Former Representative Tom Tancredo kicked off the tea party convention in Nashville today with an offensive speech in which he said President Obama was elected by “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English” because “we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”
People For the American Way Foundation President Michael B. Keegan issued the following statement in response:
"Rep. Tom Tancredo’s deeply offensive remarks embodied the worst of today’s Republican Party, calling President Obama a ‘socialist ideologue,’ raving about the threat of immigration and multiculturalism, and longing for those good old days when literacy tests and other obstacles to the ballot were used to keep the ‘wrong’ people from voting. He would be nothing more than a bad joke if he did not represent a corrosive spirit that is far too prevalent in our politics today.
"Too many conservative and Republican politicians, pundits, and political strategists have been eager to inflame racial and ethnic resentments for short-term political gain. And far too many have followed Tancredo’s path of demonizing immigrants in ways that dishonor our nation’s history and heritage.
"Tancredo and the spirit of the ‘tea party’ groups that shouted down discussion of health care reform are destructive to civility and democracy. As President Obama said this week, it is possible to disagree strongly on policies and still engage in civil, respectful debate. But that’s not the path that GOP leaders, right-wing pundits, and behind-the-scenes backers of the tea party crowd have chosen.
"Tough economic times can unfortunately provide fertile ground for irresponsible right-wing demagogues posing as main-street populists. But their path is a betrayal of our nation’s highest ideals and the best values of its people.
"We believe that most Americans will in the end reject this kind of ugly scapegoating and the political leaders who embrace it. Tom Tancredo’s speech today reminds us that there were good reasons his presidential campaign went nowhere."