Dark Horse: A Political Thriller
Author: Ralph Reed
Publisher: Howard/Simon and Schuster
The current presidential campaign is one of the most unpredictable and hard fought battles in American political history — but it’s downright tame compared to the fictional race in Ralph Reed’s political thriller "Dark Horse: A Political Thriller."
Reed, the evangelical who turned the Christian Coalition into a national political powerhouse, has worked on seven presidential campaigns, including a stint as senior adviser to George W. Bush in 2000.
Reed’s insider experience makes Dark Horse an entertaining, authoritative take on what it’s really like to climb up the “sheer, craggy rock of American politics” to the White House. The “dark horse” candidate to whom the title refers is Robert Long, a moderate California governor who runs as an independent candidate for president.
[Editor's Note: Get Ralph Reed's book. Go here now.]
At times, the novel seems to be taken directly from the day’s headlines: It features the first African-American presidential nominee, a Democratic nomination that threatens to go to convention, the second woman on a national ticket, a political sex scandal, and a shocking terrorist attack on American soil.
Reed’s fast-paced account offers an insider’s view of presidential politics and power. In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, Reed tells why his book transcends mere entertainment. It’s a cautionary tale, he says, that issues a clear warning to the GOP and evangelical voters. Reed calls his new novel “the most honest book I’ve ever written.”
Newsmax: How did "Dark Horse," your first novel, come about?
Reed: In 1976, Eugene McCarthy was running as an independent against Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and having a hard time qualifying to be on the ballot. The Democrats were doing all they could to keep him off the ballot. That’s when I first got the idea about writing a novel revolving around a truly viable, charismatic independent candidate for president.
Keep in mind, this was long before Ross Perot entered into the public consciousness. So, I sat down and researched how you get on the ballot, wrote boards of elections, collected state laws. Then, I wrote the first chapter — so it was literally written 32 years ago. Then I thought, “Wait a minute, I’m only 15 years old, I don’t even know what I’m talking about. I’ve never even worked on a presidential campaign.” So, I set it aside and forgot about it . . . but never totally. Only now am I ready to write it, seven presidential campaigns later.
Newsmax: You’ve called this “the most honest book I’ve ever written.” How can that be, since "Dark Horse" is fiction?
Reed: Well, I’m either too young or too loyal to write a memoir. There’s a lot I’ve seen and experienced in campaigns which I can’t reveal out of respect for the people who’ve hired me. As a result, there were a lot of stories and circumstances I’ve seen in my career that I’ve been able to show in fiction – this is why this is the most honest book I’ve written.
Newsmax: You’ve described character Robert Long as Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller rolled into one, but he also seemed like a synthesis of Gov. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. How much did you think of actual political figures while writing this book?
Reed: There are lines in the book, snippets of scenes, and aspects of personalities that I saw in different people over many years, but there’s really a difference between this book and “Primary Colors” [a roman à clef, inspired by President Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign]. That book was an inspiration to me; in fact, I named my character Andy Stanton after "Primary Colors’" character Jack Stanton.
However, the difference is that nobody in my book is a thinly veiled version of an actual person. Most were created years ago before I met the people who were actually players in politics. The way they react to things, their ambitions, aspirations, and their love for the battle, all of these are all real and I’ve seen in a lot of people over the last 25 or 30 years who display these characteristics.
Newsmax: You are a Republican, so why is your main protagonist a Democrat?
Reed: First of all, I purposely wrote "Dark Horse" so a reader who doesn’t share my politics can still enjoy the story and find it interesting. Secondly, I do believe as a strategic matter that if there’s a strong independent candidate, he or she will be a centrist Democrat rather than a moderate Republican.
While writing this, of course, Joe Lieberman left the Democratic Party and became an independent. Although he was not the prototype of my character, he’s a good example of what I’m talking about.
Newsmax: What is the message of this book?
Reed: It’s the same message found in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph says to brothers, “What you meant for evil God meant for good.” The message is that character Bob Long finds a personal relationship with God and a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This, of course, changes his life and, consequently, the life if the nation.
Bad things happen to all of us, but God can use these things to do something great in our lives. It’s true of individuals and it’s true of nations.
Newsmax: Your fictional Republican candidate has contempt for the religious right. What is your advice to conservative people who faith who feel marginalized in this 2008 political season?
Reed: McCain was not first choice of social conservatives and he was not my first choice. But don’t throw in towel, don’t give up. God can use people we don’t choose to accomplish great things. We aren’t the “end all” of what God is capable of doing through peoples’ lives. I think John McCain is moving in the direction of a more conservative, pro-family position, and I think we ought to encourage that.
Newsmax: Is your book a political fable?
Reed: Of sorts, and a warning to the Republican Party: If the GOP turns its back on the time honored values that have attracted millions of people to the party — sanctity of human life, primacy of family, and the sanctity of marriage — the big tent of the Republican party will become a pup tent.
The other cautionary tale is to the faith community: Remember your loyalty should not be to a party or politicians, but to a set of principles. We were around long before the Republican Party began, and we’ll be around long after it ceases to exist. Thankfully, we have an eternal agenda that lasts well beyond the political season.
[Editor's Note: Get Ralph Reed's book. Go here now.]
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