FRIDAY, JULY 1, 2022
Who killed Roe v. Wade: On Tuesday afternoon, a new arrival on the front knocked Dobbs out of the news.
The previous Friday, there had been a different arrival on the front. On that day, the new arrival on the front had been the Dobbs decision itself.
The Dobbs decision brought Roe v. Wade to an end. It constituted a terrible political defeat for our own flailing blue tribe.
Two days later, in its Sunday print editions, the New York Times published a very unusual profile. The profile was written by Elisabeth Dias, the newspaper's National Faith and Values Correspondent.
In some ways, the profile was a type of journalistic boilerplate. Headline included, the profile started like this:
For Conservative Christians, the End of Roe Was a Spiritual Victory
For nearly 50 years, conservative Christians marched, strategized and prayed. And then, on an ordinary Friday morning in June, the day they had dreamed of finally came.
Ending the constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade took a decades-long campaign, the culmination of potlucks in church gymnasiums and prayers in the Oval Office. It was the moment they long imagined, an outcome many refused to believe was impossible, the sign of a new America.
For many conservative believers and anti-abortion groups grounded in Catholic or evangelical principles, the Supreme Court’s decision was not just a political victory but a spiritual one.
“It is more than celebration,” said Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “It is a moment of gratitude to the Lord, and gratitude to so many people, in the church and beyond the church, who have worked and prayed so hard for this day to come.”
For the record, we know of no reason to believe or assume that Dias shares the religious or political views of the people being profiled. That said, we were surprised to see this report in the New York Times. It struck us as highly unusual.
In some ways, the profile was journalistic boilerplate—a bowl of tapioca.
Over the course of nearly fifty years, a certain group had achieved a very large political win. In conventional journalistic fashion, the profile recorded the feelings of a few members of this group concerning their very big win.
This is standard journalistic practice; there's nothing "wrong" with this practice. What surprised us was this fact:
The Dias profile treated these "conservative Christians" in much the way the New York Times would treat any other such group.
The profile treated these players as normal people, not as a gaggle of Others. To us, this seemed like unusual work by the Times, though we could always be wrong about that.
As journalism, the profile resembled a bowl of oatmeal. It's hardly surprising to learn that people feel elated in the aftermath of a large political win.
(In a similar vein, it's hardly surprised to learn that people feel devastated when their homes have been swept away in a flood. But every time houses get swept away, CNN arrives at the scene to ask the people who lost their homes how they feel about it.)
The Dias profile was a form of boilerplate, but it seemed highly unusual to us. Our tribe has routinely tended to treat these political winners as Others—but now, the Others had achieved a big win, and the Times was willing to profile the group as it would any such group.
In some ways, this 49-year-old story represents a resurrection of the ancient tale about the tortoise and the hare. The over-confident, self-impressed hare slumbers and dozes during a race.
Doggedly, the tortoise keeps at it, and the tortoise eventually wins.
In this case, the Christian conservatives who won the race are American citizens too. They aren't planning to go anywhere. At least according to basic theory, they have a right to their views.
At times, our tribe has been willing and able to show respect for those views, and for the people who hold them. At other times, perhaps maybe not. Could that possibly be part of the way our tribe ended up in this place?
We think there's a lot to learn from the results of this decades-long story. Rightly or wrongly, we were struck by the way the Times was willing to profile the group of players who ended up winning this race.
Tomorrow: "Safe, legal and rare?"