David French is a senior editor at The Dispatch. In this episode, David (who first appeared on the podcast in 2020) talks about what has changed since his book — Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation – came out two years ago, how the pandemic exacerbated the divisions in America, the religious divisions in the Democratic party, gun laws, and why public figures like LeBron James, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Dolly Parton can help unite the country. (Recorded August 5, 2022.)

Episode Transcript

Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast, we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome back for a second appearance on the podcast, David French. David, welcome back to the power hungry podcast.

David French 0:18
Thanks for having me. It’s a real pleasure.

Robert Bryce 0:20
Now you’re a senior editor at the dispatch, and we’re going to talk about your book divided we fall, America’s secession threat and how to restore our nation, which came out two years ago. But I think I warned you that it gets always introduced themselves. So I’m going to put that on you. Introduce yourself, please.

David French 0:36
Yeah, so I’m a senior editor at the dispatch, which is I guess we’re not that new anymore. We started almost three years ago. Conservative new conservative media outlet. I’m also a contributing writer for The Atlantic, recovering lawyer who still dabbles that trend. husband, father, live in Tennessee.

Unknown Speaker 0:59
recovering lawyer, what was that line about?

Robert Bryce 1:02
We’ll Well, he was a journalist in Texas, Jim. Hi, Terry. So the only step down from journalism was that into politics, it was from law to as law to journalism was step down, step up what is happening?

David French 1:15
I would say, it’s, it’s, it’s a different world. I would say journalism is much more toxic than law, I will go to a bar association meetings to for the collegiality compared to church.

Robert Bryce 1:30
When you say toxic, how do you mean what, give me just the personal attacks, the

David French 1:36
it’s the determination of both peer and public attacks. In other words, it’s a it’s a remarkably petty, in many ways, culture where people take a great deal of interest in other people’s careers, and whether they’re being appropriately promoted or appropriately rejected. There’s a It’s not just enough to disagree with somebody, one of the hallmarks of modern typical, particularly modern opinion journalism is that it is characterized by efforts to demolish careers. Canceled culture. Yeah. When and runs right and left. I mean, yeah, the, you know, when I was a litigator, I could litigate for years, intense cases against opposing counsel. And we would, it could be sometimes quite heated. But it never crossed anyone’s mind to say, well, not only should David lose the case, but his loss law firm should fire him. That’s not the way the culture of law works even in intense litigation. But the way the world of journalism works is is no, of course not everybody. There’s a lot there’s still some collegiality out there. But there’s there is a culture that says, not only are you wrong, but I want to see your career destroyed. And and a lot of the public picks up on that as well. And in contributes to that kind of that kind of cultural churn, especially online.

Robert Bryce 3:05
Yeah, well, yes, I avoid Twitter, Spats, I put my stuff out there. People don’t like it. Okay, that’s fine. But I’m not gonna argue with you. I don’t I just don’t have enough time. There’s not even one, not even one keystroke for credit. I’m sorry. I’m just too busy. So I was prompted to get back in touch after I read your column. Your recent one on the god gap helps explain a seismic shift in American politics. Because to me, it was a really interesting, it was your Sunday column from July 17. I want to come back to that though. And I want to revisit now because we’re almost two years after the publication of divided we fall, which was September 2020. So this is the first question I had was, is the country more divided now than when the book came out? And if yes, how do you how can you tell it’s January 6, what? How is it more divided? And in what Give me specifics?

David French 3:55
Yeah. So essentially, what you’re looking at is a combination of things. It’s a combination of both incidents and data. So when I wrote the book, and it came out in September 2020, even though I was pessimistic about the cultural and political trends in the United States at that time, I did not foresee the dramatic divisions that would erupt both during the pandemic, and I did not foresee the violence of the election contest. So I finished the book in March, April, May of 2020. By the time the book comes out, two things followed then by a third occurred. One was the pandemic, which in a healthier culture, and the arrival of the arrival to our shores of a common threat would bind us together in a healthier culture and, and even as I was putting the finishing touches on my book, right at the beginning of the pandemic, I was thinking this is going to be an interesting test. To my thesis that were coming apart, because it could very well be the case that between March April when I finished the final edits in September when it came out, that we’re a unified country confronting this awful shared challenge. It was the opposite. We had a very brief honeymoon period where people were kind of all in this together, you know, you know, the effort to level the curve and you know, to, to, you know, to stop the spread, very

Robert Bryce 5:34
briefly, buddy vaccinated wear masks, all of these things that were about community or community spirit fell apart, because el pars because of lack lack of trust in institutions, what, how do you? How do you? Well explain why that was the lack of trust in institutions lack of just the left, right divide? I mean, well,

David French 5:54
if you drop, if you put on top of all of the dysfunction that I described, in my book, The shared chat this, if you put the pandemic on top of all of the dysfunction, the fact that we don’t just distress distrust is too mild. Hate in many cases, llove, in many cases, people on the other side, that what ends up happening is that anything that is seen as coming from the other side, is then begins to be automatically rejected. Yeah, often reflexively rejected. And so the instant that aspects of the pandemic response became to be seen characteristic of red or blue is the instant they became completely polarizing. So where I live masking was seen as kind of a blue thing and people just rejected it. I mean, this is early in the pandemic, this is pre vaccine. Yeah. Similarly, in big parts of the, even though the vaccine came from Operation warp speed under the Trump administration, a bunch of people where I live, see the vaccine is sort of a deep state kind of establishment response, and they rejected even though they’ve never been anti vaccine before. Similarly, on the left, you saw, you know, holding on to masking even outdoors, well beyond Oh, yeah. The time when we all knew that masking outdoors was ineffective, or holding on to school closures well beyond the time, when science would have dictated and we had the information that we needed to open schools. You had these things that if all you told me was what is the pandemic response of this town or the state, I could immediately tell you if it was run by Republican or Democrat immediately

Robert Bryce 7:48
because of those public signals. That one? Yes, yeah, exactly. signals about what your affiliation was right or exactly. And

David French 7:55
you’re in this David, and you’re in Franklin County, Tennessee, and Williamson County, Tennessee, which is Franklin are the town of Franklin.

Robert Bryce 8:02
Yeah. Town of Franklin. Okay. Williamson County, so you’re just outside of Nashville,

David French 8:05
right? Yes, yes. And so you know. And then the other thing that occurred was, so the murder of George Floyd, which we had, for a moment, this incredible outpouring of anguish, and sympathy. And then you had political violence arise out of so that is deeply polarizing. And then you had the election, followed by the lies about the election, followed by the storming of the Capitol. So each one of these things after, after I wrote the book, dramatically exacerbated, existing divides in the country. I think, folks in blue America don’t fully appreciate the extent to which the widespread rioting. A lot of folks in blue America don’t fully appreciate the extent to which the widespread rioting in the summer of 2020 was deeply alarming to people. And then a lot of people in red America are very upset and aggrieved that people continue to focus on January 6, even though January sixth was, rightly, deeply alarming to people. Right. And so, you know, so each one of these things happens which draws, which further separates us and I have seen zero evidence zero evidence since January 6, that we are any closer together. And there’s no there’s no evidence and polling, there’s no evidence. And in fact, you know, I believe it was either late last year, early this year when a poll came out that indicated that 52% of Trump voters would be okay, if blue states left 40% of Biden voters would be okay if red states left the union. So there are a lot of indications that we’ve gone through some traumas and have attitudes that have further divided us.

Robert Bryce 9:56
You know, I will one of the other reasons I thought of you and just recent only a few weeks ago, I was invited to speak to the North Austin Republicans now who knew the Republicans in Austin. I didn’t I thought there was a few, barely as a few. So I was flattered to be asked, and of course, you know, oh,

Unknown Speaker 10:11
sure. I’ll come talk to you. I’ve never talked to that group before. And, you know, it was interesting crowd, but

Robert Bryce 10:16
you know, but I laid it out. I was it. I think it was a day after one of the January 6 hearings, and I thought Liz Cheney had just done an amazing job. I mean, just, you know, risking her political career, but the way how measured she was, and I just said, Look, I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat. I’m disgusted. And if you haven’t, and I said was on Fridays, if you watch that hearing last night, you should be disgusted, too, because I just thought, Well, I’m talking to Republicans, I’m not gonna act like, you know, I’m one of you. I don’t know. But I was leaving. And this woman said, Well, I don’t know why you’re talking about that, or what? You’re watching the wrong TV channel.

David French 10:46
And yeah, I know.

Robert Bryce 10:48
I said, you Oh, she said, You must be watching CNN. And I thought, Well, wait a minute. First. I don’t we don’t have a TV in the house anymore. We moved it out. But we watched it on C span or I don’t know, one of the we watched it online. And it was really remarkably compelling. And yeah. And moving to me that here government, in my view is working right that they’re investigating this, and this is really important. And here was an old Well, she was maybe my age, I was about to say older. That’s me. Yeah. saying Oh, you’re you know, you’re just listening to the wrong news outlet. And I thought, okay, and I just I was polite, but I said, Look, you’re deeply misguided here. You either Republicans or you need to find somebody else besides Trump. He’s a cancer on your party. And yeah, she just was like, I can’t believe you’re saying this. And I just thought, but it to me that just brought you to mind again, because I think it validates what the things that you’re observing. So let’s talk about January 6, I said what I thought about Liz Cheney, you spoke to her on the dispatch podcast, just recently went to a how do you see her as a as kind of? I hate to say it will I’ll say it this way. I’ll ask it this way as a historic figure now, because of her view, her role in this really is rather historic, isn’t it?

David French 12:01
Yeah. I think she is a historic figure. whether she’ll be a politically successful figure is another we’ll find

Robert Bryce 12:07
entirely find August 6 16. Right. That’s the primary in Wyoming? No,

David French 12:12
right. I mean, it’s it’s the it’s so whether she’s politically successful is one question, is she historic in the sense that she is doing what needs to be done to not just expose what happened on January 6, but potentially develop and cultivate the facts that could lay the precedent for, you know, a world historic event, the potential prosecution of a former president united states? Again, let me say this about Trump’s prosecution, I think there are grounds to prosecuted. I don’t know that he will be prosecuted. In fact, as of right now, if you if you made me guess I would say no, but mainly because of political and cultural considerations, not evidentiary considerations. Right. So So I think she’s

Robert Bryce 12:56
a historian. To me, I’m sorry to interrupt, but it’s, it’s this is what you see in banana republics, this is what you see in countries that, you know, oh, well, the President’s out of power, we’re gonna go, you know, clean his clock and put him in prison. And that just, that’s not the America, I mean, historically hasn’t been the American way. But if the facts are the facts, and he deserves to be to be indicted, will indict him and put on a trial, but it’s going to be, you know, further divisive versus more divisive.

David French 13:20
It would be divisive. But you know, the thing is, historically, in America, we do prosecute public officials who are corrupt. You know, that’s one of the things that makes us not a banana republic, is that look, look,

Unknown Speaker 13:31
I’m from Oklahoma, I understand this.

David French 13:35
I grew up in Kentucky. And if you don’t think that state is has had corruption problems, you can Google something called Operation bop trot, that goes all the way back to like the late 70s and early 80s, and Bop, bop, bop Travi, O P T R O T I Google that your listeners will enjoy reading that story. And so one of the things that actually separates us from being a banana republic is we hold our officials to the rule of law. And that is true. That’s been true. At every level. We have prosecuted ex governors, we have prosecuted members of Congress. We have prosecuted every layer of American public official but not a president. And to me the test here is, is the President immune? Is the President beyond the rule of law. Now, what I will say is I do not think we should prosecute a president on a novel legal theory. I don’t think we should prosecute a precedent a precedent when the facts of the case are unclear. It should be a clear, provable case. But if we you have a clear provable case, and you do not prosecute, that’s banana republicanism.

Robert Bryce 14:50
Well, so how would that even work? I mean, you know, you’re a lawyer. I mean, who would do the indicting and where would the trial be held under so

David French 14:58
there’s clue that there’s two great injuries right now. One is a state grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia. So the state grand jury that is run by a state prosecutor, the district attorney of Fulton County, would indict under Georgia state criminal law. And that trial would be held in Atlanta under Georgia criminal law. And so if Trump was indicted, and I again, I don’t know if he will be if, again, if you may be predicted, I would say probably not. But if he’s indicted by that grand jury, he would be tried under Georgia state criminal law in Fulton County, Georgia, and could be convicted. And the interesting thing is, if he was convicted and imprisoned, he would serve time, and a Georgia State Penitentiary, which is just a remarkable thing to think about a potential presidential imprisonment in a state prison. But now here’s what

Unknown Speaker 15:53
brings a whole new level or thought or a new level of meaning and federalism,

Robert Bryce 15:57
doesn’t it?

David French 15:58
Right. Now, the interesting thing there is, because it’s a state prosecution, a president doesn’t have the power to pardon. But a governor would a governor can pardon for a state prosecution. It takes a president to pardon for a federal prosecution. So that’s one. The other one is grand jury, I believe in DC looking at this, and that’s for federal criminal offenses. And we do not know if Trump is a target of the federal grand jury. I think if you were if you’re if you’re looking at what’s the most obvious target right now, of the grand juries, it’s the fake electors scheme, the scheme to put to try to get a alternative slate fraudulent slates of electors. Why is that such an obvious target? Because it’s just basic blackletter laws, we say in the legal world that fraudulent votes are unlawful, and the fake electro slate was an attempt to introduce fraudulent votes. And so the fake electors themselves are in real jeopardy, and anyone who directed the creation of the fake electors is in real jeopardy. And what we don’t know is how much was Trump himself involved in that aspect of the effort to steal the election?

Robert Bryce 17:16
But it’s been I will I listened it was on dispatch live your podcast and it’s on. It’s interesting. It’s on Liz Cheney’s website. That was where I saw it. There was yeah, there. But they she said they already interviewed 1000 people. I mean, the investigation has been, and the way it was presented, I thought, I mean, as I watch it, just as a presentation as a media presentation, very well coordinated, right, you know, the way they lined up all these witnesses in the way they presented the video all seamless, I mean, very well put together. That to me, to me was impressive, but also just the the kind of the theater of it. I mean, it was really compelling as a as a hate to say entertainment, but the line between politics and Entertainment has has been blurred here. But I mean, how did you perceive it watching some of these witnesses Cassidy Hutchinson and some of these others, these, you know, people who were Republicans and stood up and said, you know, this isn’t me, this is not my party, or I’m gonna speak up. I mean, as a human story, it’s incredibly compelling.

David French 18:17
Well, a couple of thoughts. One is you’re exactly right. It was done very well. You know, for those of us who’ve grown used to useless hearings and governmental incompetence, it’s pretty remarkable to watch a presentation put together competently and a compelling presentation put together competently. So that’s one thing that’s compelling about it, just the presentation. Number two, the composition who is speaking, right, as, as Liz Cheney has said many times, all of these witnesses are Trump Republicans. These are not Democrats coming forward with allegations against Trump. These are all people in his orbit coming forward with allegations against Trump. So that’s, that’s number two. Number three that’s compelling about it to me. And this is the lawyer in me, because there’s an old saying in the law that says, if the facts are on your side, pound on the facts, if the law is on your side, pound on the law, if neither the facts or the law are on your side, pound on the table. Yeah, there’s a lot of pounding on the table going on about the January 6, tearing show trial, no adversarial process. Okay, I get it, I get it, that there’s no adversarial process in the sense of real cross examination. But you what you do if you’re a lawyer, and you have a client, or if you’re a, you know, you are your communications professional, and you have a client, and there are facts that exonerate your client, but they’re not being articulated on television. What do you do? You bring forth the facts that are exonerating your client, you don’t hold them back, right? You don’t not talk about them, you bring them forward, and we don’t see that out of the people critiquing the January 6 committee. Instead, we just see the same talking point all the Time show trial show trial show trial. Well, wait a minute, if there’s something you have to offer, no one is stopping you from introducing the evidence that you have to offer. And the interesting thing is that some of the evidence that they’ve tried to offer to exonerate Trump has now been repudiated under oath. So for example, it was a talking point for a long time that people went on Sean Hannity and said, well, Trump had tried to bring a 10s of 1000s of National Guard troops to the Capitol before January 6, and was rebuffed. And the Secretary of Defense at the time says, No, that is that that never happened. And he says that under oath, right, so under Hannity is not as compelling as under oath.

Unknown Speaker 20:50
That’s funny.

Robert Bryce 20:52
So what I’m hearing you say is one of the questions I wrote down here was about January 6, so January 6, is just more evidence of this division. And yes, you know, as as I watch it, though, as I watched some of those tapes, I was thinking, you know, frankly, I mean, who are these Yahoo’s that are dressed up like this? And what did they think they’re doing? I mean, you know, how was it that they were in such a state of mind? Because I’ve been in the Capitol, I’ve been lucky. I’ve toured the White House. So I mean, to me, they’re, I mean, they’re not churches, but you know, some of those buildings, the Library of Congress, the Jefferson Reading Room, those are to me, those are those are just marvels of American things, right? American buildings in the idea that they’re assaulting him with weapons with Matt and their team. What do you think you’re doing? I mean, that was the part that I still, as I watched that I’m just gobsmacked at this kind of virus that was in these people’s heads. I mean, what is what’s your reaction to that as you I mean, because you’ve certainly watched the same the same things.

David French 21:48
I believe the lie. I mean, they believe the lie. And so if you believe that a, an election to the president in the United States has been corruptly reversed. That is, and I wrote this in December, I had seen a lot of the rhetoric circulating, you know, throughout November and into December. And I said, if you tell people, the nation is called as in a state of collapse, because of the stolen election,

Robert Bryce 22:19
and that my wife said that Mike Pence is the one that’s responsible, and I’ve only used the lint, lynch him, then this is divine retribution.

David French 22:29
There have been revolutions for less, right. I mean, if you’re talking about does someone believe that the present government or the government about to be sworn in is fundamentally illegitimate, and the result of corruption and a stolen election, if that is actually the message, and that the entire United States of America will collapse? If this election, this stolen election is allowed to, you know that you allow the election to be stolen? Doesn’t surprise me at all that people stormed the Capitol does not surprise me at all, because they were operating under two they had been told to things. Joe Biden will destroy America. I debated people that run up to the election because I was for neither Trump nor Biden. And right people were trying to tell me that my Christianity should compel me to support Donald Trump and I was debating people on that point and, and they would say, Joe Biden will destroy America. So they’re saying Biden will destroy America and then they’re saying he’s taking power through corrupt means. It doesn’t surprise me at all that people rioted in that circumstance.

Robert Bryce 23:35
Wow. Yeah, I’m, you know, I think like you I’m incredibly optimistic about America. I kind of get Misty about it. Because I, you know, I think the Constitution is just almost a perfect document. I mean, you just had the strength in the how it’s endured. But I see so many fractions and fractures in America today. And I spent a lot of time in rural America and the differences I see between you know, ranchers, I was talking to a neck and Duchess and you know, who aren’t, these are the anti elite. I mean, they are the non elites, right? And yeah, they’re worried about their I was talking to the guy who drives a snap on tool I love I love hand tools. I bought some snap while he was at a gas station in Madisonville, Texas the other day and I bought a few I said, How’s business? Oh, man is bad. You know, he’s paying $1,200 a month for his diesel fuel. And he’s driving around all the time. Yeah. But as far away from the elites in America as you can be, I think, and it’s a totally different vibe in those places. But compared to, you know, what, what I see on the, you know, the kind of well in the mansion, Schumer bill, let me let me transition to that. You’re you’re watching this closely is this. This seems to me another example of how badly perverted the political the parliamentary process in Congress has become this, pushing through all of the spending on a hinging on one vote at the last minute and a reconciliation bill. Is this. To me, it’s depressing how To you, I don’t I won’t try to how do you see that the bill itself is just as a as a piece of legislation and how it’s being handled?

David French 25:09
I see the bill is kind of a historical rounding error.

Unknown Speaker 25:16
So, it so

David French 25:17
we just have gone through. We just passed an infrastructure bill that was multiple times more consequential for spending. We pass Coronavirus, little relief that was multiple times more consequential for spending. This bill compared to bills that have come that had been passed in in the relatively recent past is pretty small. It’s pretty small. But it is a political win for the president who was getting nothing because remember, build back better with this in Norris, right? Economy shaping piece of legislation

Robert Bryce 25:54
to two or 3 trillion and this is only 700 million, right?

Unknown Speaker 26:00
That’s a rounding error. 700 700 Billions becoming rounding error

David French 26:05
compared to you know, when you’re talking about the trillions that had been spent over since since Coronavirus, hit our shores, the additional trillions. And so you went from the situation we had this build back better agenda that was supposed to be tacked on after the infrastructure built that was immense, that was harmless. And he was gonna get none of that. Now he gets some of that he gets a fraction of that. And look, from his perspective, it’s a political victory. And but I think the significance of it over the long term. And what happens on Twitter is a lot of people take a look at what’s a sort of a short term political victory for Democrats, and then hype it and type it and the iPad. So I look at it as less consequential in many ways than some of the other massive spending that we’ve had. That has led to the current inflate, you know, contributed to some of the current inflation crisis that we’re dealing with right now.

Robert Bryce 27:04
Right. Well, so then let’s talk about the midterms, then I’m gonna ask you to speculate we’re still, you know, many weeks away from the midterms, but not that far. And this could well be I mean, without Kirsten cinema, saying she’s going to support the mansion bill, that it looks like it’s going to pass and that could be a win for Biden, and he could say, well look historic action on climate change drug, prescription drugs, and the rest of it. What’s your sense in terms of going into the midterms? Are the are the Democrats gonna get spanked? What wouldn’t you have any sense event?

David French 27:31
You know, I if you’d asked me four months ago, I would have said the Democrats are this is this is a real potential for a red wave. But a few things happen at once one, the GOP, the Dobbs decision was handed down, and that scrambling that political calculus in some pretty unpredictable ways. I mean, there’s not too many people who saw the Kansas referendum coming out precisely the way it did. Abortion referendum, they especially did not see the turnout. So a lot of people are recalibrating, the generic ballot has moved towards the Democrats, it’s very hard to have a true wave election, if the generic ballot is not in your favor. So you had the Dobbs decision. Then you had another thing, which was the Democrats suddenly started to get a little bit more legislatively competent. At the beginning of this year, they were throwing these huge unpassable bills towards the Senate. And I was just sitting there as a matter of just political politics one to one. This stuff was just incompetent, they were sending bills that they knew he wouldn’t get a pass of filibuster in some cases like say the Equality Act and be even when they could achieve something through reconciliation and didn’t need to filibuster. They were sending stuff that Joe Manchin and Kirsten cinema they knew we’re not going to support and then trying to fix that problem by harassing cinema and mansion, harassing them into compliance. That’s a hope not a plan and it also poisons our body politic. So then what happened is the Democrats got a little smarter they started sending having bite sized pieces of legislation, rather than these huge monstrosity. So gun control compromise chips act is big, it’s not bite size. But chipset these are discrete items mentioned, gets them to pare back build back better into something more bite size, they pass, they send a marriage bill to the Senate, again, much more bite size, right? And so each one of these things are much more so they got more politically competent, and then the Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot by being politically incompetent. So here you have a Doug Mastriano nominated in Pennsylvania a very winnable governor’s race. He might still win it but he’s, he’s made it harder. Curie Lake and Arizona she might still win but she’s made it harder. Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania again he might When it but he’s made it harder. So time and again, they have nominated these candidates who are extraordinarily radical and undisciplined and many of them just flat out dishonest. And and that’s political malpractice, Herschel Walker in Georgia. Right? How many secret sons does he have? You know, I mean, and so you have a combination of what should be a Republican wave year because of the natural midterm advantage, combined with a lot of rough economic news, mainly focused on inflation instability in the world,

Robert Bryce 30:32
and all that and a weak and unpopular president. Right.

David French 30:36
All of that is means they should be poised for a really historic sweep. But then the Republicans have gotten better than I mean, the Democrats have gotten a little better the Republicans have gotten worse. And then the Dobbs, the $64,000, Dobbs question is hovering over at all,

Robert Bryce 30:54
which will motivate more Democratic women to vote or women in general? I

David French 30:59
will. Right, yeah. Yeah. Traditionally, abortion in recent years has not been a high priority for voters. And if it becomes a high priority for voters, then the Republicans are in trouble. But if it stays a lower priority than I think Republicans will be fine. Right.

Robert Bryce 31:15
You mentioned when you talked about the dispatch, new conservative? How would you describe your politics? David?

David French 31:23
classical liberal, Reaganite, conservative, is the way I would describe it mainly are another way of putting it as I’m a pro life classical liberal. So I am a strong I’m a civil libertarian. I’m a strong believer in the Bill of Rights. I’m a strong believer in, in international alliances, NATO, for example, our alliances in the southeast, in in the South Pacific. And so I’m a strong believer in American military strength, American military alliances, forward projection of American American military strength, all of this is sort of classic Reagan conservatism. My civil libertarianism puts me out of step with some folks on the right, because I’m very, you know, I’m very focused on protecting the Bill of Rights. And sometimes Republicans, unfortunately, have really focused on the first and second amendments and less so on the fourth, fifth, sixth, all of the the amendments that protect you know, for example, criminal defendants from abuse of the law. And then when it comes to economic policy, I’m, I’m skeptical of central planning. But I am not a doctrinaire libertarian, when it comes to economic policy. I, I’m very willing to experiment with policies like the Romney family Security Act, which is a child allowance plan that begins prenatally or I’m very willing to experiment with things like paid family leave, but I’m very skeptical of the notion of sort of central economic planning and and in the, the broad, rising bureaucratic state.

Robert Bryce 33:03
Who your political heroes. You mentioned Reagan.

David French 33:06
Yeah. You know, I Reagan and I have to say, I mean, some conservatives will get mad about this. But I think George HW Bush is one of the more underrated American presidents just from the standpoint of sheer competence in the way in which he navigated this country through the end of the Cold War.

Robert Bryce 33:26
He was the one he had, he had a lot of experience in government. He’d been in the CIA, he’d been all over the world. He was in business. I mean, he was a, he had a broad resume by the time he got to that job. You

David French 33:37
know, when I came of age, it was, you know, some we were very fortunate in the world stage, first with some of our leaders. So Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul, the second. These are people who at a were at a when I was coming of age, they were in, in power at a world historic, pivotal moment, in many ways. I think of them as some of the most three of the most significant figures in modern world history. So each one of those three,

Robert Bryce 34:06
Reagan, Reagan, John Paul and Thatcher. Yes.

David French 34:09
Yeah. And now, I am fully aware that you know, if you’re going to talk about Reaganism, you can’t take Reaganism of 1981 and plug and play until when you teleport it to now. There’s so many differences. But you know, one of the things about Reagan that I think was under appreciated and and I did a retrospective essay a year or so ago, looking back at his first inaugural. And one of the things that I do think there are parallels is he came to the presidency at a time when America wasn’t just in a sense, embroiled in a series of objective crises. In other words, stagflation that’s an objective economic reality, the Iran hostage crisis that was an objective national security The challenge, what seemed at the time to be in a rising or maybe even ascendant Soviet Union, again, an objective national security challenge, he also came into a time of really have a much more subjective crisis of national confidence. Remember, a 1979, Jimmy Carter had given the Malays speech sure came to be known as the Malay speech, but the word Malays wasn’t actually in the speech. But if you read that, aside from the factual particulars, you could try it, you can move that over to 2022. And it would be a description in many ways, the American spirit now, a loss of confidence, a real uncertainty about the future, a real concern that our nation’s best days are behind it. And one of the things that Reagan did, which I think was very, very powerful, is that he he essentially identified and if you look at his message to the American people, and this is my paraphrase of his message, this is my summary of it. He said to the American people, you have not failed, you have, you have been failed. People have failed you, you have not failed. So if you’re looking at the aftermath of Vietnam, the American fighting man did not fail. The American fighting man was poorly LED. If you look at the Iran hostage crisis, America is not weak. It is being led as if it is weak. If you look at the American call, you know, the collapse of the American economy, the American worker is not deficient. You know, there is but the American worker needs better leadership. And so the unheralded, I think part of the Reagan Revolution wasn’t just that he sort of was more libertarian, or however you want to say it, it’s that he imbued into the American people a greater degree of confidence and expected from the government a greater degree of competence. So it’s that combination of confidence and competence, that really began to turn things around. And one of the prime examples of that is the United States military. People forget that in the 1970s, the military was in a state of absolute crisis, lack of trust on the part of the people massive drug problem. And the military was sort of the biggest and most complicated government program. And here comes Reagan. And he’s supposed to be the anti government guy, right? Yeah. But he turns around the military, so that by the time he leaves office, which was a what was a decaying force, where the American people in the military itself lacked confidence in but the time that he left was a world. It was a colossus, and a world historically powerful force. And the proof of concept of that was in Desert Storm. And then, by the end of that, by the end of, of the Reagan, Bush era, the word that French diplomats coined to describe the United States of America was the hyper power, not a superpower hyper power. So why do I look at Reagan the way I do, it wasn’t just his policy program. It’s what he understood about the strength of the American people. And the necessity of governmental efficiency and competence, doesn’t mean that the government was competent all the time when he was president. But that kind and so one of the things I would look for in a leader is somebody who can understand that and for lack of a better term, say Make America competent. Again.

Unknown Speaker 38:33
Maca, you got your you got your slogan yet for the next election? Well, I’ll

Robert Bryce 38:39
just say, Lyndon Johnson still is one of my political heroes, Vietnam was his great failure. But the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were those were, I mean, America changing pieces of legislation that I don’t know that any other president, you know, would have taken another decade or more before that to happen under another president. But that’s an aside. Let me talk about your July 17 piece. I really do look forward to your Sunday pieces the you call the French press, if I’m remembering correctly. And I’m gonna read this paragraph here because the essay was called the God gap helps explain a seismic shift in American politics. And with the subhead, it said the most important religious divide isn’t between right and left, but between left and left, he wrote that in the 2020 election, the Democrats got whiter the Republicans got more diverse and now all of the assumptions are scrambled. Donald Trump lost the popular vote by a far wider margin than he did in 2016. But he did materially better with Hispanic, Asian and Black voters. In fact, Trump did better than Romney did with white voters, non white voters in 2016. And then you go on and talk about the fact that the Democrats now have a bigger advantage with white college graduates than they do with non white voters. And then you have this amazing graphic showing that non white Democrats are twice as likely to believe in God as white Democrats. Yeah. So how important is this is schism I’ll use that word in the Democratic Party, because I think that’s how you were framing this, that the Democrats have a big problem because a big part of their voting bloc, their traditional voting bloc, doesn’t align with the main people who are leading the party. Is that a fair way to think about

David French 40:14
it? Yes, this is a big deal. And it’s not being covered enough. So

Robert Bryce 40:20
if you’ve it’s all about Democrat, it’s all about demographics, and exact and religious belief and how religious belief and demographics are combining for a political shift. Is that, is that fair? Yeah. So.

David French 40:30
So the basic way to put this is, if you look at the religious beliefs of non white Democrats, they are much closer to the religious beliefs of Republicans than they are to the religious beliefs of white Democrats. Yeah. So religious differences leads to cultural differences. Yeah. Okay. You said that it’s a piece, right? Yeah. Yeah, this is a this should be the most uncontroversial thing you could say is, when you have religious differences, you will have cultural differences. Religion is not just sort of like a pair of, you know, it’s like wearing a different color shirt. Right? Whereas someone who wears a red shirt and a blue shirt is they’re not all that different. No religion, deep religious belief leads to cultural differences. And if you have, say, a population, let’s say, in the most relevant right now, our Hispanic voters, for a lot of his very compelling historic reasons, I think it’s going to be a while before black voters actually truly separate from the Democratic Party, but the real swing community right now are Hispanic voters. If you look at Hispanic voters, they are far more religious than white Democrats. And the way in which they’re religious is far more like white Republicans, very evangelical. So, evangelicalism, especially Pentecostal evangelicalism is explosive growing explosively in South America, and by extension into the American Hispanic community. And so you’ve got a lot of bonds there that are cultural. So it only makes sense that they would be political as well. And, and, you know,

Robert Bryce 42:13
and therefore, more and therefore more inclined to support a Republican leaning message.

David French 42:18
Right. Right. And so now you’ve gotten to a point where Hispanic voters very small percentage supported Romney, slightly bigger Trump in 2016, a little bigger than that Trump and Trump 2020, supporting Trump 2020. And now, the polling before the midterms indicates that the Hispanic vote may be almost evenly split. And we haven’t seen anything like that, since George W. Bush’s reelection campaign, when, in 2004, when Hispanic voters were a much smaller slice of the electorate. And so this is a clear trend. And I think the challenge that that secular progressives have, is that they have to intentionally maintain a big tent that includes people of small Oh, Orthodox faith, if the communication if the culture of the Democratic Party becomes aggressively secular, it will be increasingly difficult to hold on to theologically conservative, non white Democratic voters.

Robert Bryce 43:24
Well, let me ask you about that. Because that was one of the things that I’ve thought quite a lot about, because I write about, of course, energy and power systems and the rest of it in the in climate and how people make climate change. Really kind of a religious belief. So for the secular, more secular Democrats, is there a belief system that’s replacing Christianity church going that you can identify?

David French 43:45
Yeah, well, you know that that’s a really good question.

Robert Bryce 43:49
Because I see it the same. And I’ll just want to I want to add this in that you because in your piece you wrote also wrote that in December 2016. And I’d never seen this before that the then the executive director of the New York Times, Dean bkF, famously told NPR is Terry Gross. We don’t get religion. Yeah, we don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives. And that ring. And that rang true to me with you know, as I said, I spent a lot of time talking to, you know, electric cooperatives and you know, people who are ranchers and people that work with their hands, and they go to church. I mean, a woman I know is fighting a wind project in Madison County, Iowa, I talked to I rang her up and she was it was a Sunday morning and I was I was on a deadline was writing it for a piece for Forbes real quick piece. And they were she was Mary and Roy Propst. And they were in their car on the way to church.

David French 44:33
Yeah, yeah. Interesting. Yeah, I you know, I think that when you’re talking about the, what is replacing religion, any number of things can sort of replace religion. There are people who have a religious commitment or the equivalent of religious commitment safe to the environment. Yeah, that’s one. I think the one that is more prominent in secular progressive spaces is the phrase that I didn’t come up with and it wasn’t a conservative who came up with it. But Matthew Yglesias from at VA writing at Vox at the time, he called it the Great Awakening. And that is coinciding with this big decline and white, progressive religious belief is a dramatic increase in sort of political radicalization around issues of gender, race, sexuality. And so you begin to see a really sharp departure on the part of white secular progressives from even black Democrats on issues of race, white progressive tint, tend to be to the left of black Democrats on multiple racial questions. So there was a, there was a sea change and sort of outlook on a lot of really important moral and cultural issues that coincided with the secularization of white progressive spaces. And so I think for some people, John McWhorter, writing in the Atlantic, all the way back in 2018, identified a lot of the religious elements of this sort of awakening that, you know, Original Sin is white privilege. And you know, there’s a rare sort of a, there, there are a lot of things that actually kind of map on to religious belief, Andrew Sullivan has written about this extensively. This is kind of an old news argument at this point, that doesn’t mean that everybody who is too on the left on, you know, even on the far left on on race issues is a part of some awakening or substituting religion for cultural politics, there are a lot of very faithful Christians who are pretty far left on a whole host of issues. But as a community, there has been in in white progressive spaces, there has been a great awakening. And some of it has a kind of religious intensity to it. Now. I don’t want to because

Robert Bryce 47:04
it because it’s so because it’s so fervent, and then and then, and the quest for some kind of redemption in the public sphere, or the public square somehow.

David French 47:12
Well, we all well, I don’t want to say the word all. But I would say most people, almost every person I know, seeks a sort of sense of ultimate purpose. You know, what, what wants to answer the question, What am I here? For? What what is my purpose? Sure. And you know, religion is a religious belief is something that answers that question. But if you don’t have religious belief, what answers that question? And so for an awful lot of people, it’s that answer is found in the quest for justice or racial justice or, you know, things along those lines. Now, the danger you see on the very religious right, is that often they will confuse politics and religion. So in other words, some of the Christian nationalism, you’ve seen rise up, and what you saw on January 6, was, rather than you know, they began to pour their Christian faith into their political engagement in a deeply unhealthy way. Right, I would never say that Christians should check their faith at the door when entering into politics but to sort of argue that Donald Trump has some sort of special denied divine anointing from the Lord and therefore it is evidence of satanic plans that he’s losing an election that’s you’re really really really crossed a bunch of lines there

Robert Bryce 48:33
Right? Yeah, I that these ideas around redemption I seen in a lot of environmental ism right and and climate change and this idea of oh, well our redemption is wind turbines and solar panels are our redemption is non meat and cheeseburger or whatever. These are atonement methods. And so in the in the sin, of course, is and the and the ultimate Sanders nuclear technology, because that’s really biting from the apple, right, this technology, so on. But let’s talk a little bit about guns, because that’s one of the other divisions in American culture as well that you talk about that, and you’ve written about it. And you wrote a piece recently, in the wake of Uvalde. About your own thinking about guns and red flag laws. If I’m remembering about how you’ve, and you’ve your former military, you’re a gun owner. How is how is how have your own views on this changed in the last well, since the book came out?

David French 49:30
Yeah, so yeah, I am a gun owner. I could I could arm Ukraine. But yeah, one of the things that I have really been focused a lot on is the I’ve really been focused a lot on the mass shooting issue. Yeah. And because I think it is, it is a nation shaking crisis. In the sense that it each shooting itself is a monumental tragedy. And then the affects the cultural and psychological and spiritual effects of each shooting as it ripples through the country is it’s just horrible. And, and so what can we do about it? That’s what and so I’ve been thinking a lot about what can we do about this. And here’s the really sad thing is that we now have 50 years of research on mass shootings. Think about that 50 years of research available on mass shootings in the US. And what that research has shown is that the majority of mass shooters broadcast or telegraph their plans in some way. In other words, they’re radiating warning signs. So what can we do about that, and also happens to be the case, because we have far more gun deaths through suicide than we do for crime. That also happens to be the case with suicide, an awful lot of people who are suicidal, they, they express suicidal ideation. So what can we do when somebody is radiating danger signals. And that’s what the red flag laws about and the Red Flag Law has the virtue of being targeted, in much the same way that prohibitions against felons owning guns are people who commit domestic violence on guns or who’ve been adjudicated dangerously mentally ill. It targets behavior, it targets behavior. And so you know, if you in so it doesn’t, it doesn’t impair Second Amendment rights, because there’s no proper conception of Second Amendment rights. It says I have, I have a right to own a gun Oh, and casually expressed the desire to shoot up my school or my employer, right, that’s with rights comes responsibilities. And so this targets irresponsible and dangerous behavior, and, and actually targets the thing that most mass shooters do. And so it’s very, it’s a very tailored remedy to what the evidence indicates is the problem. And it has the virtue that some other gun control measures don’t. RAND corporation did a huge study of studies of gun control measures and found that not one of the popular measures like magazine capacity bans, assault weapons bans, has any effect on mass shootings. There’s no no evidence that they have a material effect on mass shootings. Now, red flag laws are too young, there’s too few of them. And they’re just been enacted to have any real rigorous studies on their effect yet, where have they been enacted? So they’ve been enacted in 19 states in the District of Columbia. And most of them are pretty darn new. They they became much more common after the Parkland shooting in Florida, right. And so we just haven’t had a lot of data. And then some of the states are wildly different in how much they use them and publicize them. So for example, Florida, which was just, you know, it had its heart torn out by the Marjory Stoneman Stoneman Douglas High School shooting past a age increase for owning a rifle, which I’m completely fine with that, and passed red flag laws, which I strongly support. And they, they’ve enforced red flag laws 1000s of times in Florida 1000s of times, I think, as of right now, there are more than 2000 Red Flag orders that are currently in place. Illinois, which had this terrible July for shooting has a red flag law. But it had only been enforced a few dozen times, in a state of 13 million people. What does that tell you? It tells you nobody knows it’s there. Not even the police really know it’s there. They don’t know how to use it. People don’t know how to use it. But in Florida, they know it’s there, and they know how to use it. And so it’s very important when trying to measure the effect of these things is a law that nobody knows exists might as well not even be a law at all. Right. And so this is passed and enforced,

Robert Bryce 53:53
but wouldn’t be harder than to tell about or to even gauge what’s not happening. I mean, you’re trying to gauge what is as a result that isn’t occurring, right. But it also applies to you validate because as I recall the I mean, I’m in Texas, and I mean, it was terrible. I mean, it’s not that far from Austin, but the kid bought a gun. I mean, just a few hours before the shooting, right? I mean, it wasn’t long.

David French 54:15
Well, it will and the thing was though, if he had if red flag laws existed in Texas, his prior behavior would have qualified for a red flag order. And so but again, if people knew about it, and if so just the same with the Illinois shooter, the same with a shooter in Buffalo, New York, both of those states had red flag laws but they weren’t being properly utilized. So you can it’s similar to the way we treat prohibitions on straw purchasers like Americans gun owning and not gun owning broadly agree that straw purchasing for guns it shouldn’t be illegal a straw purchases when I when I tell you that I’m giving buying the gun for myself, but I’m giving it to somebody else, right, right. And Did and in those circumstances, but straw purchase bans are almost never enforced straw purchase prosecutions almost never happen. And so one of the problems that we have is we have some really sensible laws that are not enforced that are not that people don’t even know about. And red flag laws in some states are like that. So I think the test of red flag laws is going to be longitudinal, longitudinal, you can never say, by seizing guns from John Smith, we stopped John Smith from a mass shooting, right? We can say by seizing guns from John Smith, we took guns from somebody who had demonstrated by his conduct and behavior, he shouldn’t have a gun. Right? You can say that. But the evidence will come out over the long term. Are there more or fewer proportionate mass shootings in jurisdictions that pass and enforce red flag laws? What about what does it do to suicide rates? That that’s but we won’t know the answer to that for a long time?

Robert Bryce 55:57
Yeah. Well, let’s talk about things that mean, we talked about things that are in fact, depressing, and shootings or shootings are one of those in the January 6, disaster was when the riots and so on are part of that. When you look around, what are the uniting things in America? We’re both sports fans, we’re both basketball fans, what are sports, one of the things we can rally around? I mean, there’s a lot of division around sports as well. But what were the optimistic things you talk in the end of your book about, about the things that about, you know, having more tolerance for each other? And this virtue of being more open to people of other other faiths, other other backgrounds, etc? But what if we’re, if we’re going to see a less divided country? Where are the uniting points?

David French 56:44
Yeah, the you know, the point I make in the book is that we have a lot of ties that bind us very tightly right now, the problem that we have is that all of the pressures are putting strains on those bonds, we don’t have big trends in America that are pulling us back together again, in the same way that a lot of the trends are pushing us apart. And so one of the things that we have to do is we have to think through and remember, what are the things that bind us together? And what are the things that make us feel that, that bond with each other, and, and double down on a lot of those things? And, and so, you know, we do things as simple as sport to do matter. You know, I’m a huge sports fan. And, you know, I live in a very, very red part of the country. I’m a Never Trump conservative. People who are Trump conservatives are Trump Republicans dislike us more than they dislike Democrats. There’s no question about there.

Unknown Speaker 57:40
You’re the apostolate, you’re the you’re the you’re the heretic. Yeah, you’re the heretic. Yeah. But

David French 57:45
even with people who might be the most Magga person around, I can talk to them about and we can have a three hour conversation about Nick Saban. And how long is he going to dominate the Southeastern Conference, you know, and we can become friends. And we can actually bond around this thing that is a shared a part of our shared culture that we both love. And we’re both fascinated by. And so in our personal lives, and our national lives, centering more of our communications and centering more of our identities around these shared, you know, around shared experiences, and shared values, rather than centering our communications around those, those values that are different. And those experiences that are opposed, I think, is an important thing. The other thing to remember about America right now is that it’s only a minority of Americans are actually driving us apart. The group called more in common, which studied what it called the hidden tribes of America. Found in all the way back in I believe, 2018, that most American polarization is, is created by the most polarized Wings of American discourse, the conservative activist on one side and the progressive activist on the other, the majority of Americans, both middle left and right are what they called part of the exhausted majority. Yeah, they might be Democrats, but they’re sick of the division. They might be Republicans, but they’re sick of divisions. And so one of the hopes that we have is that, you know, one of the challenges is that the main operative word in the phrase exhausted majority right now it’s exhausted. They’re the people have pulled back, they’re sick of it. Maybe they don’t want to mess with their relationship with their parents or their uncle or their aunt or whatever. They don’t want to be dragged on Facebook or Twitter or wherever. So they just pull back. Yeah. And so if you pull back, that means the polarized wings are driving the bus. So the hope I think that we have is to take the important word from exhausted majority and move it from exhausted to majority. Yeah. And have that majority. Getting get more get more engaged, get more engaged. Yep, yep.

Robert Bryce 59:56
Okay, well, so you mentioned the SEC. So back to that so our text isn’t open. The homeland for a rude awakening when they get into the SEC.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:03
Yes. Looks like it to me. This is this isn’t the big this isn’t the Big Eight anymore you can’t play Kansas every year that’s not going to happen.

David French 1:00:12
Now there are there are week programs in the Southeastern Conference for sure. Right but you have far more strong programs. So, you know, on any given year you cannot count on going down to Mississippi State and Starkville, Mississippi and beating them. Yeah, right they even though Mississippi State is will only once in the bloom in a blue moon in the national championship conversation right? Or a&m hasn’t been a national championship contender truly for a while. But by golly, you don’t want to go down there and play nm as Alabama found out last year. So it is and then at the same time you have these two super programs in Georgia and Alabama that are just recruiting and coaching juggernauts.

Robert Bryce 1:00:59
It is true that their players I you know, football’s kind of a guilty pleasure for me I just you know, I see so many kids getting you know, they get hurt and you know, you see him taken over them just like you know their careers. It’s a guilty pleasure but I still it’s I still have a guilty love of it right but all their players look like they go straight to the NFL. I mean, you look at the prototype. Oh yeah, he’s 235 pounds and you know, six threes. You know, he’s the prototype cornerback or whatever, you know,

Unknown Speaker 1:01:26
there’s the dimensions the speed everything is like yeah, this is the this is the fifth they could go to the NFL but they’re at Alabama’s was a waystation. Yeah. Okay, so

Robert Bryce 1:01:36
we’ve talked about sec. So is John Miranda, the your your Grizzlies fan? I know can they keep jaws? They’re going to

David French 1:01:43
John So John has signed his extension and he did okay. Yeah. So, he has and this is really important. So he did not exercise the up the he did not exercise a player option. In other words, he did not put a player option for his last year right in his contract. So he is contractually now committed to the Grizzlies for the final year of his rookie contract which is next year and then the next I think five years after that so there’s like a six year tangible commitment right there. And they’ve locked up Jaren Jackson Jr. for several he got his extension in the in the turret in the in the lingo of contract extensions. And in the NBA, he got his bag. And, and so you have a lot of the the the core has been locked up. And then the other thing is, look, the toughest test the Warriors faced in the playoffs was the Grizzlies. That was their toughest test. They rolled through the their first round they rolled through the Western Conference Finals. They had a few moments of nervousness around Celtics. Yeah, but literally the Grizzlies were to miss shots away from knocking the Warriors right out of the playoffs. John Moran’s driving layup attempt in game one. Dylan Brooks’s step back three in game five. Was it game five? Can’t remember.

Robert Bryce 1:03:05
You are paying attention.

David French 1:03:08
Oh, yeah. Robin, we could talk about this for twice as long as I could talk. So John Marantz your favorite player. Oh, gosh, that’s, that’s poster of

Robert Bryce 1:03:17
him. Yeah. Well, I saw it back there. Steph Curry is my favorite player. I mean, but I’m a spurs fan. And we’ve had some hard years here but you know, I still love pop. I’m still a big basketball fan. So that’s not going to change it so it let’s ask him let me just ask you about that. Or who in those in the sports world do you think Bill Russell recently died he was kind of a I want to use the word transcendent but a pivotal figure I think in terms of American sports in that in his era. And as a as a as a political figure and a sports figure and a cultural figure. Who in the mood you see in that? Is there someone else’s LeBron in that same category in terms of American sports figures? Steph Curry, of course as you know, subway contracts, okay, he’s kind of closed even though he’s my favorite player. But is there another player right or another sports figure today that could have that kind of stature of a bill wrestler that is a transcend a transcendent a cross cultural figure, I guess to

David French 1:04:21
be? Well, you know, the so staff is much less politically sort of resonant than Bill, Bill Russell. came to prominence and one of the most pivotable pivotal and contentious times in American history. Yeah. You know, you’re talking about this is a guy who ran the first desegregated basketball camp in Mississippi, right? He, he laid it on the line for civil rights and paid the price for it. So it’s not quite the same scenario now. Yeah, but far different era. Right. But here’s, you know, if you’re talking about transcendent figures in the sense that people admire them well well beyond their imprint on the court, you’re on the playing field. Staff is one of the most well beloved people in the United States. LeBron is polarizing politically. But what’s interesting about LeBron is he’s one of the more generous athletes and one of the more compelling role models in sport because this is a kid who at age 18, was handed, you know, he grew up without a father figure. 18 years old kid from Akron handed a giant pile of money. If you did that, to me and 18 even coming out of the good family I came out of you might have found me in a ditch five years later, you know, how could I handle that?

Robert Bryce 1:05:43
But there’s been no scandal. I mean, no, no, no, I mean, no, no, I mean, not even like Kobe with the marital infidelity or those womanizing, none of that love with Lebron, and has been that part of it. I will agree with you. I mean, it’s just, he’s, he’s been remarkably consistent. And I don’t know if the right word is, does not non scan. There weren’t no scandals, when a

David French 1:06:05
model citizen, he has been a role model like he marries his high school sweetheart. He’s a very public and present father. He starts a school in Akron that is phenomenally successful in changing the lives of young students. And, you know, you go through all of these things, and it’s sort of like, well, yeah, I disagree with a lot of LeBrons politics, but the real imprint and real footprint that he’s having culturally and tangibly in people’s lives is incredibly positive. And I just wish we could get past you know, a lot of my conservative friends sort of get past the idea that he has political opinions you don’t like and appreciate sort of who he is as a man. Right? And Steph is awesome. He’s very publicly this great. You know, he’s a husband, he’s a father. He’s a philanthropist. He’s

Robert Bryce 1:06:53
a devout, devout, devout Christian. He was fairly unusual in the NBA as well. I mean, he’s very, very outward about that, which is fairly remarkable in any sports figure today. And, you know, so

Unknown Speaker 1:07:05
we’re any or any journalist, in fact, yes, we let’s point, let’s point this out in your case.

David French 1:07:11
And we’re actually kind of in some ways with some of our non political public figures blessed with some people who are really pretty darn positive cultural forces I’ve got, I’ve got to mention my guy, Dwayne The Rock Johnson.

Unknown Speaker 1:07:28
Do tell y’all go ahead. Well,

David French 1:07:30
you know, one of the things that’s interesting about him again, guy who’s very out there as a good as a dad, a guy who’s very out there, with a very distinct perspective, and that is he just, he loves people. Like he loves people. And in that sense, he’s got this very positive cultural presence as one of the most famous and recognizable people on the planet. And, and I think we absolutely, I wrote a nasty review cover story about him. years ago, a couple years ago, I called it was called the celebrity we need. And, you know, he’ll make a political statement every now and then. But that is not the fundamental core of his identity. And I think that, you know, that that sort of that that fundamental outward expression that he has, at this cultural moment, a moment dominated by animosity, we need people whose public presence is dominated by affection. And, and I think that that’s one of the most compelling things about him another person again, not he’s a former athlete, obviously. Someone who’s not an athlete at all, one of the greatest living Americans, Dolly Parton, Dolly Parton, if you peel back the layers of good that that woman has done, yeah. For her community for her state. It’s another another Tennessee and right. Yeah, it’s almost staggering. You know, one of the cool things about when you have a baby in the state of Tennessee is pretty soon. You’re gonna start getting books from Dolly Parton. Dolly Parton, there are books that every single child in Tennessee gets as gifts from Dolly Parton to help

Robert Bryce 1:09:13
me I’ve never heard this before. Wow. It’s

David French 1:09:15
amazing. It’s amazing. They’re sweet books, and they come in the mail and it’s really touching

Robert Bryce 1:09:21
it so she sounds like she’s one of your heroes. Yeah,

David French 1:09:25
she’s fantastic. She’s fit you know,

Unknown Speaker 1:09:27
you know, there’s the great the great quote that Dolly, Dolly Parton.

Robert Bryce 1:09:32
Neither no is on Johnny Carson are one of the late night shows, but she was on there and the commentator says you look great. She’s well, that takes a lot of money to look this cheap.

David French 1:09:41
She’s a treasure. She’s a treasure and you know, that’s the thing is one of the things that’s so obvious about Dolly Parton is she is just exuding love and affection for this community. You know, for this state for her community. She’s from severe VUL. The severe Ville area which is East Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains. You And you know, when there was a terrible wildfire there? I mean, she took the lead and rebuilding the community. Yeah. So there’s there are a lot of people out there who are really wonderful, good news stories.

Robert Bryce 1:10:13
And what are the things that are and that are taking the lead in this kind of much more of a community focused or a totally public spirited kind of approach that you think that will? I think you make a good case is what is going to be needed to move past this the these broader divisions?

David French 1:10:28
Yeah, because one of the problems that we have is that politics is becoming more important in people’s lives at the exact time in the United States of America, where the political class is mourn when it with some notable exceptions, but as a general rule, the political class is one of the it’s the least impressive of my adult lifetime. It’s the most sort of Craven and cowardly, of any political class of my adult lifetime. And at the same time that politics is becoming much more important to people. But at the same time, at the same time that this political class is kind of failing us constantly. We have a class of Americans who are not prominent through politics, who are doing wonderful things for this country and for their community. And it’s sort of a shame that the political figures have such cultural power, far beyond the cultural power that you know, like, I’m sorry, what’s Josh Hawley doing writing a book about manhood? I mean, really,

Unknown Speaker 1:11:28
Jonah Goldberg speech the other day about the double entendre? Well, today we’re going to talk about Josh from Josh Holly’s manhood, and it’s too easy. Well, let’s move on my guest.

Robert Bryce 1:11:41
We need to wrap up here because we’ve been talking for more than an hour because I love talking to David French. He’s my guest. He’s on Twitter at David AIFF at David a French. He’s a senior editor at the dispatch the dispatch.com. And he’s the author most recently of divided we fall, Americans secession threat and how to restore our nation, which I highly recommend as a book that was actually fairly prescient, published two years ago. Well, just a few more questions, we planning to write another book. I’m not by the way, I’ve written six, and I’m going to hang it up for a while. I’m not working on one, but I have to ask,

David French 1:12:12
I am but it has not yet started, so I’ll have to leave the topic. Okay, mysterious. Fair enough.

Unknown Speaker 1:12:19
Okay. Well, I’m working on one too, but I haven’t started

Robert Bryce 1:12:23
yet. So I’m working on one, but I’m not writing it.

David French 1:12:25
Yeah, I know what I want to write. Yes. That I haven’t started yet. So Right. Yeah.

Robert Bryce 1:12:30
So what books are you reading? Then? The last two questions. What are you reading? What’s on the top of your shelf or top of your list in terms of what’s what are interesting you these days?

David French 1:12:38
Yeah. So I read mainly, this is going to be the best like the most data answer ever. I’m constantly reading military history. So right now I’m reading ring of steel, which is a book from a couple years ago about the history of Germany and Austria Hungary and World War One. I just finished reading historical fiction Steven Pressfield ‘s new book called A Man at Arms Steve Steven Pressfield. wrote the book Gates of Fire Legend of Bagger Vance. Absolutely. Fantastic book. Speaking of basketball, I just finished reading the and again this book is a few years old, but book called Showtime. The history of the Lakers dynasty in the 80s.

Robert Bryce 1:13:23
Oh, right. Yeah. Which is now right that they made that into the mini series. Now. It’s been controversial. Yep. Yep. Jerry Jerry West sued in fact on that or something where his portrayal in the in the the TV thing? Yeah,

David French 1:13:37
he’s very upset. Although I will say as the season goes on, his portrayal gets better and better. So those are some recent books that I’ve been reading. And I’m, I also finished a really good one volume history or World War Two called the storm of war. Finished another great one volume history of world war one called A World and done, like I said, it’s the most dad answer ever.

Robert Bryce 1:14:02
I don’t know that my list is get it? Well, maybe not even that long. But it’s but nevertheless. So last question, then David, we talked about a lot of division and so on what gives you hope now?

David French 1:14:13
Yeah, what gives me hope is, to be honest, I have a lot of I have conversations like this. There’s an awful lot of really smart people who love this country from across the political spectrum, who are saying was sort of one voice, what can we do? And I would have a whole lot less hope. If nobody was asking, if, if nobody seemed to care, but I have spent time and you know, we’ve spent some time in some common spaces with people who really care about what is happening and and I think the number one, and it’s not just actually I wrote the book, in large part because even before 2020 That was one of the key questions that was being asked. Anywhere I went was what’s happening to us what’s happening to us. So I would say, I have a lot of hope because a lot of people seem to care about what’s happening now. Will it be enough people? Will it be people who have enough sort of moral courage to step forward and kind of swim against the tide when it comes to polarization remains to be seen. But I knew a lot of the best people I know in my life, are deeply concerned about our national polarization and want to do something about it.

Unknown Speaker 1:15:31
That’s a good place to stop. David,

Robert Bryce 1:15:34
great to talk to you again. Great to catch up. Great to catch up now two years later, again, David’s book divided we fall I highly recommend it and then follow him at the dispatch dispatch.com on Twitter, David, a French David, thanks again for being on the power hungry podcast.

David French 1:15:49
Well, thanks so much for having me. And thanks to all

Robert Bryce 1:15:51
of you listeners out there until the next episode, see you


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