GQ released its much anticipated "Power 50" list on Tuesday, the first compendium of Washington’s most influential players in the Obama era, with a PR blitz and a glitzy Washington cocktail party celebrating the magazine’s November issue. The rankings are sure to excite and roil the Beltway, where the score is often more important than the game, and in a nod to Change, this list is actually studded with some progressive and new media figures.
The highest-ranking liberal politicians are Nancy Pelosi, David Obey and Henry Waxman, who each made the top ten, followed by Eric Holder, Barney Frank and Carol Browner.
On the advocacy side, new labor gets a shout out with Andy Stern. Paul Rieckhoff gets props for organizing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. And the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer is credited for not only informing U.S. "detention policies," but also pushing President Obama to "release the torture memos."
Some new media moguls also get their due: Tom Goldstein, the Supreme Court litigator who founded the influential SCOTUSBLOG; Josh Marshall, the print journalist turned web publisher (on a list for non-resident Washington power brokers); John Harris, bringing the "urgency of the blogosphere" to editing the Politico newspaper (where I write a monthly column); and Bob Cohn, editorial director of the invigorated Atlantic Monthly website, which topped 35 million monthly views at the peak of the 2008 campaign.
I asked Raha Naddaf, the GQ Associate Editor who headed up the list, how scrappy websites were competing for spots with corporate lobbyists and military leaders.
"Political blogs like TPM and Politico have just been incredibly prolific in the past year. They’ve been consistently breaking news," she said, "and bloggers have been showing up in news conferences, as pundits on TV — everywhere. They’ve risen in a big way." Naddaf also said the list aimed for an ideological "mix," since 50 is a relatively small number and they wanted to "cover as many bases as possible."
Perception is part of power, of course, so even if people contest GQ‘s picks, the emphasis on progressive lawmakers and online media will still reverberate. And the MIA parts of this list could spark important conversations, too.
There are no antiwar leaders or economic populists, despite the election mandate to end the war and rescue Main Street. (Blame the list or reality?) The Congressional Black Caucus is not represented, even though two of its members now chair two of the most powerful committees in Congress. (But one of them, Charlie Rangel, is embroiled in a scandal threatening his standing.) And perhaps most surprisingly, in this season of broadcast battles, none of our nation’s loudest political voices made the cut, from Limbaugh to Beck and Olbermann to Maddow. (But they already get lots of press.)
And finally, the toughest task is for Republicans to stay on the list even as Washington turns blue. Obama’s Bush holdovers made it, like Robert Gates and Robert Mueller. Swing voters made it, like Olympia Snowe. (Somewhere Alan Grayson is screaming.) And while President Bush is gone, fittingly, the top ten still includes the G.O.P.’s dark id, Dick Cheney.