Anchor Rising’s Top 10 Right-of-Center Rhode Islanders: 10, 9, 8
Last week, we began a conversation about how one would gauge the top 10 conservative Rhode Islanders. To be sure, the conversation didn’t stay on topic very long, but it did spark some discussion among the contributors. Once we defined criteria and a scoring system, we felt capable of providing a veneer of objectivity to our guesswork. Such rankings are inherently subjective and often based more on impressions than quantifiable metrics, but in an attempt at control, we rated each person on a ten point scale in each of the following three categories:
- Ability to affect the news cycle: In the ideological game, the message makes the messenger, so affecting the public discussion is a critical power. Some folks are go-to quotables for news stories; others can effectively create news from press releases; others can drive their opinions into the news even though their names never appear there.
- Native power of position: Since we’re measuring “power” in a general sense, it’s important to tease out different forms thereof. An influential media personality may reach thousands, but his or her ability to make decisions that change people’s lives is indirect. Prominent executives top this category, with average legislators in the middle of the pack.
- Opportunity to influence others: It’s one thing to provide quotes and stories to others (who may or may not report them accurately); it’s another to have a personal audience or following. Conveyance of one’s positions to other people and persuasion of them to act, or at least think, differently is the form of power generally called “influence.”
Especially given the prominence of moderates in Rhode Island’s right-of-center coalition, we thought it reasonable to work the person’s degree of conservatism into the formula. Therefore, candidates could earn another six points — three on social issues and three on economic — with one point being at least moderation/ambivalence and three being a full fledged conservatism. Consequently, the highest possible score was 36.
We realize that opinions vary on what matters and how the criteria apply to each person on the list, and this being our first attempt at such an inquiry, we welcome comments or even corrections.
Starting off the top 10 is 630AM/99.7FM WPRO’s evening host Matt Allen. Yes, he’s the new host on the schedule; yes, he’s on late. But Matt’s got the top show on the radio waves during his slot, and we run into his listeners often. His power derives almost entirely from his microphone and his ability to make a thing news simply by discussing it. On the ideological scorecard, his libertarian streak softens his social conservatism, but Matt’s well within the inner chambers of right’s big tent.
Nobody would deny that the leader of a such a tiny band as the state House GOP is far from the top of the political hill, but certain powers and privileges accrue to the role. (Right?) More importantly, where there is discussion of budgetary matters, Mr. Watson is very often the agitated “opposing voice.” When corruption and procedural leftism rear their heads in the General Assembly, he often leads the attack from the right (albeit, sometimes requiring prompting from folks farther up our list)… for what it’s worth. Although, from what we hear, it’s best that the leader remain mum on social issues, he’s definitely a man of the right by Rhode Island standards.
You’ve heard the significance of having all the right enemies? Well, WPRO’s morning host John DePetro drives those enemies crazy. We’re not entirely sure why that is — assuming it’s not the quick-take style of his show — but the size of his audience and local familiarity with his name (having snagged the “independent man” brand) are enough to land him on our list. He also carries the native Rhode Islander’s advantage of having personal connections throughout the state.
To make the title of the list more accurate, we’ve changed it from Top 10 Conservative Rhode Islanders to Top 10 Right-of-Center Rhode Islanders. Sometimes a shift in emphasis emerges between concept and publication without the resulting changes’ being as thorough as they should be; such was the case here.