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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ralph & Raquel

Speaking of Christian Right leaders who have traded their religious birthright for a mess of secular political pottage…The Moose reported the other day that his ol’ buddy Ralph Reed, lately a state Republican Party chair and political consultant in my home state of Georgia, is considering a run for the office of Lieutenant Governor.
There’s plenty of irony in this ambition of Reed’s. For one thing, the Republican takeover of the Georgia Senate in 2002, which Reed masterminded, led the GOPers to strip the Lootship, held by Democrat Mark Taylor, of most of its longstanding powers. For another, Reed is known to have dreamed since childhood of becoming Governor of Georgia, but is temporarily blocked from achieving that dream by the nonentity he did so much to lift to the Chief Executive Office of the Peach State, the incumbent Sonny Perdue. That’s gotta gall Ralph, since ol’ Sonny was laboring as an undistinguished conservative Democrat in the backwaters of Georgia politics back in those days when Reed was walking tall and talking big on national television as the Svengali of the Christian Coalition.
But the bigger point is that Ralph Reed is trying to cross the invisible but very real line between campaign consultant and candidate; staff and elected official; operative and Talent; organ-grinder and monkey. It’s always the private belief of every political staffer that he or she could vastly exceed The Boss in every conceivable accomplishment if the old fool would get out of the way and let the real brains of the operation take over. Putting aside a number of U.S. House chiefs of staff who have succeeded doddering Members after semi-publicly performing their duties, remarkably few pols have actually succeeded in crossing the Great Divide. Robert F. Kennedy and Gary Hart were big exceptions to this general rule. Reed may think he’s another.
But something else may be going on that transcends politics: the age-old desire of all successful people to prove they can succeed in radically different roles. It’s especially common in the political world’s first cousin, the acting profession, where comics are forever trying to prove they can win an Oscar for drama, and bimbos of both genders are forever struggling for acceptance as Serious Artists.
In the end, Ralph Reed’s desire to become the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia is the political equivalent of Racquel Welch’s decades-long, futile drive for Critical Acclaim. Eventually Welch gave up and ultimately achieved a sort of odd dignity as a celebrity who made peace with her cheesy destiny. When he gets tired of begging for an audition to show he can play a supporting role to Sonny Perdue, maybe Ralph Reed will make his own peace with God, or with his demons.

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