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Readers On David French

LGBT activists and allies attacked NYT for hiring anti-Trump conservative Evangelical as columnist. You shared your thoughts
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I asked you all to e-mail me your thoughts about David French being insufficiently woke for The New York Times. (Side note: happily and amazingly, the Times's leadership has responded to the challenge from the pro-LGBT wokesters by showing some journalistic spine and defending French, Douthat, and others! More, please!). David French is a highly polarizing figure, mostly, I think, because he's an intelligent and articulate defender of pre-Trump conservatism, and forces conservatives to face both the failures of that conservatism (something he hasn't really faced himself), and the potentially dangerous departures from it many of us have taken from it.

Here is a sampling of your comments:


I appreciate your feelings for David French are going to shape how you think and comment about him, but you're giving him WAAAAAAAY too much credit.

He is an unreconstructed Bush Republican and, like many of them, has utterly refused to acknowledge or grapple with how their approach to politics and policy failed.  And like many of them, French has simply retreated from reality into a comfortable fantasy.

David French now thinks of life as a movie where David French is the star and everyone else is just a walk-on, which means that every issue is now evaluated on how it affects and reflects David French.  I mean, would it really be hard for someone as smart as French to accept that protecting children from sexual perversity is a legitimate public concern?  It's that the issue is, in French's mind, not about the innocence of children but about the moral wonderfulness of David French and the abhorrent evil of those who are not David French.

Seriously, if you think I'm being too hard on him, ready pretty much anything French has written or Tweeted about Trump and Trump supporters and ask yourself if he sounds like someone talking about his fellow citizens or like a Hollywood diva outraged because his bowl of M&Ms is red instead of green. 


David French is irrelevant as a conservative and Christian writer because he fundamentally does not get where his own values are effectively stripping our society of the political white blood cells to forcefully push back an openly satanic assault on our culture and institutions. That's what you see in his take on Drag Queen Story Hour. He does not seem to realize that if his Christian worldview is correct, constitutional principles must step aside in the face of a literally satanic push into the public square because the "other side" is now fighting with the "powers and principalities" on their side. So he has a choice: he can either give inalienable rights to unspeakable error or submit (including his politics) to the One who can turn back the tide.

I think this is something broadly speaking that many conservative Christians haven't figured out. They continue to say "if we repent, God will heal our land," but repentance must include a recognition that our political values actually got us to this point and a willingness to set them aside where needed. He, and those like him, would wring their hands about "precedents," but at this point (and expanding on a recent post of yours about DeSantis) we have literally nothing to lose since we are already in the "castrating boys and carving up girls" phase of the spiritual battle. Do we need to get to "Make Moloch God Again" being a serious movement on the left before people like him realize that in the ordering of political values Christianity must come first before anything else?


I’m a former somewhat regular correspondent who had to make a hard decision about whether to subscribe it The American Conservative when I retired from my day job in Washington DC, and moved with my wife to Uganda where we both serve as missionary faculty at a Church of Uganda university here. There are only so many luxuries one can allow oneself when living on donated funds from mission partners and trying to keep one’s hands out of the savings accounts back in the US for whenever true retirement occurs.  That said, I miss the fellowship of your regular commenters, who were in the main thoughtful and constructively thought-provoking.

First, I take some heart at the New York Tines’ step-by-step additions to its pool of right-of-center commentators, of which David French is the latest. As a regular reader of Mr French over the past several years I preface what I will say with the following thoughts. First, it’s reasonable to assume he was offered a deal from the Times that he could not refuse, and that no way could The Dispatch match. Second, anyone in his profession would likely be challenged - or flattered - by the notion of a more visible opportunity to share their thoughts, and with a larger audience. Surely Mr French had to weigh in his calculus  the prospect of daily life with incoming brickbats from the large Left side of the Times’ readership. However I imagine that given he has had to endure the viciousness that has become the default method of argument of so much of the Right these days, the Times’ left flank likely lacks the capability to tell him anything he has not heard before - and worse.

To me, the key to understand Mr French is that while he is indeed commissioned by the Times to write political commentary, I take at face value that he begins his assessment of the issues before him thinking and reflecting as a Christian, not as a conservative. Whatever Mr French may believe or may choose to assert as a conservative derives from his faith. It does not precede it. He also - I think - does not choose to approach his potential subject matter from the standpoint of a person who has embraced a largely Manichean view of the world, as do many other notionally conservative commentators now (a great many of whom give evidence of embracing this perspective for the clicks, not out of deep conviction. Mr French’s approach means that he is practically instantly recognizable as a potential traitor to his tribe, for those for whom the thing they call conservatism places a premium on the identification with tribe and the taking of sides.

There are a number of us Christians who have been trying to unravel our faith from our political beliefs, and thereafter to place faith first. We are aspiring, however fitfully and however imperfectly to both seek guidance for our political decisions from our faith convictions, and to give weight and priority to which issues should merit our attention based on those convictions. That journey has made me - a devotee of How Dante Can Save Your Life - less of a devotee of the current stage of the author’s journey, although I respect the conviction (and sacrifice) with which he has undertaken that journey. I write these words as someone who is prepared to acknowledge that he may be wrong in how he has ordered the issues that engage his concern. I write these words as a confessing Anglican Christian in regular fellowship with Ugandan Christians who place a decidedly different priority on the set of issues we’ll label LBGTQ (Is that the proper order? I’m never sure). I'm still a newcomer to my community of faith here who senses that Ugandan Christians grossly overstate the present challenge of homosexuality here and grossly understate the significance of predatory heterosexuality that they have right in front of them, not to mention systemic social problems with, say, the subparts of the Eighth Commandment over the supports of the Seventh.

Partly as a consequence of living abroad, I am spending increasingly less time reading US political commentary, and more and more time with Christian commentary - not to mention reading actual books (we are blessed with the absence of a television set here). There are a number of others who like David French seek to navigate the shoals of American public discourse from beyond the procrustean bed of Right versus Left that someone somewhere else has determined. You know probably all of them. Russell Moore is one. Justin Giboney and Chris Butler of the And Campaign are two others. Phil Vischer and Skye Jethani of The Holy Post are two more. Comment Magazine is a treasure trove. I will throw in your old friend and interlocutor David Brooks as yet another when he writes about his faith. I still read First Things, and I follow (and occasionally correspond) with Christian writers of lesser renown but equally valuable insights. What they seem to have in common is their assertion that the world may have problems from a Christian’s perspective, but that God is still in charge and it is not in dire peril. That love and generosity, rather than anger and fear, should still be among a Christian’s primary guides.

“Militant purity” (a fine turn of phrase; you still bring it) drives the Right as well as the Left, and David French is one of the chief targets of the militantly pure. He, like the others whom I have named and whose writings I find to be helpful, are trying to set the course and heading for Christians in the public square for the long haul rather than to get sucked into the vortex of set piece debates over the issues of the moment. That, and for the Christians among them to follow Jesus over their political instincts or the siren calls and alarums of some tribe.

Besides, the cynic in me says that when the dust settles after such a crowd of folks chases the parade of the culture warriors with bullhorns, we will wind up as we so often have, with just more tax cuts for the wealthy. So yeah, I’m paying more attention to certain Christian writers in the public square, and much, much less to the contemporary peddlers of bright shiny objects that are meant to reflect today’s particular crisis.



Thought provoking stuff as always.  I agree with you 100% that there is no way that David French's conservatism ca drive back the New Woke Religion from our culture.  I also agree with your Deneen-based take - classical liberalism detached from the Christian faith is what got us here.  I also think that most good-faith Republicans and Conservatives are with you in a standstill of thinking:  you cannot imagine a form of government and a social compact that most of us can consent to.

For me, reading Deneen a few years was the breakthrough in my evolution as a conservative.  I then read Michael Lind's New Class War and a few other classics and currents from the mostly New-Right genre.  I think you have observed many times that the Republican Party of the past 40 years ago has been terrible at actually conserving anything.  So where does that leave us?  The Democratic Party has left the working class and fully embraced the New Woke Religion.  And the Republican Party is a mix of some nice folks, some folks who want a return to zombie Reaganism, some folks who revere Trump simply because he's a fighter and then a bunch of libertarians who would rather give away American jobs to cheap immigrant and foreign labor.  And in that lot of Republicans, not as many of them actually believe in a God who demands accountability from us as individuals.

So who do I vote for?  Today, no one.  For two reasons: first, I think the anti-Federalists of the late 18th century were wrong in the short-term but right in the long-term - you can't have a Republic on a giant continent with hundreds of millions of people. Second - where do all of those blue-haired young teachers that show up on Libs of TikTok come from?  Where do the Children's Hospital doctors administering puberty blockers to 11-year olds come from?  Where do racists like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Nicole Hannah Jones come from?  How does an incompetent narcissistic fraud like Gavin Newsom survive a recall after helping run California into the toilet?  My point is that all of these individuals are what you expect with classical liberalism detached from Christian faith.  And there are millions and millions and millions of these types of Americans who have converted to the New Woke Religion.  I think it is foolhardy to think that just by "fighting back" or "electing true Conservatives" that we can produce a more sane version of America in the 2020s or anytime soon.  To use your comment above - I can't imagine a social compact that most of us can consent to.

So where does that leave us?  I believe to a return to federalism but a much more loose version than what we have today.  I think the Convention of States is the closest thing we have on the political landscape that will help this country.  There is no way America can stay together and be ruled by the Imperial City, Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley cultural values.  We have to radically reduce Washington's money spigot and return most of the law-making and decisionmaking to the states.  Let California continue to turn itself into a haven for criminals, the poor, the homeless and the oligarchs.  The same for New York and Illinois.  But let Idaho be Idaho and let Indiana be Indiana.  Each state or region should have much more autonomy than in our current system.  Let power go local to focus on communities and families.  

I do like the idea of calling a Convention of States (which is laid out in the Constitution when the Republic has lost its way), but the organization is mostly headed by Tea Party types who I don't think are hard enough on the toxic influence of globalists and libertarians in the Republican Party.  I actually wrote about about my vision for a return to stricter federalism to combat the toxicity of hyper-individualism and hyper-capitalism on the Republic.  Unfortunately I don't have much of a platform, so for now I wait and hope for the movement to take shape.

Lastly, the best hope in all of this is Jesus.  We may not save our country, but He can save each of our souls!


I am a left leaning reader of yours. I find myself increasingly supporting candidates and politicians I disagree with on basic policy questions because the left has become totalitarian, and while I agree with many of the policies and opinions of the left, I disagree with the mainstream left on others (ex: the more extreme forms of the trans movement; the notion that bakers ought to be forced to make gay wedding cakes), and I'd rather live in democracy than the totalitarian state so many on the left seek these days. I'm also finding that people to the right of me will listen to my concerns, while those to the left keep refusing to even consider them.

I've been concerned about what has happened to us since Trump started gaining traction, and I keep finding myself circling back to a crucial issue that I find far too many people on the left seem incapable of grasping: that it is possible to get value from listening to people you disagree with. Far too much of the censorship of the last few years has been driven by a pathological fear of contamination: not just is it horrible to hold these views, but it is horrible to even think about them. Simply put, too many of my fellow leftists have lost track of the fact that it is possible to disagree, and even to disagree constructively, with others. This has meant that even when people in the left disagree with the totalitarians, as happens far more often than it looks from the outside, we face ostracism if we voice it, tolerably often even from those who secretly agree with us!

Ever since Trump came onto the scene, I've found it easier to talk politics with my conservative friends: we disagree, often quite strongly, but we have the willingness to listen. To far too many on the left, to even question some of the narratives is becoming anathema, and so it's become dangerous to discuss it. I've been engaged in politics for years now, and have never been willing to keep quiet, but it's disheartening to see how many others have folded.

I've even had left leaning activists quietly tell me they agree with me, but that they can't say it publicly. I've even gotten apologetic letters from people who are unwilling to publicly agree with me, because they are fearful of the consequences to their own reputation if they do.

I still have not been able to figure out what happened, but the complete unwillingness to even consider the possibility that Trump voters might have reason to vote for him was a major wake up call to me: millions of people vote for someone with extremely obvious problems, and yet next to no one on the left was willing to publicly say: "You know what, we messed up big time here. We need to figure out what Trump offered his voters we weren't, and figure out how to offer it to them."

The problem with this is that there are a lot of people who, like myself, are more moderate left leaning, and have now been excluded from discussion and engaged in self-censorship when engaging with others on the left for a few years now. This means that the extremists set the agenda in the political and cultural left, seemingly with popular support since no one dares to speak out; and that as a consequence they continue to shift ever further towards the extremes. At this point I'm hoping that at some point the moderate left will decide we've had enough, learn to work with the conservatives, and defeat this madness, but I'm not optimistic that this can happen, and that if it does, it will happen before a great deal of damage is done to Western Society.


I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing David French twice and having dinner with him once, and I share your evaluation of where he’s at these days. I have a lot of respect for David and I believe he is animated by a good heart and a sharp mind. The tension between David and many on the “New Right” is the same tension that — I believe — exists in the minds of many conservatives today.  Which is to say that I am of two minds on the question of “have things fundamentally changed to the point where a fundamentally different response is needed?”  Many of my friends are, too.

David seems to believe that something of the old liberal order still holds, and that conservatives are walking down a dangerous path when they attempt to use the power of government for fundamentally conservative ends.  I am sympathetic to his point of view.  But with the left’s unhinged reaction to Trump in 2016 and — especially — the despotism of the Covid regime — I align more closely with you than with David these days.

I am reminded of the old (probably apocryphal) Soviet saying that “You may not care about politics, but politics cares about you.”  That is more true now than ever.  I think DeSantis is carving the most realistic path forward for combatting this stuff.  SCOTUS is doing some good work, as well, but should have done a lot more during Covid.

These are strange days indeed. 


I agree that French is an "unreconstructed Bush-era Republican." As I understand it, you are thereby suggesting that his position used to be sensible but is now, at best, naive and outdated. [ANSWER: No, I believe his position, which I used to more or less share, was wrong -- and that David has not learned that lesson -- RD]

The problem that I (and, I assume, many others) have with French and others like him is precisely that he is an "unreconstructed Bush-era Republican." We've just realized, even those of us that were Bush-era Republicans during the Bush era, that the ideas and principles that motivate Bush-era Republicans have always been pretty terrible. After all, French is hardly alone among his ideological allies in having gone "totally squish on DEI," as you put it. The entire GOP Establishment has. Indeed, the GOPe has formed what has been described as the "right wing of the Uniparty bird" for the last twenty-odd years. 

It's not just Republicans' failure to do anything meaningful about wokism that's the problem either. Since 2016, a lot of us have taken stock and realized that the GOPe was never really on the side of most of its voters. The GOP has had control of at least one chamber of Congress for twenty-two of the last twenty-eight years. It's held both chambers for fourteen of the last twenty-eight. Hell, it's had both chambers of Congress and the Presidency for six of the last twenty! What are we supposed to make of the fact that at no point during that entire period did the GOP do anything meaningful to resist progressivism, culturally or politically? Indeed, when the Tea Party phenomenon emerged in 2012-13, the GOPe did everything in its power to undermine and suppress it. If being in the majority comes at the cost of GOPe control, well, Minority Leader McConnell makes more money selling votes than Majority Leader McConnell does buying them.

What happened in 2016 for a lot of us is that the scales started to fall away. The reason all those Bush-era Republicans never used their periods of political ascendency to do anything conservative voters wanted is because Bush-era Republicans never wanted to do those things in the first place. During any one of the six years during which the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress and the Oval Office, the only thing that prevented the GOP from enacting sweeping, foundational reforms across the entire federal system was its own lack of political will.

What I will say in French's defense is that he genuinely doesn't seem to realize that the grift is a grift. He's a true believer. Unfortunately, the "principles" he holds so dear could never have accomplished, and indeed were never intended to accomplish, their stated goals. Whereas the Democrats seem genuinely interested in acquiring power for its own sake, and are entirely willing to spend arbitrary amounts of money to get it, the GOPe only seems interested in having power to acquire money. 

But, as with so many people about so many things these days, French really seems to genuinely believe the lies. The fact that he is apparently sincere means he isn't a liar, so he has that going for him anyway. But it doesn't make the lies true. And, as I would argue (and as I suspect you are increasingly tempted to agree), while all lies are dishonest, not all dishonesty is technically "lying," i.e., holding out as true things that one actively believes to be false. At some point, the sheer amount of doublethink required for someone like French to stay the course becomes too much for the rest of us to ignore. 


David French and other social conservative neoconservative types will never get a pass at the Times or any other prestige locale. As far as the left is concerned, social conservatives are literal Nazis, white supremacists, and otherwise evil fascists who are perpetrating a mass epidemic of LGBTQ+ murders and suicides. They have nothing to offer to the institutions and the people who run them, other than to exemplify the indecency of modern conservatism, and the urgent need to continue the war against fascism.

French, like most of the people who inhabit social conservative ghettos within neoconservatism, still thinks it is basically the 2000s. He acts as though the events of 2008 -- the year of the financial crash -- and everything that has occurred since then never really happened, and that if Americans knew what was good for them, they would have longed for a third Bush term, or a McCain administration. To the extent that they will even acknowledge the Great Awokening as a problem, they assume they can weather it the same way that they did the radicalism of the 1960s. These people have not processed or internalized that the key institutions of Big Business and the security state are now on the side of the Woke. It's not so much that the woke have conquered these institutions definitively, but rather that they have made those who run these institutions understand who takes scalps and who doesn't -- meaning that the Woke militants have made sure that the leadership class within American institutions knows what's going to happen to them if they don't comply. If the GOP isn't ready to start taking a few of their own like DeSantis has been willing to do with Disney, then social conservatives had best withdraw altogether from public life and try to insulate themselves from the next great purge.

Think about it: J.K. Rowling, Glenn Greenwald, Bari Weiss, Matt Taibbi, and Elon Musk are all circa 2008 liberals who if anything are further to the left than French. But the moment they dissented on any issue they were turned into Enemies Of The People. And unless you have the kind of money that Musk and Rowling do, they have little to no recourse to fight back going through the motions and mechanisms that French believes in.

What to do? The alternative is for French to acknowledge that for all of his laudable legal efforts, he was completely incapable of preventing the Left from dominating every facet of modern life, and definitively winning the culture war to the point where the only debate is now the fate of the vanquished. And to do that he has to admit that the legal strategy he has dedicated his entire life to has failed. That's a high bar to ask anyone to clear.


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Fran Macadam
Fran Macadam
Pardon my French.
schedule 1 year ago
Boy does America need a hot dose of Krauthammer now.

"Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil." C.K.

In 2023 isn't Mr. French a liberal?
schedule 1 year ago
Thank you for posting the letters, I don’t feel alone in my opinions and that brings a certain comfort.
schedule 1 year ago