Dear Yankee Pundits: I Apologize

Dear Yankee Pundits (And you know who y’all are), Please accept my humble apologies. I was wrong and will make a real apology. A real apology restates the offense without any euphemisms or diminishing comments or excuses. Here is my offense. A mere two days ago, in“Romney’s Southern Problem: The “M” Word”, I wrote this:

I can see Romney winning Iowa or at least finishing second in Iowa. He should win his neighboring state of New Hampshire; anything else would be a major upset. As for South Carolina – listen to me, well-meaning Yankee pundits – it’s not going to happen. It’s the “M” word.
What? “Mormon”? No, get real; you guys are far too quick to project your prejudices on others. There are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints all through the South and while they may not be ultra-active in politics, they are viewed as being good people and good neighbors. They are walking examples of the “family values” that the Republican Party endorses so heartily. Mitt Romney’s “M” word problem is Massachusetts.

I still stand by the vast majority of that statement: Romney’s projected finishes and the likelihood that non-Southerners project bizarre things upon us with little or no evidence and that Mitt Romney’s real problems are the ramifications of his successful Massachusetts elections. I can no longer honestly say; however, that Governor Romney’s religion is not an issue in the South.

A real apology also states why the statement or action was wrong. In this case, my friend and a fine writer, Jason Pye made a post on Peach Pundit entitled, “Judy Manning is ‘afraid’ of Mormons”this morning. The content of Jason’s piece means I cannot continue to issue a blanket denial that religion is not an issue in the South.

Jason’s piece was based upon this story in the Marietta Daily Journal, “Lawmakers sound off on ’12 hopefuls“. You see, Judy Manning is an elected Georgia state representative from Marietta, the county seat of Cobb County. She was interviewed because she has endorsed former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Before I go farther down this road, let me add that you cannot blame Gingrich for Manning’s statements. That’s only one click off of judging Romney solely on his personal religious beliefs.

I don’t know Representative Manning. She may well be a skilled lawmaker and a wonderful person, but she needs to think before she speaks. Perhaps she really fears members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. If she does, perhaps she deserves our sympathy.

Manning is no political neophyte. She is a 12-year veteran of the state legislature and holds an undergraduate degree in education and a graduate degree in business. Her legislative profile describes her as “a devout Presbyterian” and I point that out because if I don’t some people will make assumptions and attribute the statement to a Southern Baptist. It wasn’t us, okay?

I figure if one of our elected officials is responsible for that statement then I can’t blame it on “some crank” and so I might as well own up to it. I refer to myself: Ken Carroll’s First Law of Politics: Never Defend the Indefensible.

The JudyManning.com website has been suspended, though I do not know when that happened. I am hoping that Representative Manning has a credible explanation for her statement and whether she does or not, I hope she issues an honest apology. It was a dumb thing to say. Period.

Mitt Romney is neither my first nor second choice for the GOP nomination. I have concerns with his commitment to conservative beliefs and that he will not aggressively move to reduce the size and the scope of the federal government. Would I eliminate him from consideration because he is a Mormon? No, because to do so would be stupid.

The saddest thing is that I thought we were better than this. I really did.

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8 comments

  1. Dave Bearse says:

    It shouldn’t have taken a column about Manning to point that out. A Pew Research Center poll in June reported 34 percent of white evangelicals said they would not vote for a Mormon candidate, and a quarter of all Americans said they were less likely to do so. The states with the highest fractions of evangelicals are the deep South (SC west to LS, excluding FL) so it’s been established that Mormons candidates are disadvantaged in the South.

    Georgia has a history of crank politicians on both sides of the aisle from McKinney to Broun. Don’t take it personal. There’s no need you use the pronoun “we” to lump yourself in with the ignorant.

  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “The JudyManning.com website has been suspended, though I do not know when that happened.”

    I must admit that I was not aware that there was a “JudyManning.com website” to suspend as I didn’t know that she was that key of a political figure in Georgia or Cobb County politics.

    “I am hoping that Representative Manning has a credible explanation for her statement and whether she does or not, I hope she issues an honest apology. It was a dumb thing to say. Period.”

    I doubt that Rep. Manning has a credible explanation for her statement as she was just pandering to the fears of the GOP’s religiously conservative base in hopes of picking up a few extra votes on Gingrich’s behalf in a state where he should already have a pretty solid amount of support because of his history as a resident and Representative for Georgia in Congress.

    Though it might have been a dumb thing to say, to Rep. Manning’s credit, it appears that she might have telling the truth of how she personally feels about Mormons. Though seeing Gingrich’s track record of making ‘ill-advised’ statements during the course of his campaign and seeing that Manning is a resident representative of Cobb County, a community with a history of ultraconservative politics, in the Georgia General Assembly, a legislative branch that has seemed to almost run completely off-the-tracks at times in recent years, unfortunately, I can’t say that I am necessarily shocked that such comments would be made by a person in her position.

    Though I can say that it is somewhat heartening that comments that many may say are prime examples of religious bigotry are not being tolerated by the public, even in as red of a county as Cobb in as red of a state as Georgia during a Republican Primary.

    I guess one might be able to say that we have come a long way when such open religious bigotry is being roundly rejected by the public.

  3. bowersville says:

    I used my search engine, preview feature, cache access and read JudyManning.com by searching each table of contents entry. After reading what I believe to be the entire content it appears the website was steadily being updated leading up to this legislative session. The website had typical content that one would expect: survey questions, past legislative accomplishments, Judy Manning thataboys from various political and community leaders, goals etc. The last update, if I recall correctly, was listed as it appeared on Dec. 20th, 2011.

    From what I read I would opine that Rep. Manning is a Social Conservative first and what I call a compassionate conservative as she has taken up interests in her community and children’s causes. Rep. Manning has been recognized by quite a few organizations and individuals for her service to her community. I didn’t find any thing on her website that would lead one to question Rep. Manning’s character or affiliations.

    In her bio she explains that one of the highlights of her life was attending a prayer breakfast at the Reagan White house and she mentions her church affiliation. I would say Rep. Manning is a very religious person and takes her faith to heart. Most likely Judy Manning was voicing her religious beliefs and had no idea the public impact her statements would cause.

    I want to believe Rep. Manning suspended her website to avoid any adverse publicity associated with her comments being directed towards names and organizations listed at JudyManning.com.

  4. saltycracker says:

    Apparently she thinks this is what her Cobb constituents want to hear.
    You have to keep some hope that these Southerners set her straight.
    And wish the reaction was as strong on politician’s financial misdeeds.

  5. Three Jack says:

    Judy expressed the sentiments of many southern baptists/Gospel GOPers. She left out the usual diatribe about Mormons being a cult…guess she needs remedial training on how to be a proper religious bigot.

    The GOP will forever suffer as long as folks like Judy are in leadership positions spewing ignorant thoughts based on their perception of religion.

    • ZazaPachulia says:

      Scared or not, at least non-Presbyterians can visit Presbyterian houses of worship and attend Presbyterian marriages. There are lots of head-scratching elements to the Mormon religion from the outsider’s perspective. I totally understand how it makes some people uncomfortable (and why some of those people say stupid things to newspaper reporters). The whole “non-Mormons are forbidden to enter temples” bit tends to raise some red flags with some people. Lots of mainstream protestants label Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult too, but if you are so inclined to visit a Kingdom Hall, you’re not going to get turned away at the door.

      That being said, Mormonism beliefs and tenants dovetail extremely well with what a lot of run of the mill conservatives believe about the role of the family, the role of government and core economic principles. There’s a pretty interesting article from October’s Harper’s that talks about how Mormon tenants have shaped conservative American economic concepts. It even shows how the ‘prosperity gospel’ teachings of mega-pastors like Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar borrow directly from Mormon theology. If you have a minute, check it out.

      http://harpers.org/archive/2011/10/0083637

      I tend to prefer the other longshot Mormon to Mitt, because even though Huntsman gets labeled as the moderate, Mitt stands firmly to his left on most of the issues that matter to me. You are right, Ken, Massachusetts should be the bigger issue in the South. But, I’m not sure that it is.

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