Doubling down on poll tests

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich delivered quite a provocative speech last week — before his “Meet the Press” troubles — which featured some racially-tinged language. Most notably, the disgraced former House Speaker raised the specter of Jim Crow-style poll tests, arguing that voters “should have to learn American history” in order to participate in elections.

This bizarre remark sparked widespread rebukes, including unexpected criticism from Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), one of Congress’ most right-wing members.

ThinkProgress reports that Gingrich doubled down on this yesterday at an event in Iowa.

If you can’t make out the audio, Gingrich said, “[Immigrants] need to pass a test of American history. And candidly, it wouldn’t be bad to have a test like that for young Americans before they start voting.”

And in a reminder of just how far gone Iowa’s GOP really is, note that Gingrich’s audience applauded the idea rather enthusiastically.

It’s not clear who, exactly, Gingrich would count as “young,” and therefore deserving of a poll test, but I suspect officials in the Gingrich administration would simply identify which age group is most likely to vote Democratic, and go from there.

As for who would create the test and what Americans would be forced to answer, I’m sure President Gingrich would gladly help write up some questions. (I’ll assume there would be no historical questions related to Jim Crow, because Newt probably wouldn’t appreciate the irony.)

I’m also curious about logistics of Gingrich’s little idea. Would “young” Americans have to take a test at the polling station, or would they have to have to get some kind of voting license in advance of the elections — on par with passing a driving test?

The key takeaway, of course, is that Gingrich knew he’d pushed his luck on this last week and got an angry response, so it’s interesting to see him doubling down. Maybe Gingrich hopes getting criticism over segregationist tactics will help distract from the other areas of criticism?