Atlanta’s Ralph Reed Tries To Make White Evangelical Politics Less White – WABE
At a recent rally of thousands of religious conservative activists organized by the Georgia-based Faith and Freedom Coalition, one thing immediately stood out: the crowd isn’t as white as it used to be.
It’s no accident, according to founder Ralph Reed, an Atlanta resident and former Georgia Republican Party chairman.
“Our goal is, over the next few decades, to build a truly multiracial, multiethnic and faith-based movement that changes the demographics of our movement,” Reed said during a roundtable lunch with a handful of reporters.
Attendees listened to Christian worship music – sometimes sung in Spanish – and attended sessions on how to vote midway through this year. The message and the movement resonate with black pastors like WJ Coleman of Lewisville, Miss.
“A lot of people realize they’re conservative, but the words ‘conservative’ and ‘Republican’ have become a bad word,” he told NPR. “But if you take that out of the equation, many other minorities would find themselves in that situation.”
Social conservatism has a moment
The Supreme Court is handing down recent rulings in their favor — against abortion rights and in favor of public prayer — and rising stars of the Republican Party, like Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, are eagerly attacking the progressive American corporate policy.
Reed has been an evangelical GOP political activist for three decades. He now leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition, but he is best known for starting the Christian Coalition in the early 1990s. He has been a controversial figure at times. In the mid-2000s, he was caught up in Washington scandals involving disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but Reed was never charged with wrongdoing.
He found his way back to national prominence after kissing Donald Trump in 2016 and helping swing the white evangelical vote in his favor.
Reed’s stock is on the rise again as Republicans see a red wave coming in the fight for control of Congress in November. “We’re focused like a laser beam on the outcome of the largest evangelical, pro-life denominational vote we’ve seen in a midterm election in our lifetimes,” Reed said.
He noted that when he launched the Christian Coalition, the outfit built a database of 8 million voters. Today, Reed’s database measures 46 million voters. “We are going to knock on more doors, touch more voters at the door, not only than we have ever touched in the history of the organization, but which I believe have been touched by an outside center- right into my career,” he said.
If Reed seems optimistic, he’s right to be.
His organization has become a touchstone for any Republican candidate seriously considering running for president. Trump spoke at his rally in Nashville last month. Moreover, the decisive influence of evangelical voters in primary politics pushes ambitious politicians to take measures to convince them.
Florida’s fight with Disney was a ‘watershed moment’
One of those presidential candidates, Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, recently attacked the Walt Disney Company’s special tax status in his state after the company opposed a new tax law. the state prohibiting educators from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with children before 4th grade. Reed said it was “a watershed moment” for the conservative movement.
“For this to happen not just, but for this to happen like this, and for DeSantis to do this and not only not pay any political price, but I would say he becomes a political beneficiary, and then for Disney to basically pass on silent radio and just take it, it was amazing,” he said.
The fight against Disney has encouraged activists to more aggressively take on the institutions that have been their traditional political allies. Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
“If the Disneys and Deltas and Coca-Colas of the world aren’t careful, they’re going to take the best friend they’ve ever had in economic policy and regulation – and policies that would benefit their ability to develop their businesses – and turn them into adversaries,” he said.
Reed sees culture war issues as a draw for non-white voters
Reed sees issues involving sex and gender and parental rights as a new avenue for the Republican Party to make inroads with black and Latino voters who attend church at higher rates than white voters, according to the Pew. Research Center.
“They really, really play and resonate powerfully in these minority communities,” he said. “Not among everyone, but it would be a minimum of 25% in the black community, and it would probably be a minimum of 30% in the Hispanic community.”
Reed spoke to reporters days before the Supreme Court released the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, although the outcome was expected after the draft notice was leaked. He didn’t think abortion would be a major issue in November, noting historically that only about 5% of voters cite abortion as their main reason for voting.
“I think this election is going to be about what we all know, which is the economy, inflation and high prices,” he said.
The impact next November could be an emboldened Republican-controlled Congress to push forward a more socially conservative agenda.