Many of our readers are plugged in enough to have heard about the potential third-party candidacy of David French, a constitutional lawyer and writer at National Review, which surfaced this week thanks to the somewhat stealthy promotional efforts of neoconservative impresario Bill Kristol. The latter has been working to drum up a third party conservative candidate for this presidential cycle, and has had no success to date – he focused on Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger and Marine general James Mattis at varying times but found no takers, and apparently has settled on French as his White Knight.
And on the surface, this looks like failure by Kristol, for one reason and one reason only – French has never run for anything, much less the White House, and almost nobody knows who he is. It’s fair to call him “obscure” as a writer despite the fact he’s written seven books, one of which was a bestseller, and his work at National Review is a nearly-immaculate articulation of conservatism.
And to people who consider themselves conservatives first and Republicans second, an exploration of David French’s background and work might well generate the warm, fuzzy feeling that would make him a proper repository for that vote they simply cannot cast for Donald Trump.
French’s bio is as follows…
The fortysomething French is a best-selling author, an attorney, and a combat veteran of Iraq. A graduate of David Lipscomb College in Nashville and then of Harvard Law School, his legal practice made him one of the nation’s leading defenders of free speech on campus. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including, most recently, Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore. In 2007, having volunteered for military service, French deployed to Iraq, serving in Diyala Province as Squadron Judge Advocate for the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He lives with his wife and children in Columbia, Tennessee, and is a writer for National Review.
That’s from a Weekly Standard piece Kristol wrote about the prospect of running a third-party conservative in the race against what he sees as unfit candidates in Trump and Hillary Clinton who would turn us into a Latin American dictatorship. The whole thing is worth a read, if for no other reason than to see how Kristol inserted French into the presidential mix in the first place. After that post went online, the speculation about French as the candidate grew and then Kristol confirmed he was the guy a couple of days later.
French hasn’t said he’s going to run yet, which is one reason you haven’t seen anything about him here at the Hayride until now. I don’t want to devote a lot of time to covering him until I actually know he’s in the race. But things I’ve heard in the grapevine indicate to me that it’s at least somewhat likely he’ll give this a try and that he will do so with enough financial and logistical support that the effort will at least come off more professional than the Libertarian Party’s freakshow convention made Gary Johnson’s candidacy look to be last weekend.
So what does French bring to the table? For me, the most important thing is that he has walked with us. This is a man who, after being dipped in the same toxic progressive pool which produced Barack Obama at Harvard Law School, proceeded to dry himself off and in a short time devote his professional life to defending individual freedom as a constitutional lawyer. He’s a past president of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), which is one of the best conservative organizations in America and one which has taken on one of the toughest fights the movement is engaged in; namely, attempting to combat the authoritarian tyranny the Left has imposed on college campuses. French has also done a great deal of legal work for ACLJ – the American Center for Law and Justice, another outstanding conservative organization headed by Jay Sekulow – in protecting Second Amendment rights.
Those efforts came after something else French did which show the vast chasm between him and both Trump and Clinton when it comes to character and patriotism. Unlike Hillary, who has repeatedly sold out her country for personal prestige and profit, and Trump, who used his family’s money and influence to secure five different deferments in order to dodge the Vietnam draft, this man, at age 37, left a comfortable life as the president of FIRE in Philadelphia to join the U.S. Army in the middle of the surge in Iraq – while our pal Harry Reid was telling us from the well of the Senate that the war was lost.
There is no question who this man is. His works show it.
French is a Christian and he’s serious about it. He has an actual, real marriage unlike the parade of trophy wives Trump has served as the grand marshall of and…whatever it is the Clintons call a marriage. He’s a great example of someone who lives his life according to principle, and he’s the kind of role model for American men we don’t seem to have much of anymore. Were he to be in the race it wouldn’t require holding one’s nose to support him on the question of character and judgement; he’s proven he has the mettle of a leader.
And he’s a humble man. This, from 2012, is video from CPAC – when the American Conservative Union honored French with its Ronald Reagan Award as the nation’s best conservative activist. French’s speech kicks in about nine minutes and 45 seconds into the video; feel free to skip to that…
Yes, that kid is adorable. That’s French’s adopted daughter Naomi, who was born in a village in Ethiopia.
French is also a man of conviction who is just as provocative an opponent of political correctness as Trump is without using the sloppy and imprecise – and often counterproductive – language Trump does. Here was a Fox News hit he did after the Pamela Geller-Draw Mohammed incident in which a pair of jihadists tried to shoot up an anti-Islamic gathering in Garland, Texas and were thwarted by a local cop who was a better shot.
You could argue his resume is better suited to a run for Congress or even Senate than for president, and I wouldn’t disagree. In fact, if French were to reappear in 2018 as a candidate in the federal mid-term races I’d say it would be a damned shame if the people of Tennessee wouldn’t choose him. For president? It would be nice if he was the sitting governor of Tennessee or had built a good-sized company.
But we had well more than a dozen Republican presidential candidates this cycle with hefty political resumes and the voters wanted an outsider. They chose Trump, who not only had never been in politics but clearly doesn’t know anything about politics or policy. French is the opposite – there isn’t a subject on the public mind this man hasn’t articulated a position on in the past couple of years, and he’s very well read on all of the issues in this campaign. The problem with “outsider” candidates is that they generally don’t know anything. French does.
Of course, there is the question of, regardless whether French is an exciting potential candidate the public could well fall in love with as they get to know him, if this is a good idea. His friend and colleague at National Review Jonah Goldberg was on National Public Radio yesterday to talk about that very subject in a short interview worth a listen…
And Erick Erickson, who has been part of the group working to produce a third-party candidate but didn’t have anything to do with recruiting French, isn’t certain it’s even a good idea…
Bill Kristol pushed David French into the arena, but to his credit French has not run out of the gates. He recognizes a lot of people detest both Hillary and Trump and want to vote for someone as opposed to voting against someone or settling on someone who offends core principles.
But let’s be realistic about this.
David French has, charitably, 0.1% name ID. He will have to raise at least $250 million, dedicating almost all of that to ballot access fights and potential legal challenges to extend deadlines under the John Anderson precedent from 1980, which is unlikely. Then he’d have to raise a billion dollars more.
On top of that, David French would have to try to win states that lean toward Hillary Clinton. If we start at the 2012 benchmark of Romney states, French could not keep Hillary from getting to 270 electoral college votes. He will have to try to win in places like Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
If David French cannot get ballot access deadlines in Texas and elsewhere reopened and/or extended, he could only appear in a handful of states and, again, his strategy would have to be to keep both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump from 270 electoral college votes, thereby sending the election to the House of Representatives.
It is a nearly insurmountable improbability.
And still I would vote for David French or even write him in.
Erickson has also written that it might be better for conservatives not to run a third-party candidate so that if and when Trump loses there can be no blame laid at conservatives’ feet for the loss and the fight to reclaim the GOP can begin.
But that means sitting out the presidential cycle at a time when, as Goldberg said in the NPR interview, none of the old rules apply. Why not run French? Trump doesn’t even want the conservative vote, and the state-by-state polls show he’s going to get slaughtered in the Electoral College. If that’s the case, conservatives might as well have at least a protest vote to cast, and who’s to say we won’t end up with massive upheavals on the ballot which make that “nearly insurmountable improbability” Erickson talks about a reality?
Either French isn’t actually able to raise any money and his is a fringe candidacy only on the ballot in a few states and with an infinitessimal percentage of the vote, in which case there is no reason for any Republican loyalist to begrudge his running, or he emerges as a well-funded, well-handled conservative alternative who could end up picking up the standard if and when Trump falls apart – in which case you might be damned grateful he decided to run at the end of the day.
The argument that he would give Hillary the election presupposes Trump would otherwise win it. Other than a few friendly polls amid a post-nomination bounce, that’s hardly a supposition supported by the facts on the ground or the fundamentals of the race.
Let’s give the man a chance and see what he’s got. In a year when there are supposedly serious people entertaining the idea of Donald Trump with the nuclear football, why would you discount any possibility?
– This ran a bit long, so we’ll just skip to Today’s Last Thing. Which, since some of you will snort that the David French candidacy is a silly idea, will be in keeping with today’s theme – and you will be suitably entertained…