don’t want it to be so, but America is a much less racist society than it was in 1965.

And with the billions that the federal government has poured into public education since 1965, it seems only reasonable to demand, as a return on our investment, an informed electorate.

One of the ways to get that informed electorate is having potential voters display some knowledge of civics. And since the word “literacy” bugs the left so much, I have a suggestion.

Make the test oral.

Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.