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Omdahl: Civics Test a ‘Feel Good’ Measure

By Staff | Mar 8, 2016

“I don’t get caught up in these feel good bills,” explained Sen. David Hogue of Minot as he and three others withstood the rush of the North Dakota Senate to pass legislation requiring students to pass a minimal civics test before graduation. A dozen other states have adopted similar legislation.

The senator was right in labeling the legislation as “feel-good” because a collection of facts will not do much to improve the understanding of the electorate.

Joining Senator Hogue in dissent was Sen. Connie Triplett of Grand Forks, who proposed including language that would require students to be exposed to “the governmental and historical concepts embodied in the civics test.”

The senator was saying that facts do not necessarily result understanding and what is needed in today’s electorate is understanding.

In recent months, we have seen electoral ignorance of the governmental processes demonstrated by gun radicals and presidential candidates.

When Barack Obama was elected, the owners of gun arsenals thought he would take away their weapons and rushed to gun dealers to buy more and more weapons and more and more ammunition.

If they had any understanding of the legislative processes, they would know that presidents by themselves are unable to confiscate or diminish gun ownership. It would take Congress and a massive consensus in the public to pass restrictive legislation.

Here we have a president who has favored more gun regulation for eight years and has made no progress in that direction. In fact, American citizens are more heavily armed today than any time in history. That ought to tell us something about the power of the president.

The presidential campaigns are giving us another clear manifestation of voter ignorance as supporters flock to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Trump is winning supporters by telling them that he is going to build a wall on the Mexican border, throw out all of the illegal immigrants, abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, bring jobs back from China, make Social Security optional, increased taxes on the wealthy, bomb oil fields in Iraq, and zero out corporate income taxes.

If Donald Trump gets elected, he will do none of these things. Everything he talks about doing would be vetoed by one or both houses of Congress and/or fail to pass muster in the Supreme Court. Edicts don’t work in the United States.

To take jobs back from China, he would have to fight all of the businesses that profit from sending jobs to China and all of the customers who want cheaper merchandise.

To build his wall along the border, he would need a majority in both houses of Congress to appropriate the money. And after fighting the Republican establishment for the presidency, he will find that the Republican Congress will be in no mood to build his wall or do anything else he proposes.

All of these limitations apply to Bernie Sanders as well. Bernie is promising all sorts of bold changes, e.g. single payer insurance, free colleges, taxing the wealthy, raising the estate tax, regulating guns, getting rid of ISIS, reforming immigration, etc. etc.

If elected, Bernie’s proposals will arrive in the Republican Congress dead in the water. They are unachievable in the present political climate.

Trump and Sanders supporters have one thing in common: Neither group has a clear understanding about getting change in the American status quo political system. Nothing is simple or easy. To believe otherwise is ignorance.

Doing well on a “feel good” civic test may be a step in the right direction but it will need to be supplemented by the ability to think critically. That wasn’t in the bill.

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