Ross Douthat: America’s Most Interesting Conservative?

Photo courtesy of <em>New York Times</em>

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Ross Douthat‘s thoughts on health care outline the ideological stalemate that assures the demise of comprehensive reform. But you wouldn’t know it from his weekly column. So far this year, the New York Times‘ new conservative columnist has produced anemic columns on topics like Internet politics and Tiger Woods’ faith. But his strength is best showcased on his meticulously maintained blog, which moved from the Atlantic to the Times in December.

After Scott Brown swiped the Democrats’ Senate supermajority last week, the Times‘ youngest columnist (30) blogged about the future of health care legislation in the Senate. One post claims that the public rejects the high taxes of liberals and the aversion to government programs common among conservatives. So to pass health care, Douthat writes, both sides need to take baby steps. This “would mean trying to prod the country in the direction they want it to go, instead of trying to drag the public, kicking and screaming, toward wholesale transformations.”

At this point, comprehensive health care reform is a long shot. And although it would be a shame to let the last few months of legislative nightmare go to waste, Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein agree that Democrats can’t salvage a scaled back version of the bill. But Douthat’s willingness to accept the Democrats’ ideas, if not their political strategy, makes him one of the Times‘ most surprising columnists. While he’s certainly conservative (pro-choice, pro-abstinence, anti-big government), he rejects the party-line Republican platform. He’s uncomfortable taking a firm position on gay marriage, for example, because his opposition is rooted in his Catholicism. In the current issue of Mother Jones, Mark Oppenheimer sums up Douthat’s unpredictable conservatism:

His comfort with complexity, and with those who disagree with him—along with his somewhat unconventional upbringing, his unorthodox ideas on abortion law, and his embrace of both popular culture and highbrow literature—make him a surprising conservative writer. More surprising than most of his Times readers would ever know, and compelling in ways his fellow conservatives may not like to admit.

For these reasons (not to mention his love for The Wire), Douthat is a great addition to the Times op-ed page. Read the piece for more about the quirky upbringing and budding career that make Douthat a great blogger, an important columnist, and perhaps America’s most interesting conservative voice. 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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