If Donald Trump is the man of the year, you can make a strong case that Kellyanne Conway is the most influential woman of the year. This week brought news that Conway will remain close at Trump’s side in the new administration, taking the position of “counselor to the president.”
The New York Times nicknamed Conway “the Trump whisperer” shortly after she took over his campaign in August, replacing Paul Manafort, who a few months earlier replaced Corey Lewandowski. It’s fair to wonder just how different the Trump campaign was in each of those brief eras, and whether her whispering really changed Trump’s style on the stump that much or whether he just finally recognized his more intemperate outbursts were hurting his odds. Still, among Trump’s high-level campaign team, Conway seemed most adept at stepping in front of the cameras and putting out the fires.
Conway’s specialty is helping Republican candidates appeal to women voters. Women were supposed to carry Hillary Clinton into the White House, but the Democratic nominee “lost the votes of white women overall and struggled to win women voters without a college education in states that could have propelled her to victory.” The campaign is over, but the effort to sell the Trump agenda to American women and reassure them won’t end; politics is persuasion.
If, as it is claimed, Conway is calming influence on Trump, and helps steer him away from his worst impulses, terrific. But the Conway influence shouldn’t be overstated. Trump will still be Trump, for good or for ill.