Monday, May 26, 2014

#1056: Ralph Reed

Ralph Eugene Reed, Jr. is best known as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition during the early 1990s, as the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition (which arranges an annual Conference dutifully attended by plenty of central political figures), and for fortunately failing the Republican nomination for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 2006.

He allegedly became a born again in 1983 when “the Holy Spirit simply demanded me to come to Jesus,” and was hired by Pat Robertson as executive director of the Christian Coalition in 1988, an organization he led until 1997, when Federal prosecutors began investigating charges by the Christian Coalition’s chief financial officer, whereupon Reed resigned from his post to help various campaign efforts by conservative religious candidates, often with quite a bit of success (Saxby Chambliss, for instance). During his reign The Coalition was heavily involved in organizing former Robertson supporters and other religious conservatives to oppose political liberalism, making Reed one of the movers and shakers of the modern religious right. His own nominations ran into problems in part because of his deep involvement in the Abramoff scandal – his close contact with Focus on The Family ensured that this organization was implicated as well, though Richard Land has actually managed to try to argue that Reed was victimized by Abramoff. The mess that was the aforementioned 2006 Lieutenant Government campaign is described here. Reed’s money-making schemes continues to exist, however – his recent involvement in helping the Boy Scouts soft sell their upcoming change in policy on gay scouts to the religious right was not motivated by compassion. Reed retains a stunning level of influence and power among the religious right, illustrated for instance by how he could command the GOP presidential candidates (Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, Paul, and Romney) around in 2012 as well as by his connection to McCain in 2008 and by this.

According to himself Reed attempted to project a “softer” public face for Christian conservatism (like this?), which means specializing in “guerrilla warfare” to put “enemies” in “body bags” before they even realized he had struck (it is presumably meant to be a “spiritual battle plan”). Despite this general strategy, and his recurrent and systematic involvement in corruption schemes, Reed managed to complain about Obama’s cynicism during the 2012 presidential campaigns.

It seems pointless to cover his political and moral positions in detail, since they are precisely what you’d expect, and the reasoning is precisely as dumb as you’d expect as well. Reed has argued that when the government creates programs to help the poor or senior citizens, it takes away our liberty, that making divorce harder for women is a “better solution” than food stamps, that divorce (which he compares to drug use, human trafficking and legalized gambling) is proof that the country is in decline, and he has dismissed dominionism as a liberal conspiracy (despite his own close ties). In “The Case Against Gay Marriage” he declared that “all the statistics and data that we have” prove that children of intact, loving families do better than children who do not grow up in such families (the fact that gay marriage would lead to more intact, loving families wasn’t relevant since “we have not tested that thesis on a national level,” an admission that sort of completely undermines his own previous argument), and cited an unnamed CEO who claimed to have studied the most productive staff in the company and discovered that “the number one determinant of how hard they worked and how dedicated they were” was coming from an intact, loving family. That’s apparently what counts as rigor for Reed; indeed, although demonstrably false, Reed has claimed his evidence is “irrefutable”.

As so many people of his ilk, Reed is in possession of and feeds off a serious persecution complex; that many people disagree with him – and has the audacity to actually say so in public – means that he is persecuted; according to Reed “bigotry against evangelical Christians is the last acceptable form of bigotry left in the country.”

Diagnosis: Extremely influential and hence extremely scary. We don’t want to indict anyone purely on the grounds of cynicism, evil, or political position, of course, but Reed has ensured for instance through his reasoning about gay marriage that he deserves to be included.

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