50 leaders of the evangelical generation: #36 Ralph Reed. Political muscle

 [I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#36  Ralph Reed. Political muscle  b.1961 

 Ralph Reed is “perhaps the finest political operative of his generation,”[1] and has certainly been the most bare-knuckled evangelical political brawler of the last 20 years. As executive director of the Christian Coalition (1989-1997), he built one of nation’s most effective grassroots organizations and played a pivotal role in the election of the first Republican Congress in 40 years. Under his leadership, the organization grew from 2,000 over 2 million members and supporters in 3,000 local chapters.

Reed’s departure from the Coalition to form his own consulting firm in Atlanta provided a vivid demonstration of the importance of leadership.  The group was never the same, and today it is a shell of the organization it was in its heyday. Reed went on to have a successful career as a political consultant to both corporations and candidates. He headed George W. Bush’s southern campaign and transformed the Georgia Republican Party, building first-time Republican majorities in the State House and capturing the Governor’s Mansion and both U.S. Senate seats. 

Reed made a run for public office, but he found that his work as a political operative and consultant involved associations and tactics that didn’t bode well as a candidate. As one of the toughest of the modern political players, the ugly and risky strategies he used in high-profile political races did not look statesmanlike (or of a high ethical standard) in the bright light of a candidacy, and he was soundly defeated in the Georgia Republican primary for Lt. Governor in 2006.

This surprised observers who had seen nothing but success from the the young wunderkind:

Many thought “the young man who at 33 graced Time magazine’s cover in 1995 as “The Right Hand of God” might appear there again, perhaps a decade from now, taking the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Instead, there was Reed, just 45 but with crow’s-feet carved gently into his temples, offering a meager group of supporters a curt concession speech in a hotel ballroom in Buckhead. He had lost the primary to a little-known state senator named Casey Cagle in a 12-point landslide, Reed’s once invincible lead in the polls and fund raising eroded by a year of steady revelations about his ties to the convicted former G.O.P. superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. In the political vernacular that Reed loves to employ, he was waxed.”[2]

Nonetheless, Reed remains one of the brightest and most sought-after political consultants in the nation and is extending his public voice through The Faith and Freedom Coalition advocacy group, which he started in 2009. He also published an insightful political thriller called Dark Horse that demonstrated Reed’s knowledge of both national politics and Christian conservatives. 


[1] Wall Street Journal

[2] http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1218060,00.html

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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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