Yesterday, the identity of Bill Kristol’s mythical Trump-beating independent presidential candidate was revealed as the Iraqi Freedom veteran, constitutional lawyer, and National Review writer David A. French. Never heard of him? Neither had I, so I spent the morning going through his byline, and found some other lines he might add to his resume, such as: Gamergate supporter, lover of nukes, hater of feminism, record-holder for most uses of the term “sexual revolution” when describing his fear of gay and trans people, and, by his own accounting, man who has no realistic chance of becoming president.
Kristol, the editor of Weekly Standard magazine, is an icon of contemporary conservatism and a leading voice of the mainstream Republican Party push to stop Donald Trump from becoming president at all costs. For months, he has advocated for a third-party candidate to step into the race, with the implication that this candidate could present a reasonable, sophisticated alternative to Trump’s bloviating extremism. That Kristol has anointed French to this role shows that the conservative establishment is as deluded about its own supposed moral high ground over Trump as it is about its chances of beating him.
The obvious argument against French as the thinking person’s Trump alternative is that nobody knows who he is. French has never held elected office, and his greatest claim to fame is writing for a magazine whose chin-stroking vision of conservatism would only alienate the Trump supporters he’d have to win over, if they were to pick it up and read it. (Fortunately for French, very few American voters pick up and read the National Review.) The other argument against French is that he’s hardly any less of an extremist than Trump is.
After a few hours spent reading David French, here’s what I’ve learned about him.
He’s a Gamergater
David French plays World of Warcraft as “Rickybobby,” a level-85 night elf priest.* I know this, because he gave an interview to Engadget in 2010 about how much he loves to play World of Warcraft. Like every other gamer, he saw his cherished hobby turned into an unlikely political battleground over the last several years, and the antifeminist cause of the Gamergaters lined up nicely with his reactionary worldview.
Under the impenetrable headline “Social-Justice Warriors Aren’t So Tough When Even ‘Sad Puppies’ Can Beat Them,” French wrote the following defense of right-wing movements in the gaming and sci-fi communities last year:
Conservatives who love gaming and science fiction (*cough* me *cough*) have long been distressed at the leftist assault on both genres — favorite lefty targets because gaming and sci-fi have long been seen as the habitat of the dreaded species whiteus maleus.
The response to the social-justice Left in the gaming world was “Gamergate,” an online movement that (and this is an understatement) “punched back twice as hard” against the left-dominated gaming media. The resulting online battles were extraordinarily vicious, with claims and counterclaims of online bullying, “doxing” (exposure of personally identifying information on the web), and general internet hand-to-hand combat.
In science fiction, the response was “Sad Puppies,” a movement led by conservative author Larry Correia. Why Sad Puppies? Because “boring message fiction is the leading cause of Puppy Related Sadness.” Correia and his Sad Puppies targeted the Hugo Awards, prestigious writing awards voted on by members of “Worldcon,” the World Science Fiction Convention. Correia had known that the social-justice Left had campaigned against him previously, so he countered with his own campaign — assisted by leading conservative and libertarian authors. In 2014, they succeeded in getting a number of nominations. The tolerant Left’s response was predictable.
French rarely uses the term “Gamergate” in his writing, but the ideology is always there, whether he’s recapping Game of Thrones— “Game of Thrones Recap: Social Justice Edition” was a recent headline—or explaining how Star Wars proves feminists are clueless about science fiction. He once called President Obama “social justice warrior-in-chief.”
I don’t want a president who spends a single iota of his time and energy thinking about so-called SJWs. Frankly, I don’t want a president who even knows what an SJW is.
He’s obsessed with gay and trans people
By my count, French has penned 60 blog posts for the National Review’s website since May 1. Roughly a quarter of them are about trans people. A typical post, headlined “A Sad Video Highlights the Contradictions and Tragedy of the Transgender Moment,” sees sinister undertones in a sweet clip of a trans teen girl enjoying a day at the beach.
The video below is one of the sadder short clips I’ve seen. In it, a teenage boy who calls himself Claire dons a bikini top, adopts exaggerated feminine mannerism, and hits the beach with friends to show the challenges of transgender dating. He apparently fools two straight guys into believing he’s a girl and he gets their phone number.
But we can’t let a discussion of intellectual contradictions mask the human tragedy. A deeply confused teenager is on the verge of mutilating himself — of literally opening a wound that his body will consistently attempt to close — for the sake of hoping to find love with straight men. The level of psychological confusion and pain is difficult to grasp, but rather than speak the truth to that young man and work diligently to counsel and mentor him, an entire class of people believe that he should irrevocably harm his own body, and the rest of us should believe a lie — that he’s “really” a girl.
French’s constant fretting over those who’d rather do other things with their genitals than the things he enjoys doing with his isn’t limited to trans people. He’s firmly against gay marriage, and has written an astonishing number of items lamenting what he refers to as the “sexual revolution,” a malaise of permissiveness and desire that he blames for everything from the campus rape crisis to the plight of the white working class. I’m not kidding. Here’s one from March:
We’re all responsible for our actions, and our income is irrelevant to our moral obligations. We could have the greatest elite in the world, but if America’s poorer citizens can’t stay faithful to their spouses, are indifferent to their academic and work performances, and abuse alcohol and drugs, then their lives will be a struggle — even if we created the big-government, protectionist utopia that the socialist Left and Trump Right seem to crave.
Sadly, however — as Charles Murray notes in Coming Apart — we’re cursed with an elite that won’t preach what it practices. America’s wealthier citizens tend to get married, stay married, stay in school, and attend church at higher rates. Yet, at the same time, they too often publicly embrace and advocate the moral decline of the sexual revolution and the economic dependence of the welfare state. Rather than leading by word and deed, they wrap themselves in their own prosperous cocoon and substitute good wishes for meaningful actions.
He thinks poor people are spiritually deficient
About that “plight of the working class” thing: Recently, French has been second only to his National Review colleague Kevin D. Williamson in terms of telling less fortunate people that they have only themselves to blame. In March, French reflected on time he spent volunteering with his church in Kentucky. Rather than consider the circumstances that may have led his neighbors to destitution, he scolds them for not trying harder to find jobs and screwing around on their wives:
Yet millions of Americans aren’t doing their best. Indeed, they’re barely trying. As I’ve related before, my church in Kentucky made a determined attempt to reach kids and families that were falling between the cracks, and it was consistently astounding how little effort most parents and their teen children made to improve their lives. If they couldn’t find a job in a few days — or perhaps even as little as a few hours — they’d stop looking. If they got angry at teachers or coaches, they’d drop out of school. If they fought with their wife, they had sex with a neighbor. And always — always — there was a sense of entitlement.
He’s glad about those nukes we dropped
Last week, French lambasted the “maudlin sentimentality” with which President Obama discussed the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed 100,000 or so innocent civilians. “I am not making this up,” he sneers, before block-quoting a section of the president’s speech about the destruction and death of those two days in 1945.
Last year, he criticized a U.N. statement in memoriam of the bombings for expressing “tired tropes about peace through education and prosperity,” and a year before that, he called the nuclear attacks a “moral necessity.”
He believes the Muslim world is “overcome with hate”
If French is being posited at the anti-Trump, it’s fair to assume he’s not in favor of the frontrunner’s signature Muslim ban, but that doesn’t mean he has anything nice to say about followers of the faith. From December:
It is simply false to declare that jihadists represent the “tiny few extremists” who sully the reputation of an otherwise peace-loving and tolerant Muslim faith. In reality, the truth is far more troubling — that jihadists represent the natural and inevitable outgrowth of a faith that is given over to hate on a massive scale, with hundreds of millions of believers holding views that Americans would rightly find revolting. Not all Muslims are hateful, of course, but so many are that it’s not remotely surprising that the world is wracked by wave after wave of jihadist violence.
He reads Gawker
Even he doesn’t think he can get elected
The American people need the chance to make a better choice. Given the stakes of the election, to simply leave the race to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is to guarantee a terrible presidency marked by incompetence and cronyism. There is just one hope — however slim — of avoiding this national disaster: America needs a third option.
And at this point, Mitt Romney is the only man who combines the integrity, financial resources, name recognition, and broad public support to make a realistic independent run at the presidency.
If all that isn’t enough to convince you that French has no shot, just check out the rest of these takes: