I had hoped that the New York Times would pick Joshua Trevino to replace Bill Kristol‘s sordid run as opinion columnist, but their pick of Ross Douthat is definitely a solid choice (though also a far more cautious one). Douthat is a principled conservative voice who does not toe the Republican party line, but neither does he rock the boat with major critiques of his own team (unlike Trevino, who had no qualms about holding his side accountable). Douthat can be trusted to represent a “safe” form of conservatism quite reliably, in marked contrast to the loony fringe that dominates most conservative right-wing discourse. As such, Douthat at the Times is probably conservatism’s highest-profile palatable advocate.
The Times may not have been the place for a more innovative voice like Trevino- in (obvious) hindsight, a safe pick like Douthat was probably inevitable. However, the Atlantic now has a slot to fill for a blogger, presumably of conservative bent, and unlike the Times would benefit highly from a voice that will make some noise. A strong conservative voice is especially needed given that their other major bloggers are liberal (Sullivan) and libertarian (McArdle). Who better than Trevino to reinvigorate the Atlantic’s blog corps and provide some genuine diversity?