Plumb Lines

March 12, 2009

Ross Douthat and the New York Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 8:47 am

There has been widespread and appropriate happiness at Ross Douthat’s selection as the new conservative columnist for the New York Times. Ross’s perspective on issues ranging from abortion, to stem cells, to the financial crisis, to the future of the movies is always measured and insightful. Both of these traits have made him stand out in the blogging world. Ross is, in many ways, the perfect man for our political moment. With the culture wars at a high pitch, Ross provides a measured voice from the right that can speak to secularists and their concerns.

As Ross moves to the New York Times, one hopes that his ambition and boldness will increase with his prominence. The one thing I (and, I suspect, many other fans of Ross) hope is that he will apply the same principled pragmatism to the debate over marriage that he has brought to bear on issues of life. In the wake of Proposition 8, strident voices have diminished the possibility of any kind of compromise. Ross is perfectly suited and positioned to step into this debate and point out a way forward. It’s tantalizing to imagine what Ross’s ability to decrease the temperature and increase the rigor of culture-war debates could do for the fight over marriage.

It may be that Ross’s silence up to this point has something to do with his friendship with his Atlantic colleague Andrew Sullivan and the desire to avoid an intra-magazine flame war. If anything, having separate perches should allow them to be better friends and interlocutors. None of this is to say that I know where Ross would come down on the marriage issue. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I’m so eager to see him speak more about what is, perhaps, the most important debate today.

Matthew Schmitz



  1. State-ordained marriage has long been fairly unimportant to the Catholic Church. (Think of the wonderful ending scene in Maupassant’s Bel Ami in which Bel Ami is allowed to marry the woman (he had disgraced by kidnapping and thus forced her father’s hand) in all the pomposity and dubious circumstance of the Church, only because his first marriage was not Church-ordained.) It seems that the “religious conservatives,” while doing and spending little to openly encourage heterosexual marriage counseling, etc., have picked a rather silly and short-sighted fight in the anti-gay marriage movement. It is almost a guarantee that within 30 years of culturally accepted state-ordained gay marriages, the RCs will have an entire group of people who, having been accepted and normalized, will join in their anti-abortion crusade. Who better to cry out against abortions than those who, in their now-normal-couple status, are unable to biologically produce children? What better spokescouples? I’ll finish with a pre-emptive “It is All political”

    Comment by zach — March 12, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

  2. Note: I concluded that this would probably be an unprofitable line of discussion, so I withdrew my comment.

    Comment by Keith Staples — March 13, 2009 @ 9:34 am

  3. […] Thought…The Washington Independent » Ross Douthat to Opine for The New York Times…Ross Douthat and the New York Times « Plumb Lines…Reflections on the occasion of Ross Douthat’s elevation as New York Times columnist « […]

    Pingback by Hot News » Ross Douthat — March 22, 2009 @ 10:40 am

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