WASHINGTON — Washington. -- One of the few benefits of the Clarence Thomas hearings was that a national audience finally got a chance to see a segment of the population usually excluded from media coverage -- intelligent, articulate men and women, both black and white, who are conservatives.
Widespread national support for Mr. Thomas showed that these conservatives and moderates spoke for a large constituency, one much larger than those represented by various spokesmen who have recently dominated television and the front pages.
Armstrong Williams, a former top associate of Justice Thomas, is a black conservative who thinks that ''black leadership is out of step with the majority of black Americans. They have been bought and sold like real estate by special-interest groups. We need to hear from people who are fresh and clean and not owned by anyone.'' He says what is needed is ''substance, not rhetoric. We don't need people who rhyme and yell and scream.''
Stories on women and the 1992 political campaign frequently quote the National Organization for Women or individual feminist leaders. NOW claims a membership of 250,000 members. Why doesn't the press pay more attention to someone like Beverly LaHaye, whose Concerned Women for America claims 600,000 members? Perhaps it's because her group takes the ''politically incorrect'' view that '' 'women's rights' does not mean unrestricted abortion for convenience, special privileges for lesbians, legalized prostitution, sexual promiscuity, no-fault divorce and the destruction of marriage.''
Constance Newman, director of the Office of Personnel Management, began her career as a secretary in a federal office and eventually worked in the Reagan admini- stration. Why isn't she promoted as a role model for women? Is it because she doesn't tout liberal causes?
Niara Sudarkasa, who testified in favor of Justice Thomas, is president of Lincoln University and was recently named by President Bush to the board of directors of the Peace Corps. Surely her opinions deserve wider airing in the press.
Have you ever heard of Kathleen Sullivan? Not to be confused with the TV newscaster, this Sullivan developed ''Sex Respect,'' a positive and successful program that educates children about the value of chastity. Distributing condoms in the public schools is not the only way to combat teen sex.
Or how about Shepherd Smith? Although he is rarely seen on television or quoted in the press, he heads Americans for a Sound AIDS Policy, which includes medical and public-health experts who advocate a balanced approach to, rather than a political agenda for, AIDS research and treatment.
You probably have never seen Tony Evans, a black pastor in in Dallas. His church sponsors a program to get people off welfare and into jobs. Dr. Evans doesn't waste his time criticizing politicians. He concentrates on how to succeed, not make protests.
John Whitehead heads the Rutherford Institute, a legal organization that defends people whose First Amendment rights are threatened. He would be a balancing counterpoint to other legal experts like Alan Dershowitz and those from the ACLU who regularly appear on the networks.
What these and many more like them have in common is that they share a world view different from those who are most often sought after, interviewed and quoted. While opinion and election polls show the country is becoming increasingly conservative, liberals, who dominate much of the media, attempt to promote the social and intellectual remnants of the '60s.
Certainly it's time for members of the press to add some new cards to their Rolodexes -- names that reflect the swelling conservative tide in this country.
Meantime, individual Americans should be demanding that the media give equal time to conservative ideas and people from whom they've heard too little. The Thomas hearings showed they are out there. All that is needed is to invite them before the cameras and into the newspapers.
It might even improve ratings and newspaper circulation.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.