Well now. Please note that almost nothing in the current torrent of debate about the Rod Dreher column has anything to do with the purpose of the original blog article, except that this is a demonstration of how hard this kind of bitter debate is to cover in a newspaper.
Try to imagine writing a story in a newspaper that deals fairly with the voices on both sides of this major-league slap fest.
But there is a factual question here that is central to the work of the blog. The MSM is, consistently, much harsher to the cultural right than to the cultural left. Please check out the media bias studies on this, going back to the classic Los Angeles Times study on abortion coverage. Check out this Oliphant cartoon.
What we have been trying to do is compare the levels of invective in the mainstream news media toward the religious right and the religious/secular left, in the wake of the 11/2 election. That is, after all, what this blog is about — press coverage of religious issues. Also, we are interested in editorial pages, but not as much as we are interested in the news pages. We jumped on The New York Times op-ed freak out theme because this was so symbolic of the general attitudes in that elite newspaper.
But, let me stress, even at the Times where was some fabulous journalism going on out in the main columns. There were outbreaks of information about both sides. There were voices quoted that told us something new about what was happening. Good. Anyone want to note some other exceptionally good stories that we have missed?
But I continue to think that the undercovered side of this debate is the hardcore religious left. Or maybe not. Maybe that is what we are reading on the editorial pages.
Meanwhile, here is a recent letter that cuts very close to the larger news story that remains uncovered. Can anyone imagine a major cultural issue compromise by the religious left? This is just as hard, or harder, than to imagine one on the right. Here is the letter.
The truth is that, Patricia Ireland’s apparent unwillingness to compromise notwithstanding, the Democrats could pick off a great number of orthodox conservatives if they came out strongly in favor of a few compromises on abortion, such as a uniform standard for parental notification for minors, a short waiting period, and a serious educational effort aimed at reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, done in a way that is respectful of Catholic views on contraception. In doing these things, Dems would be moving the abortion wars to a more acceptable middle ground, and the radical left like Ireland would have no choice but to continue to support the Democrats — where else would they go? To the Republicans?!
If the Dems could manage to stop insulting people of faith, and could take a few steps towards the center on moral issues like abortion, marriage, the Pledge, embryonic stem cells, Israel, they might be able to claim to be the party that is seeking balance in a pluralistic society, leaving the Republicans to appear to be the party of the extremes. But such compromises would infuriate the hard left, and would probably take more moral courage than the Democrats are able to muster.
As a life-long Democrat who long-ago abandoned my party because of its positions on abortion and other “respect for life” issues, I am still not comfortable with the Republican positions on capital punishment, health care for the poor and other social justice matters. If the Democrats were smarter, they could entice people like me back into the fold.
Now, has anyone seen Charlie’s voice show up in the news pages? Perhaps a Hispanic Charlie? An African-American Charlie? A born-again, Bible Belt Charlie?