Two groups will dominate American politics in the years to come, Republican leader Ralph Reed told students Thursday as part of his “Values and Politics in America” lecture at the Storer Auditorium.
Reed described the future of U.S. politics as being determined by two major constituencies: the values voter who is relatively well-off, resides in suburbs and regularly attends a church, and the Hispanic voter, who is part of the fastest growing minority group. He said that Democrats need to understand that the values voter accounts for one-third of all voters, and unless they come to this realization, they will become an obsolete party.
“These two constituencies share the ideals of strengthening the institution of marriage and protecting human life and we think we can connect with these constituencies on issues of values,” Reed said.
Reed also stressed the importance of public service and its contribution to society. He said that the trend as of late has been shifting in favor of political activism, allowing citizens to become more involved.
“The internet is going to transform our politics,” Reed said, “It will turn us all into participants and activists.”
The lecture was followed by a question-and-answer session where audience members were given the opportunity to interact with the politician.
Reed, a strategist for President Bush’s election campaign, served as the chair of the Georgia Republican Party in 2002 and is currently running for lieutenant governor of that same state. He was also executive director of the Christian Coalition.
The event began with a welcome address by President Donna E. Shalala, who described Reed as a leader with an open mind.
“Ralph Reed has played a role in transforming politics and he represents a point of view that millions of Americans share,” Shalala said.
Speech stirs confusion, controversy
Reed’s presence on campus sparked reactions of outrage from some students, including student organizations which decided to protest his visit.
OUTspoken, the political branch of SpectrUM, carried out a silent protest at the event. While Reed was delivering his speech, members stood up and filed out of the auditorium. Once outside, they held up signs reading slogans such as “Hate is not a ‘Cane Value” and “Federalism is not Based on Religion” in protest to Reed’s message.
“Ralph Reed is driving religion into the center of values and politics. Our government, which is founded on federalism, is not based on religion,” Patrick Ryan, sophomore, said. “There were many circumstances surrounding his political career that were not agreeable, including pushing anti-gay sentiment into mainstream politics.”
However, other members of the audience felt Reed was fair to both sides.
“I think he was the most objective political speaker I have seen in a long time, especially amongst such a dissenting audience,” John Tyree, freshman, said.
Controversy surrounding Reed stems from his alleged involvement in a scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a friend of Reed’s who was recently indicted. Abramoff, Reed and others are under investigation for corrupt lobbying practices.
In media interviews before the lecture, Reed did not comment on the investigation, other than to say he is cooperating with it.
“My firm was highly effective and did well,” Reed said. “Any attempt to associate me with any wrongoding is guilt by assocation. We’ve been happy to cooperate with Senator McCain and all who are looking into the matter.”
Some students and professors that disagreed with Reed’s point of view were concerned that the University had paid the politican to speak on campus. However, according to Margot Winick, director of media relations, that is not the case: Reed came after receiving an invitation from Shalala during the presidential debate last year.
Still, some professors were not pleased.
“This is not someone I’d want lecturing my children on politics and morality,” Michael Froomkin, a professor at the School of Law, said. “I certainly wouldn’t stop him; I wouldn’t want to prevent people from coming on campus. But if the University invited him, it’s not good.”
In her welcome address, Shalala explained that she and Reed are good friends, and that the University should bring speakers with a variety of opinions.
“I told him to come speak on campus,” Shalala said. “The campus has a responsibility to educate our students. We should encourage them to hear other points of view, particularly those who’ve changed our country, whether it’s for better or for worse.”
Karunya Krishnan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jay Rooney can be contacted at email@example.com.