A look at John Hawkin’s “25 Most Influential People on the Right for 2013″
The Right identified in the above column refers to the more conservative 1/2 of the general population, not to a specific constituency within the Republican party. I wonder if he’s correctly identified the most influential. And if he’s correct, what does that foretell about coming elections?
There are only two women on this list, Michelle Malkin at #25 and Sarah Palin at #3. There are no blacks, male or female. Only two of the ‘most influential’ are closely associated with specific causes, Grover Norquist on tax reform and Wayne LaPierre on gun rights. There is no influential person on the right promoting an alternative to Obamacare. Nor is there an influential voice associated with spending restraint or entitlement reform.
Of the nine journalists on the list, most do not even attempt to bridge the fault lines within the Republican party. Only Charles Krauthammer really writes to a broader audience. The talent and influence of Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh is inarguable. Still, seven of the nine are preaching strictly to the converted.
A few of Hawkin’s top 25 are mystifying. Newt Gingrich has more notoriety than influence. He’s still fascinated by the sound of his own voice, but he hasn’t had a consistent, coherent political philosophy in years. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner hold positions of influence, with little actual influence. They have distanced themselves from the conservative base and are completely ignored by the Democrats. In so doing, they have effectively become lame ducks without the handicap of term limits. Greg Gutfeld is smart, and interesting; but influential?
A year from now, I hope to find some new names on Hawkin’s list. Politically, I would hope that Mike Pence, Bobby Jindal, Kelly Ayotte and Tim Scott will be considered far more influential than they are today. It is comforting to listen to Republicans who don’t need to write talking points on their hand to do a television interview.
The most important issue confronting the country is the catastrophe of Obamacare. Yet, the most articulate and informed voices on health care reform (John Goodman, Sally Pipes and Ben Carson) remain virtually unknown outside the confines of Fox News. I find it astonishing that almost five years into this debate no prominent Republican politician is nationally regarded as a voice of health care reform.
You can’t be a serious conservative in America without reading Thomas Sowell’s columns and books. Sowell isn’t in the top 25. There are no other economists there either. Paul Ryan could be, but he’s not.
Next year I hope to see a Dana Loesch, Mary Katherine Ham or Dana Perino on Hawkin’s list. It would mean that Republicans are successfully courting women under forty-five and making progress with using social media.
Republicans have mastered the old Soviet trick of making the past disappear. Persons with ties to the Bush administration have been erased from republican memory or relegated to talking-headville. At the 2012 convention, Condeleeza Rice virtually forecast both the current catastrophe in Syria and the outcome. It would be nice to hear her words referenced as part of the current debate. Similarly, losing Republican candidates have little influence or public profile today. Admittedly Mitt Romney, Steve Forbes and Herman Cain were dreadful presidential candidates. But freed from constraints of campaign messaging they are still well equipped to carry the pro-growth, free market message all Republicans agree on.
Influence is difficult to define and harder to quantify. However, about half of those on Hawkins list are more notable for staying on message than they are for influencing their colleagues or the opposition. We have persuaded much of the country that President Obama is a hopelessly incompetent and inept executive. Great. We haven’t yet convinced them that conservatives are a preferable alternative.
To wield influence, we need to have something meaningful to say, enthusiastically delivered. (Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Milton Friedman) And we have to leave the audience feeling better for having heard it.
Two of the better political speeches in recent memory were delivered by Kristi Noem at CPAC in 2011 and Mia Love at the 2012 convention. Kristi Noem has struggled a bit since then but their optimism is at the heart of conservatism. Both Mia Love and Kristi Noem understood how Reagan connected with those voters we now consider ‘off the table’. Who are the best messengers to carry the conservative banner?