Mitt won’t say it, but I will!

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As the caucuses and primaries come and go, this fact remains ever present but hardly ever spoken: Not only would Mitt be the nominee were it not for the bigotry among us, he would be winning these contests by a landslide. Where he wins by sheer force of will (and yes, money!), his competitors are playing the game a bit differently. The most recent sad example comes from Pastor O’Neal Dozier from Florida who has called on Mitt to renounce his religion. Others are more subtle and of the “He does not share my values!” variety.

Whether directed at Mitt’s money, at his religion, or at him as a person, the prejudice we are seeing is real and ugly. It is reflected in the ballot box and exit polls, and now seems to be turning into an ugly stain on the carpet of our body politic. As a people, we have thrived in our great shrine of freedom of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” so beautifully described by Abraham Lincoln and built and sustained by the wisdom of our founding fathers. Their wisdom, inspired by a loving Father in Heaven, has given us the precious freedom that enables each of us to be who we want to be as well as to work and worship, which are all fundamental to our country.

Unfortunately, we are now witnessing something that is worse than prejudice and bigotry: An effort that has already met with some success to use that bigotry as a political tool to prevent someone like Mitt from providing the sort of leadership his record shows that he can provide. I will be providing some specific and alarming examples.

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16 comments on this post.
  1. Barbara LeBey:

    As a transplant to the South, albeit, for more than 40 years, I have come to realize how much religion plays a role in the lives of most southerners. The irony is their intolerance of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their brand of Christianity. Only in the last several decades did they accept Catholicism, and that came about because of demographics and their common anti-abortion position. Mitt is facing that “bigotry,” but he will be our nominee, and these southerners will vote for him.

    Of course, there is another issue: Southerners are less educated and more blue collar, a constituency more favorable to Santorum who is using religion as his calling card and as a subtle weapon against Romney. Santorum is a ruthless man and will continue to be a thorn in Mitt’s side until he is no longer a viable candidate.

    My advice to Mitt: Continue to go hard against Obama and avoid mention of Santorum except to refute his outright lies.

  2. Kent Page:

    Mike, thank you for your objective research; unfortunately, it confirms what I too have suspected based on exit polling. If the media would talk about “the elephant in the room,” people may be able to better recognize it and change for the better. Do you have any ideas on how to encourage the media to say it as it is?

  3. Monique Manna:

    Very good write up. It is too bad there is so much hate and misunderstanding in our country. One would have thought, this being the 21st century that people would be better educated on our past mistakes. Mitt Romney has proven himself to be a better person when he takes the “high” road and does not respond to such hatefulness. The people however, cannot deny Mitt Romney of the huge dent though he put into the “deep” south. That alone is success. I have faith, although sometimes I get discouraged, that things will work out, and the American people will get to know Mitt Romney better. And perhaps, while they are getting to know him beter, they can get to know the Mormon faith a little better too. It helps to know the facts, from reliable sources. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Kevin Curtis:

    Mike, this is the most insightful article ever written about the “elephant in the room,” with regards to Mitt Romney. I’m not a Mormon, but I highly respect the faith and history of its people leading up to Romney. There are no true, quantifiable substantive negatives about Mitt Romney. I believe that anti-Romney means anti-Mormon, which in the larger issue means an embarrassing lack of tolerance and understanding about the LDS religion both in the media and along the political spectrum.

  5. CCharles:

    Very interesting piece indeed, Mike! I like the way you put together personal experience, journal entries and the findings showing how things really are.

    I find myself explaining the same thing over here in France. It’s so obvious that religion is the problem that commentators, campaigns don’t necessarily have to mention it for everyone to understand it. Indeed, without his Mormonism the race would have been over. It’s incredible that things that you’d think would be considered a solid GOP candidate’s strength in normal political situations (considerable endorsements, ability to raise money, managing experience in the private sector, etc.) are either relegated to the second plan or presented as weaknesses when it comes down to Romney. Now, this may be beyond religion but I just couldn’t believe that Gingrich hates Romney so much that he went on to air that devastatingly manipulative documentary called “When Mitt Romney Came to Town”. Michael Moore couldn’t have done better!

    The above said, I really am wondering why Romney is running so much after the Evangelicals. Why is he trying so much to get their blessing? Why doesn’t he pull a John McCain? In 2008, McCain didn’t try to win over that electorate during the primary because he knew it was a lost cause trying to battle Huckabee on that front. I mean, eventually, Romney will have to come back to the center, where elections are decided. As the polls have shown, he is already loosing ground among independents.

  6. Dianne Halloran:

    Thanks for writing about what so many of us struggle with. Not just Mormons bit many minorities. William Hardison Redd was my great-grandfather and was probably related to Wayne Redd. I would hope that our country could elect a Mormon in the same way we elected Barrack Obama. It would be a tribute to our country to have Mitt as our GOP candidate. I think he will do it and that this bigotry in our country will be lessened as we unite and vote for the man best to go up against the present problems that face our country. Again thanks for saying what so many of us fear in our hearts.

  7. Debbie Hawkes:

    Mike,

    Thank you for articulating this so well as obviously Mitt cannot without attracting increased criticism. This prejudice, evident in last night’s exit polls where a large percentage of voters state that defeating President Obama is their most important issue and that an o

  8. Debbie Hawkes:

    Mike,

    Thank you for articulating this so well as obviously Mitt cannot without attracting increased criticism. This prejudice, evident in last night’s exit polls where a large percentage of voters state that defeating President Obama is their most important issue, runs counter their expressed political objectives.

    When asking when the media will acknowledge the existence of religious bigotry and its effect on this race, we should also ask when they will address its very obvious use as a political tool by a candidate seeking our country’s highest office. It’s disturbing that such a candidate would be able to gather enough support to become remotely competitive as it would indicate that while many people may not be guilty of religious bigotry, they do not object to its existence or use by a presidential candidate.

    I have faith that Mitt can win the nomination. However, it will be a sad commentary on the state of our country if the most qualified candidate to seek the presidency in a very long time is denied that opportunity as a result of another candidate’s success capitalizing on the failure of certain citizens to look beyond their own prejudices.

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  10. MHunt:

    Your column conveys the same sense of deep sadness I felt after the southern primaries. The results weren’t about geography or politics or party – they were about religious bigotry. I’ve seen it, I’ve heard it, I’ve lived it. One need only drive through the Deep South and survey the reader boards in front of many of the churches: “Today’s Sermon: The Cult of Mormonism,” etc. Or visit the hardcore Evangelical and Southern Baptist websites and blogs: “A Vote for Romney Is A Vote for Satan,” etc. You get the picture. Fifty years ago, it was the Catholics. Today, it’s the Mormons. And, of course, the Jews have always been granted a prime seat in the pew of southern bigotry. Anti-Mormonism is a regular part of southern Sunday School curriculum– from childhood, these congregations are fully indoctrinated. Again, I’ve heard it and I’ve seen it on many occasions. Over recent years, I’ve come to sort of like Mike Huckabee, but I always thought it suspicious that, in the 2008 campaign, when the media asked to see the text of some of his Baptist minister sermons, they had all apparently been “accidentally” lost in a fire.

    It’s true that Southern racial bigotry is fading with each new generation but it is clearly not gone and has, fortunately, at least become publicly unacceptable. But religious bigotry is alive and well, particularly in the South. In fact, in pockets throughout the entire country, you will find well-developed anti-Mormonism industries – brochures, movies, books, conferences – produced, sold and shipped all over by people paid a salary to save America from that “evil cult of Joe Smith’s.” And even a superficial investigation demonstrates the following: the anti-Mormon industry is predominantly promulgated and funded by the Far Right Evangelical community – with a lot of help from the Baptists. It seems for too many that being “born again” has brought a rebirth of bigotry, this time not based on race, but on religion. And Heaven help the Muslim whose company sends him to take over the MIssissippi office…

    What is wrong with the South? How is it that the poison of prejudice so often emerges from such a beautiful part of this country? Has it never recovered from losing the war? Is it, even yet, seeking retribution? An entire culture still looking for a scapegoat? I recall a scene from the 1988 movie “MIssissippi Burning” where the FBI agent raised in the South (Gene Hackman) tells the FBI agent from the North (William Defoe) that his own father had once burned down a Black worker’s farm for no reason except that it was beginning to thrive. The father explained: “If I can’t be better than a N—–, than what am I?” (paraphrased) It seems that the bitter southern prejudice towards Mormons (and others) found most strongly in the South is just more of the same: a desperate need to feel power or superiority over someone else. And as I write these words, I still can’t begin to understand bigotry of such depth and magnitude, above all, in the context of religion.

    The great expose that has not yet been written is the story of American anti-Mormonism – particularly, Southern – sadly from so many who profess to be Christian. To denigrate a major faith so clearly based on Christian values is an embarrassment to me – as a Southerner, as an Evangelical, and as an American. This story, which is the ugly underbelly of this Presidential campaign, needs to be thoroughly investigated and told – it will be the next Pulitzer Prize winner.

    I’m going to vote for MItt Romney. He’s seriously smart, experienced, conservative, honorable, and, yes, Christian enough for me. (If he says he believes in Christ, who but God can say otherwise?) And he’ll be a great President. But I am also struck by his profound courage – he is blazing a trail to religious tolerance in this country that is long overdue. I believe in America and I’m proud of her – but I’m also ashamed of some of its chapters – the American Indians and the Blacks, to name just two. If getting Romney elected helps close another of our shameful chapters – the persecution of the Mormons – I consider it a duty and an honor to be a part of this long-overdue progress as a country and a people. And if the South – those who, even now, cannot embrace what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” – cost this country the leadership of a man like Mitt Romney, it will not be a literal assassination of a President, but the consequences to this nation will be the same.

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  13. ailes landry:

    The sad thing is that Southern racial bigotry is not fading and trust me those that hate will vote for a white anything before a black man. I am amazed by all the people that are so disturbed when people question Romney’s faith, but continue to question our current President’s faith, birth, love of country. I lived in Utah for a few years, and yes they have some strange beliefs (magic underwear, 3 heavens, becoming gods – only men of course) – of course no stranger than dinosaurs are a hoax and the earth is 6000 years old. Everyone should have the freedom to believe what they want and that is why your religious beliefs should not be a litmus test for your ability to lead all the people of all faiths – we don’t elect a national pastor, but a national leader of our people and government.

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