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.