Ralph Reed Wants You to Believe Evangelical Vote is a Myth

Ralph Reed Time Cover
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Now the Right Hand of Deceit

Ralph Reed, Time Magazine’s 1995 “Right Hand of God” is at it again, downplaying the threat the pro-theocracy movement poses to American democracy. He wants us to believe the Evangelical vote is a myth – the very same vote he helped to create. Right. And there is no such thing as dominionism. Reed famously called dominionism a “conspiracy theory” even while slightly less extremist Christian Reconstructionists (if you can believe that) were warning against it. We got it, Ralph. You’re not good with the truth.

Reed, of course, was himself an instrumental figure in the so-called Religious Right’s takeover of the Republican Party and provided much of its early political clout. At the time, he credited the Christian Coalition with giving the Republicans their victories. In 2004, he even worked on the Bush-Cheney campaign, asked pastors to get votes for his candidate, and voilà, Bush received 78 percent of the Evangelical vote. Now this discredited figure is trying to tell us (and mainstream media giant CNN is giving him a pulpit) that the very vote he bragged about is just a myth, that they’re just like the rest of us – just folks. Really?

In a post to CNN’s Belief Blog, he correctly points out that “One of the most important sub-plots in the Iowa caucuses was which candidate would win the support of Iowa’s evangelical voters.” He goes on to point out that,

In the media’s instant analysis, a “splintering” of Iowa’s evangelical vote among numerous candidates made it difficult for them to influence the selection of the Republican presidential nominee.

He takes issue with this analysis, claiming that “this narrative is based on a caricature of evangelicals and other voters of faith.”

Consider this: 61% of self-identified evangelicals who attended a caucus Tuesday night in Iowa voted for a candidate who is either Roman Catholic (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum) or Mormon (Mitt Romney, who won the caucuses, besting Santorum by eight votes ).

Reed wants us to believe that, “This suggests a more nuanced and complex portrait of voters of faith. They are often crudely portrayed as voting based solely on identity politics, born suckers for quotes from Scripture or “code words” laced in the speeches of candidates appealing to their spiritual beliefs.” According to Reed, then, a conservative Christian voting for a conservative Christian shows nuance? Really? Apparently, according to Reed, conservative Catholics don’t count, which says more about Reed’s prejudices than that of voters (we’ll look at exit poll numbers in a moment).

As for Evangelicals being born suckers for Scripture and code words? Look at what they’ve done to us so far in the name of their own religious freedom to persecute and dictate, stirred by a steady diet of hate and rejection (and look at some of what is in store for us in 2012). Ultimately, Reed proved the case against himself because by voting for the despised categories of Catholics and Mormons, the Evangelical vote did prove itself suckers for Scripture and code words. He makes much of the fact that entrance polls showed only 13 percent made abortion the number one issue, but according to exit polls, 58 percent of those voting for Santorum said it was the number one issue.

What he wants us to believe is that these fundamentalist voters are a “sophisticated bunch.” This is Reed beating an old drum; he once claimed “People of Faith” were the new “Amos and Andy.” And it is a hard sell based on the Bronze Age rhetoric flying out of Iowa in the weeks and days leading up to the caucus. Sure, the candidates talked about the economy and the budget deficit. So what? Look at the man who came in second, Rick Santorum. This is the same Santorum who was mired at the bottom of the polls and could not reach into the double-digits leading up to the caucus. At the end he trailed just 8 points behind Mitt Romney. Santorum made his conservative Christianity the central focus of his platform. He literally could not open his mouth without mentioning what God wanted or didn’t want. And conservative Evangelicals answered the call and put the otherwise hopeless Santorum into second place.

That doesn’t sound terribly sophisticated to me. Take a look at Santorum’s Top 10 Most Outrageous Campaign Statements according to Think Progress, if you doubt my analysis. You won’t see any signs of sophistication there (extreme ideologies don’t employ a scalpel when a hammer will do).

Sure, Romney won. He’s a big name with a well-funded campaign and an excellent organization behind him. And though he’s a Mormon, he’s far from being a progressive Christian. His moralistic stance with regard to the so-called Culture War is identical to that of the Republican base. Whatever he may have said in the past, he has come down on the “right side” of the debate on abortion (he opposes it) and same-sex marriage (he opposes it). As Jon Stewart joked on Wednesday, Santorum is the guy Romney is pretending to be.

Exit poll numbers tell the story. Look at how the Iowa Caucus fell out according to the religion and ideology of the voters (the number before the slash being by religion and after by ideology):

Candidate % of Evangelical Vote/% of conservative vote % of Non-Evangelical Vote/% of moderate or liberal vote


















As you can see, the Evangelical vote is not a myth; it voted overwhelmingly for Rick Santorum, the most extreme candidate save Bachmann. It was the non-Evangelicals, the more moderate Republicans who put Romney at the top. Santorum unsurprisingly also garnered 30 percent of the Tea Party vote; Ron Paul managed only 19 percent. Those who oppose the Tea Party overwhelmingly voted for establishment man Mitt Romney. Entrance polls show that the Evangelical vote was 57 percent, just 3 percent down from 2008.

Santorum, of course, knew what got him there. As he said in his victory speech, “I’ve required a strength from another particular friendship – one that is sacred. I’ve survived the challenges so far by the daily grace that comes from God.”

Yet Reed’s astonishing conclusion is this:

So when commentators prognosticate about the “evangelical vote,” we might want to ask them, “which one?” For there are there are many evangelical votes, many candidates who win their support, and a multitude of motivations for their engagement in the rough-and-tumble of American politics.

This is all to the good. It demonstrates that their civic involvement is a cause for celebration, not alarm, a sign of the health of our political system, not that it suffers from an anti-democratic or sectarian impulse.

Reed doesn’t want to mention how close a call America had with theocracy during the fundamentalist-supported Bush administration, or the erosion of our First Amendment rights and the endless attacks on the Wall of Separation promoted by the movement he supports. Far from being a sign of health, the fundamentalist intervention in American politics is a sign of rot. Religious Freedom for Reed and for all the Republican candidates is Christian religious freedom, not the religious freedom of the rest of us.

There is no way to marginalize the risk posted to America’s political health by the Republican Party’s political theology, which hates women, hates gays, hates Islam, hates atheists, hates pagans and hates the environment, all on religious grounds. We’ve come a long way from the open-minded days of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, two of our most important thinkers among the Founding Fathers, men who cared about real religious freedom, as evidence by the legislation they authored and promoted.

Rick Santorum, like all Republican candidates, is not really opposed to big government or federal intrusion. They are opposed to the government intruding on the right of the rich to get richer and the rights of corporations to avoid taxes and regulation, but when it comes to the GOP’s morality-laced platform, they are all for it, from Gingrich’s proposal for a Presidential Commission on Religious Freedom in the United States to Santorum’s promise of a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and annulling all existing same-sex unions.

As Time Magazine’s political obituary of Reed said in 2006, “He thought he could convince his base that they shouldn’t believe their eyes and ears, that they should trust him instead. In the end, not enough did.” He wants to do that again, to convince the American people that they shouldn’t believe their eyes and ears. With any luck, America has learned all it needs to know about Ralph Reed.

Reed wants us to believe these wolves are lambs, but they are not and have never been. No political platform based on Old Testament repression can ever be gentle or forgiving or tolerant. The only thing that Ralph Reed has managed to prove is that he is still the snake-oil salesman he has always been, a lot of gloss covering a dark and unsavory core, just like the movement he represents.

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17 Replies to “Ralph Reed Wants You to Believe Evangelical Vote is a Myth”

  1. One can only hope that the more the Ralph Reed claims this is a conspiracy theory the less people will believe him. On one hand is telling Christians that they have no voice which they will not buy into.

    if there is no such thing as dominionism, then they might want to take their websites down. If Michelle Bachmann had been as whacked out as Rick Santorum was on the religion angle she would probably still be in the run today

    I agree that the injection of hatred towards everything not white and Christian by the Christians( fundamentalists) is a sign of rot or decay in our country. In the 1970s this never would’ve been accepted. Do we have that many people in this country who are so insecure as to buy into this type of stuff?

  2. “…According to Reed, then, a conservative Christian voting for a conservative Christian shows nuance? …”

    Why, of course, Hraf! Don’t you know that there are 7 shades of white on the paint chip card? Reed is just showing de’vworld these delicate little flowers faces for what they are; different shades of white.

    Gawd, there is so much to expose of Reeds despicable deeds, ya’ hardly know where to begin! I saved this “oldie but goody” evidence from Reed’s prior participation; let me set the stage. Newt was running around trying to dominate de’vworld, (the 90’s) and Ralph wasn’t just helping him, he was running the show! The following quote was written by Chip Barlet on Pat Robertson’s explaining the nature of the war on secularism in 1991 at a Christian Coalition Road to Victory gathering.

    “Ralph Reed, describes his group’s voter mobilization program as if it were a covert military operation: “I want to be invisible,” he told one reporter. “I do guerilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag. You don’t know until election night.”
    By this standard, election night in November was a body bag bonanza for the Robertson Right as they took seven seats for State Senate and House of Delegates from the Virginia Beach area. One recent Regent University graduate defeated a 20¬year incumbent Democrat. Describing the group’s voter ID program, Reed explained that volunteers would telephone into pre-selected precincts and say “I’m taking an informal survey” for the Christian Coalition. Then, four quick questions: Did you vote for Dukakis or Bush? Are you a Republican or a Democrat?
    “If they answered, ‘Dukakis, Democrat’ that was the end of the survey,” laughed Reed. “We didn’t even write them down. We don’t want to communicate with them. We don’t even want them to know there’s an election going on. I’m serious. We don’t want them to know.” The third question, if respondents got that far, was do you favor restrictions on abortion? And finally, what is the most important issue facing Virginia Beach?
    The Coalition used the data to create a computer file on each voter, with survey answers coded according to 43 “issue burdens.” The ID’d voters would then mysteriously receive a letter from the Coalition’s candidate: Computer-generated, laser-printed and individually tailored to one’s “issue burden”-crime, education, traffic, etc.
    If the voter happened to be pro-choice, the letter wouldn’t mention abortion. “I’ll take the votes of the pro-abortion Republicans” to get anti¬abortion Republicans in, Reed admitted. In fact, Reed said only 28 percent of his targeted voters identified themselves as anti-abortion.”

  3. Thank you for contributing that, SinghX. There was so much more I wanted to say about him in my Rise of Fundamentalism series but the whole post could easily have been devoted to Reed. He deserves an expose all to himself. Truly a slippery character.

  4. The Christian Right accuses every Muslim who lives a decent life, every Muslim who does a generous or noble or heroic deed, every Muslim who expresses tolerance of other faiths or respect towards women as human beings, of “taqqiyah”, which they (and not Muslims) define as pretending to be good in order to get into a position to inflict a religious tyranny of ultimate evil. Once more, they are projecting.

  5. Well, he may wish us to believe what he claims, we are fortunate to have brains and the free will to exercise them often. His followers, zombies of this destructive cult are completely incapable of thinking upon their own, are are open to being persuaded by their sheer faith, which has been drilled into them from a very young age, in believing these charlatans, grifters, and snake oil salesmen, like Palin, Santorum, Bachmann and himself.

    It is very scary to see how blind they are to facts, how they have twisted the bible to fit their hate and intolerance of all that are not exactly like them. I wish they would keep their religion where it belongs, out of our vaginas, out of our bedrooms, out of Dr/patient conversations, out of GOVERNMENT and keep it in their hearts and home.

    I have lost all respect for these intolerant folk…if they are not careful, free will thinking people might think it wise to ban extreme cultism in America, we do not need hate groups like this or the taliban dictating morality, it is destructive to the fabric of society.

  6. As the followers of this dangerous man fall away (Cain, Bachmann, and soon, Gingrich and Perry,) reason may return. I believe in God and attend a Brethren Church (we are pacifists like the Mennonites and Quakers,) but I am not so full of hubris as to denigrate the beliefs of anyone else. I cannot understand why these people want to turn this nation into a religious police state. It certainly was never the intent of anyone for us to be that; and it certainly is not the least bit Christian to terrify one group of people into hating anyone who doesn’t believe just what they are told. Freedom means freedom, Ralphie. From you and your ilk. From a government that would institute one religion and ban the rest. From one church believing they are they only one God approves of. God may approve of one church, but it is not yours. Or mine. He approves of any people who follow His commandments and His Son, and those who live holy lives without needing to to told what to beleive. They are just and good people because it’s the right thing to be, not because you scared them into submission.
    By the way, God never set up any church…that was done by people.

  7. I know, I know…there is just so much damage that he’s done! Reed deserves an entire series, books, a documentary…the question remains why Reed (like Rove) has never served time in prison; it’s beyond belief!
    Remember the Indian casino scandal?

    “Ralph Reed did not want to be paid directly by any tribe with gaming interests. Reed also used non-profits, like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, as a pass-through to disguise the origin of the tribal funds, and that “the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed’s political concerns.” (quote from a tribal leader testifying in the federal case against these crooked lobbyist).

  8. …”if they are not careful, free will thinking people might think it wise to ban extreme cultism in America…”

    The German’s have; it’s called “disturbing the peace of the democracy via recruitment for the purpose of hate”…

  9. When first mentioned a few years ago, dominionism was written off by people I communicated with and knew. But as time went by and I mentioned to be watching for things (and explaining things that didn’t make sense to the people because they refused to consider that we were facing theocracy), they stopped crying “conspiracy theory” and now some of them are trying to wake people up.

    As people encounter the reality of the dominionists, and having heard about or read about them, they start waking up. It’s a long battle, and Reed is trying to force the worms back into the can.

  10. Ralph Reed and his ilk are trying to turn this country into exactly the kind of theocracy that Europeans fled centuries ago in search of religious freedom. It’s not just their hypocrisy or their naked power grab that angers me, but also their deliberate misreading of American history to justify their power play.

  11. HH,

    Great article and all posters, EXCELLENT comments. As someone who was raised Catholic and not practiced any faith since becoming of age, this continued “cram it down my throat” of the super-religiosity of fake Xtians just makes me ill – I am married into a family of evangelicals and we learned long ago NOT to mention religion during any family gatherings – their lies were just too much. Fortunately my mother-in-law, who is actually a real Christian with no particular religious affiliation, told these dominionists to just keept quiet. After they ruined the first Thanksgiving I attended in 2000,during the a Dubya vs. Gore debacle, by claiming all sorts of evil related to Al Gore and all sorts of LIES about Dubya’s faith and relgiosity. I called them out for the LIES and walked out – since then, it has been pleasant and nobody talks religiosity. I won by truth and science and they knew it. Of course, they attend one of the teevee mega-churches here in Nashville, twice a week and it is one of the churches that spends a lot of time on the radio “promoting hate against Muslims” and announcing their various speakers who will discuss the “dangers of Islam” while being tax exempt and having a head preacher who is a convicted felon. Living in the buckle of the bibull belt can wear a person down – not turning me toward their regligiosity but turning me AWAY from anything having to do with the fake and phoney Xtian congregants of hate.

  12. I don’t think where we Northerners feel like we fell is any more wholesome, Reynardine. Same place, different directions

  13. It also boogles my mind that the Free Masons will stand by and watch as the pinnicle of their achievement is destroyed by the christian coilition. Maybe they have already been hog tied and blindfolded from within, or maybe they just dont have the guts or will to stand up to them.

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