A COUPLE things to begin. One, I went looking for Douthat between late Sunday night and yesterday morning, when I finally caught up with him, because I really wanted to see where he thought he'd go after writing the same (and ostensibly Times'-liberal-readership satisfyin') column about The Future of "Conservatism" twice in a row, and I'll admit that when I couldn't find him all Monday I harbored the amorphous idea that all concerned had read his third effort and decided to Call The Whole Thing Off. Though Experience, of course, said the opposite. I was, and am, curious to see how Ross is going to type his way out of his dilemma, which is that he's a talentless wingnut hack, up from the Moral Scold Division, who managed to convince someone he's a thinker by getting his name on a Wither Republicanism? book before most of the other talentless wingnut hacks thought to do the same, and he now finds himself in a place where he's actually being read. And, unlike Kristol, he probably needs the paycheck. He couldn't ignore Jebus for long (could he?), but even at one column per week explaining his superior grasp of Select Bronze Age Theology is gonna wear thin in a twelvemonth (though here, again, Mnemosyne aims an arthritic digit at the collected columns of David Brooks, and cackles).
This betrays my bias towards content,which they don't exactly share at the Gray Lady, where, for example, they hired Ross Douthat, and where, a couple years back, they announced that they'd Learned Their Lesson and would now regularly publish odes to what the typical Times editor imagined as the sincere religious feeling of The Land Beyond The Hudson, accompanied by photos of somber church interiors or praying parishioners washed with lambent light. I confess (sorry) I don't follow such things, so I'm not sure just how exponentially this increased Times readership here in the Sticks. How's their business doing?
Then again, it might be that someone at the Times just said, "Aw, fuck it", justifiably, or they might have imagined the 29-year-old Douthat couldn't afford to remain a back-bencher for the Washington Generals the rest of his career and would have to reach some Middle-aged accommodation with "reality" after Obama's reelection. Two things argue against the latter: one, we're not exactly talking about a vein of high-quality marble here; more like possible food-grade plastic, and two, the goddam incontinent linkage shit.
I miscounted, yesterday, mostly because whoever is actually creating the links likes to highlight entire phrase structures, punctuation and all, which tends, at least at my visual acuity level, to raise the question of whether you're dealing with one, two, or sixteen separate linkages. So it wasn't eighteen, but a mere seventeen, which means he fell one shy of doubling the already gaudy career numbers he'd racked up in just two columns. Obviously this is someone's--maybe Douthat himself's--idea of how one draws the desired Internet-savy 18-29 demo, namely, with unchartable heaps of madding post-literacy. Seventeen fucking links, and, as promised, I opened every last one. "Obama's admirers nurse a persistent hope" (three links) takes you to, in order, Andrew Sullivan, Peter Beinart, and Frank Rich--any of whom, despite a generalized antipathy, I'd rather read than Ross Douthat--and god knows how many words, just to prove to us, assuming it does, that there are people out there who hope Obama will end the "Culture Wars" in their own favor, and at least one of them is Gay. Reader, we are fourteen words in. I had professors of European extraction who didn't give me reading lists like that. Have you in any way, shape, or form, actually considered what it is you're accomplishing? Is it supposed to confer legitimacy to your claim, or the subsequent "analysis"? Because it fails on both counts.
(And it doesn't get much better: a couple links go to polls to back up some contention or other, and one to a Hoover Institution paper that's quoted. Okey dokey. The rest might as well link to hipster t-shirt sites. Only some internet wise-ass would open all these, and then just to advance the general merriment attending "conservatism's" slow death. No one in his right minds says, "Y'know, I thought Douthat had a decent point, but he failed to back it up with three links, so no sale." Not that anyone in his right mind would read him in the first place.)
Maybe you should spend a little more time polishing your rhetoric:
Among their many aspirations for his presidency, Barack Obama’s admirers nurse a persistent hope that he might be able to end the culture wars. And by end, they generally mean win. The real hope is a final victory for cultural liberalism, and social conservatism’s permanent eclipse.
These hopes are overstated, but not necessarily irrational. Four months in, the Obama administration does seem to have a plausible strategy for turning the “social issues” to liberalism’s advantage. The outline is simple: Engage on abortion, and punt on gay rights.
C'mon. First, you might wanna have someone check that log in your eye. Most people don't give a fuck about your Culture War; of those who do, most are on your side, and most are utterly irretractable and proud of it. People on the other side may believe just as fervently, but they aren't trying to crush you (though more's the pity) or force you to gay marry an abortionist. They want your professional meddlesomeness to end at the church door.
And they've defeated you, resoundingly, twice, so why shouldn't they expect, or at least hope, you return to the permanent 20% status you managed to obscure for a generation without, it should be noted, ever accomplishing anything beyond obstructionism. Thirty years-- gratefully--after Reagan, there's no School Prayer amendment, no reversal of Roe, no rollback of televised "smut" or internet porn, no cultural sea-change thanks to abstinence education. You've got Gay Marriage to rile up the bigots, but that's all it does; you don't even have an argument in place. You had the power to obstruct, to the extent that you wagged the Republican dog; now you don't, and the dog's done with huntin'. You've lost, and you lost because real people don't agree with you.
The punting has been obvious. On the campaign trail, Obama promised to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He still intends to — but not yet, not yet. He said he supported federal recognition for civil unions. His administration has ignored the issue. He backed repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. Don’t expect that to come up for a vote any time soon.
The engagement with pro-lifers, thus far, has been limited to putting a conciliatory gloss on the usual pro-choice policymaking. But a formal outreach effort is in the works. The White House is hosting meetings seeking common ground on abortion, promising policy proposals geared toward abortion reduction by this summer.
Okay, again, get your eyes checked, Ross, and not just by a priest. You see anyone to the right of the Catholic hierarchy as the enemy; gay and women's rights advocates see the Democrats as the far safer harbor of the two parties, but not as their earthly intercessors. These are not giddy schoolchildren enamored of President Cool. They're hard-nosed hardball players, and they're not about to see reproductive freedoms handed over at some White House political confab, not that they could be. You ought at least to be honest enough to give Obama a chance to hoodwink you the way you let the GOP do for forty years. (And everyone's in favor of reducing the number of abortions. It's just that not everyone falls for your rhetoric. As the last two elections show.)
Nothing that emerges from this White House is going to look like a genuine legal compromise — which would require the rollback of Roe’s near-absolute guarantee of abortion rights, and a move, at the very least, toward the restrictions on second-trimester abortions that roughly two-thirds of American support.
Oh, so now you've got a compromise position, one which merely requires the majority to accede to the moral superiority of your own, minority, position? Can we have the weekend to think it over?
But if Obama’s abortion-reduction proposals owe more to Democrats For Life than to Planned Parenthood, there are abortion opponents who will seize even that thin straw as a sign of progress. And the Democratic Party will have a chance to peel off more votes from one of conservatism’s crucial constituencies.
Right. And it should only cost the votes of a few million Disorganized Women for Being Treated As First-Class Citizens Under The Law, Not Under The Heel of the Highly Desired Republican Vile Spewing Anti-Choice voting bloc, now so suddenly willing to compromise, sez you. Jesus, Ross, you should pardon the expression, you think The Atlantic has reassigned your old desk? Wait here a minute. I'll get the link for you.