Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is now comparing the 2012 election to the 1860 race, and calling President Obama “the most successful food stamp president in modern American history.” Ta-Nehisi Coates takes note of the not-so-subtle dog whistle.

Matt Yglesias goes a step further, noting another line from the same Gingrich speech:

“You know, folks often talk about immigration. I always say that to become an American citizen, immigrants ought to have to learn American history. 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.”

Gingrich may not realize this, but in much of the country, we already had tests like these. They were called “poll tests.”

They were a standard Jim Crow measure of segregationists.

Gingrich’s comments came the same day as one of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Ron Paul, explained his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Jim Crow era is gone, but it’s not forgotten.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.