If you think it was ludicrous to watch the Washington Post cook up a 5,000-word in-kind contribution to the Obama 2012 campaign – painting Mitt Romney as one of the primordial “anti-gay bullies,” based on allegations stemming from his high school days fifty years ago – you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Over the weekend, the Post dipped back another century to wring its hands about the troubled history of Mormonism in Arkansas:
On the wildflower-studded slopes of the Ozarks, where memories run long and family ties run thick, a little-known and long-ago chapter of history still simmers.
On Sept. 11, 1857, a wagon train from this part of Arkansas met with a gruesome fate in Utah, where most of the travelers were slaughtered by a Mormon militia in an episode known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Hundreds of the victims’ descendants still populate these hills and commemorate the killings, which they have come to call “the first 9/11.”
Many of the locals grew up hearing denunciations of Mormonism from the pulpit on Sundays, and tales of the massacre from older relatives who considered Mormons “evil.”
“There have been Fancher family reunions for 150 years, and the massacre comes up at every one of them,” said Scott Fancher, 58, who traces his lineage back to 26 members of the wagon train, which was known as the Fancher-Baker party. “The more whiskey we drunk, the more resentful we got.”
How is Mitt Romney responsible for any of this? Well, as you may have learned from earlier media salvos in the War On Mormons, anyone associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is presumptively accountable for every moment of its history. This is quite different from the way membership in other religious institutions is handled… for example, Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ.
The mere mention of Wright’s teachings is strictly forbidden, as is any discussion of even the most recent events, such as Wright saying that he was offered a bribe to shut up during Obama’s first presidential campaign. In contrast, speculation on the political liabilities of Mormonism is heartily encouraged, even if it involves events that predate the marriage license of Elizabeth Warren’s non-Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother.
For maximum deniability purposes, it’s best if War On Mormons salvos are disguised as things other people are allegedly saying. Those “tolerant” liberal reporters are only documenting outbursts of incipient anti-Mormonism from the benighted, intolerant heartland! More from the Post:
There aren’t many places in America more likely to be suspicious of Mormonism — and potentially more problematic for Mitt Romney, who is seeking to become the country’s first Mormon president. Not only do many here retain a personal antipathy toward the religion and its followers, but they also tend to be Christian evangelicals, many of whom view Mormonism as a cult.
And yet, there is scant evidence that Romney’s religion is making much difference in how voters here are thinking about the presidential election and whether they are willing to back the former Massachusetts governor.
“I think the situation right now is more anti-Obama than any other situation,” said Dave Hoover, chairman of the Carroll County Republicans.
(Emphasis mine.) Get that? The Post story explicitly concedes it’s a non-story… but they ran with it anyway, quoting some polling data that supposedly shows Americans are skeptical of the Mormon faith, before once again conceding that it’s not having much of an effect on the election:
It is impossible to know how Romney’s faith will play out in the November election. Polls point to a persistent skepticism about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and not just among evangelical Christians. Thirty-five percent of Americans in a Bloomberg News poll in March said they had an unfavorable view of the church, while 29 percent had a favorable view.
But it may not have a major impact on their vote: Eight out of 10 Republicans and Democrats said Romney’s faith was not a major reason to support or oppose him, according to an April Washington Post-ABC News poll. And a recent study by the Brookings Institution found that Romney’s religion may actually increase his support from conservative voters, including white evangelicals.
Indeed, many here say their political values will be more important to their vote than religion or history. A rural and deeply religious community, many cite the cultural issues of abortion and gun rights as foremost on their minds. The weak economy has deepened their dislike of President Obama, who received less than 40 percent of the vote in Arkansas in 2008.
But then they shrug, reassure themselves that “Romney’s candidacy has prompted some soul-searching in this area,” and plow ahead with their non-story for another 800 words!
Say, I wonder how well the teachings of Barack Obama’s old church would fare in a poll of those “skeptical” American voters? But we’re not going to get polls like that. Instead, we’ll get more stories about the creeping anti-Mormon prejudice that media mavens and their pals in the Obama campaign don’t hold themselves – perish the thought! – but are absolutely certain must be lurking in the nooks and crannies of your redneck heart.