Yes, Myrtle Beach Rep. Alan Clemmons was wrong to respond “Amen” to a racially charged email from a constituent, but one ill-advised response doesn’t make him a racist.
Though we’ve differed with Clemmons all along in his effort to promote the idea of a voter ID law, we’ve never seen any indication of racism fueling his actions. Partisanship? Absolutely. Racism? No. We take him at his word when he says that his response was simply an easy way to quickly end a conversation with a worked up correspondent.
Notably, Clemmons’ colleagues in the House have come to his defense, including Democratic Rep. Robert Ford, a prominent civil rights activist who worked under Martin Luther King Jr. Clemmons is no bigot, Ford told the Charleston Post & Courier.
“Clemmons is not that type of person. He is a good guy.”
There’s no doubt that Clemmons’ response was misguided and in poor taste. A noncommittal “thank you for your letter” might have been more appropriate. But we understand that politicians – especially veteran politicians such as Clemmons – are conditioned to automatically agree with their constituents whenever possible in an attempt to show shared values and build future support. Such habits are hard to break, even when confronted with ugly language that deserves to be challenged.
It’s perhaps lucky for Clemmons that he faces no opposition in his bid for re-election this November. This mini-scandal –unlike the state’s ill-considered voter ID bill – will fade away soon enough.
Legislators are allowed mistakes as well, and after days on the front of newspapers across South Carolina (not to mention the rest of the country), this likely won’t be a lesson that Clemmons will forget anytime soon.