What, dare we ask, are the allowable boundaries of respectable pluralism? In answering this question, David French is particularly unclear.
One of the most perplexing marks of our time is the defection of so many “conservatives” from the cause of conserving what Russell Kirk called “the permanent things.” If marriage is not conserved—if civil marriage is not conserved as a man-woman union—then nothing genuinely conservative can last, at least for long. Support for the Respect for Marriage Act is bad enough. The way David French frames his argument is worse. This is how conservatism dies, and this is how marriage is surrendered.
My like of David French has come and gone during the time I was not publishing to this blog. But the fact is, I did like many things David French had to say during the Trump years and said so on my social media platforms. He was, quite frankly, a breath of fresh air much of the time. I, as another who, like David French, has never been able to support or vote for Trump, resonated with the things French was saying at the time. I agreed with French then and still believe Trump is a blight on Christian conservative’s record, even though I believe God used Trump despite his wickedness to do one or two good things 1
I mark the sour turn with French as starting at the end of the (first?) Trump era. French allowed himself to be broken by Trump and he has turned on Conservatives, Christianity, and I would argue, on Christ.
Of course, Mohler notes that there were some problematic things from French earlier (in the 2004 era). I can’t speak to those. I became aware of French and started loosely following his work just before the Trump era.
I have recently reviewed some things that French wrote or said during that era that I liked, linked to, or promoted on my various platforms, and I still largely agree with all of it, so I am not the one who has changed.
A friend of mine said this morning when I sent him a link to the tweet I’ll embed below, that French is a great example of someone losing themselves to audience capture.
“Millions of Americans have formed families and live their lives in deep reliance on Obergefell being good law. It would be profoundly disruptive and unjust to rip out the legal superstructure around which they’ve ordered their lives.” https://t.co/1dKjODsayq— David French (@DavidAFrench) November 20, 2022
Aaron Renn also had some theories as to how this has happened to French:
All of us instinctively react against negative criticism. One of our most typical reactions is to double down, and to become hostile towards the person who criticized us.
I think this has played a key role in David French’s evolution since the Trump campaign. Imagine David French back in 2019. He’s minding his own business, standing in line for his caffe latte at Starbucks. His phone beeps and it’s a Google Alert, or perhaps a friend texting him to say “check this out.” The subject is an article in First Things, the leading conservative religious journal in the country, called “Against David French-ism,” written by fellow conservative Sohrab Ahmari. Then thousands of people pile on saying how much they agree with Sohrab Ahmari about French and his approach being what’s wrong with the world.
I realize that I’m just adding my voice to that negative feedback loop at this point, but it’s gone so far with David French I don’t know what else I could do.
The fact is, now, French is not someone I would ever link to or support in any way. But I would sure welcome a return of the 2015–2020 French.
Not the least of which was to establish decent, conservative, originalist judges on the Supreme Court. ↩