Though not all completely agree with his method, Ralph Reed and his Christian Coalition are making important politicians stop and listen.
Congressman pondered legislation, he first had to curry favour with one of the huge Washington lobby groups: the National Rifle Association, the Manufacturers Association or the National Organization of Women.
Now there’s a new player making waves in political circles. Ralph Reed and his freshly revived Christian Coalition have moved in and Washington decision-makers are realizing that they can no longer turn a deaf ear.
Founded in 1988 as a corollary to religious broadcaster Pat Robertson’s presidential campaign, the Christian Coalition has steadily played a greater role in the Republican Party’s decision making process. The group claims to have the support of three million Americans and several key Republicans, including presidential candidate Phil Gramm, are courting its favour. The organization’s aim is to keep the Republican’s social policies in line with traditional Christian values.
Ralph Reed, who heads the Coalition, is a young, well-spoken man who has become the spokesman for the nebulous “family values movement” in America. He has built his organization into a powerhouse with an annual budget of $25 million and a vast army of workers who can be called to action in a moment’s notice.
He is the very essence of the traditional American political powerbroker, combining influential friends, grass-roots support, money and a large dose of political savvy. His influence is now so great that Time magazine has labeled him the Republican king maker.
William Lacy, strategist for Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole, concurs with this. In an interview with Time, Lacy said that “without having significant support of the Christian right a Republican cannot win the nomination or the general election.”
Last month, flanked by high-ranking Republicans, Reed unveiled the Christian Coalition’s 10 point “Contract with the American Family,” which mirrors the GOP’s “Contract with America.”
Among the items in the plan include tax changes that would help single income families, tax credits for homemakers, changes to education, and an end to funding of the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities and Public Broadcasting. The group also calls for a ban on state-funded abortions, a restriction on late term abortions and alternative counseling for women seeking abortions.
However, some pro-life leaders do not completely endorse the Coalition credo. While not condemning the organization or the entire Contract, they have poked holes in it. Republican leadership candidate Pat Buchanan said that the Contract items were “good as far as they go,” but that “in the reach for consensus, I think they have given up a little bit in the way of boldness.” Buchanan favours a Consitutional ban on abortion as opposed to the Coalition’s incremental approach to ending abortion.
Judie Brown, president of American Life League, echoes Buchanan’s sentiments. She compliments the Coalition on their attempt to “establish the humanity of the unborn child and to see a day when every child is safe in their mother’s womb” but cannot endorse the step-by-step approach.
She points out that a proposal which restricts only third-term abortions could focus politicians to less than one percent of the 1.5 million abortions which occur annually in the U.S. Politicians could perceive the only third trimester abortions trouble pro-lifers and might draw a line from further legislation.
Brown contends that all abortions end the life of the child and asks why third trimester abortions should be any less wrong than first or second.
“Are there degrees of death” do some innocent babies die less cruelly than others? Are some decisions to destroy the innocent less heinous than others? Is some intentional killing more acceptable? Do some acts of abortion kill to a lesser degree than other acts,” asks Brown.
American Life League and others believe that a watered-down law would produce watered-down results. She reinforces the notion that no exception can be made “to deny the inviolability of any human being’s life” even “for the sake of . . .political victory or a front-page story.”
Reed counters this charge by saying that a Christian involved in politics must be concerned about winning as well as “working for goals more universal than taking the next election.”
The Christian Coalition, which also counts House Speaker Newt Gingrich as an ally, responds to Buchanan that they are not making concessions but simply don’t believe that a constitutional ban is possible at this time.
Reed argues that his plan contains “10 suggestions, not 10 commandments,” and that they should not be seen as the last the Coalition has to say on the matter. Right now is consensus-building time and Reed seems to be trying to strengthen his base for making bolder statements.
In the meantime, Reed hopes he can influence politicians to pass an abortion restriction that the majority of Americans could support, thus saving some lives. Later, he argues, when the political climate is more friendly, the Coalition can take the larger step of pushing a constitutional ban.
Whether this is being politically expedient or bartering with the lives of human beings is beside the matter. Right now Ralph Reed is a rising star in Washington, the Christian Coalition has the support of a large amount of Americans and their coffers are full.
It now seems apparent that any changes which do occur regarding family values or abortion in the recent future will, undoubtedly, have Ralph Reed’s signature on it.