The Leading Ladies of Influence
Last week, the buzz in the nation's Capital centered on the British Daily Telegraph's anointing of the "Most Influential" American conservative and liberal leaders. The newspaper's Washington correspondents compiled a list of the top-100 among the most influential liberals and conservatives in America and published the names in increments of 20 per day. Their assessment of influence hinged on the amount of perceived influence in what the correspondents consider "the most open presidential election since 1928."
What is worth careful assessment in a list that is intriguing in numerous ways is to analyze the gender divide in the Daily Telegraph's list by comparing their inclusion of liberal versus conservative women. The liberal list includes 19 women; the conservative list only seven, a better than two and half to one ratio.
Obviously, the liberal list has the only female presidential candidate; but two of the wives of liberal candidates made the list (Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama) whereas none of the conservative candidates' wives made the list. Note that the husband of the female presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, ranked #1 among the liberal men. Laura Bush, wife of the current conservative president (whom they only ranked 21st) made the list at #59.
The liberals lead four to zero in female fundraisers/lobbyists -- Joan Blades from Moveon.org, Beth Dozeretz, a top Hillary Clinton underwriter, Debbie Dingel, a chief lobbyist for General Motors is also a well-connected advocate on women's and children's issues, and Ellen Malcolm founded Emily's List who works tirelessly to get pro-abortion women in Congress.
Both groups have a cabinet officer on the list (both Secretaries of State -- Condi Rice and Madeleine Albright) and both have a campaign operative (Mary Matalin, veteran of several Republican campaigns, on the conservative side and Patti Doyle, Mrs. Clinton's campaign manager, on the liberal side).
The conservatives lead by a slim margin of four to three in the number of writer, bloggers, and authors to make the list. All four of the conservative women are well-known -- Laura Ingraham, Peggy Noonan, Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin. The liberal women, too, are well-known: Ariana Huffington, Donna Brazile, and Maureen Dowd. I doubt that the liberals are happy that Ariana (a former conservative) ranks higher than the other two liberal columnists.
In addition, the liberals have two entertainers (Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand), two in Congress (Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harmon), two activists (Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan) and a pollster (Celinda Lake).
Beyond the surface distinctives of the two lists are some major substantive differences. The conservative list is based mostly on celebrity and name recognition, reflecting the Daily Telegraph correspondents' limited first-hand interaction with the conservative movement. In contrast, in addition to the celebrities, they note the real movers and shakers among the liberals -- the money women of the movement and the women of substance whose positions or achievements make them influential. On both lists, the writers, bloggers and authors are, rightly, noted as powerful influencers: Michelle Malkin and Ariana Huffington, Ann Coulter and Maureen Dowd, Peggy Noonan and Donna Brazile.
The liberal list has three women in the top ten persons of influence whereas the conservative women don't make the top ten on the conservative side. Among the top twenty conservative persons of influence there are two women: a cabinet officer and a talk show host/author -- Condi Rice and Laura Ingraham. On the liberal side, the top-twenty women include Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Oprah Winfrey, Ariana Huffington, Donna Brazile, Elizabeth Edwards (who, ironically, is ranked more influential than her husband!), and Joan Bladen (the female half of a husband-wife team that founded MoveOn.org, a group that supports liberals to the tune of tens of millions of dollars and thousands of hours of phone calling and knocking on doors).
It is apparent that the correspondents think that feminism is passť. The liberal list does not include the out-front feminists. Gloria Steinem and Kim Gandy are noticeably absent, as are the entire crop of academic feminists who have achieved such notoriety and power from Harvard to Berkeley. As far as the denizens of the media are concerned, the well-known representatives of the female values voters apparently don't count either. Note that neither Beverly LaHaye nor Phyllis Schlafly, two of the most notable of the social-conservative women, are not to be found anywhere among the Daily Telegraph's top-100 influencers.
One can only conclude that the Daily Telegraph correspondents think that liberal women have considerably more influence than conservative women . . . and perhaps they have it right as far as things go in the public square. In terms of money and position, the conservative women are the lightweights of these lists. On the other hand, if you sum up the weight of influence in their homes and communities of the millions of ordinary American women, the scales may tip in quite a different direction.
With all the liberal influence peddlers and all of George Soros' millions of dollars arrayed against George Bush in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, one would have thought he didn't have a chance of winning. But, then there were those conservative women voters! Maybe there are either two and a half times as many conservative women as liberal women or else one conservative woman's influence is two and a half times that of a liberal woman.
Clearly, the correspondents at the Daily Telegraph have not digested the wisdom of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote, "A Lady with a Lamp shall stand in the great history of the land." One can only peer dimly down the corridors of time and wonder which few of the "influential" women on the Daily Telegraph's list are likely to stand as "lamps" in the great history of America.
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