Sohrab Ahmari

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Sohrab Ahmari
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And a dirty dozen more

Sohrab Ahmari (February 1, 1985–) is an Iranian-born American conservative commentator.[1] Ahmari is married to architect Ting Li, with whom he has a son and a daughter. He is most famous for his introduction of illiberal thought on the American right, specifically through criticizing those who present a "live and let live" style of thinking, specifically telling his audience in 2018 that "There's no polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war. The only way is through."[2] The call out of conservative lawyer David French eventually led Ahmari to write an article criticizing what he called "David French-ism" which he basically used to mean conservatives who aren't as willing to use authoritarian measures as he is,[3] eventually resulting in French writing a response to these criticisms[4] and a debate between the two in September 2019.[5]

According to Ahmari, one of the bigger issues with French and his ideology is the refusal to allow the government to intervene in what he sees as the ills of civilization, writing:

For French, the solution to nearly every problem posed by a politics of individual autonomy above all is yet more autonomous action. But sentimentalization of family life won’t be enough to overcome the challenges posed to it by the present economy. Calls for religious revival are often little more than an idle wish that all men become moral, so that we might dispense with moral regulation.

Government intervention will not be the answer to every social ill. In many instances, free markets and individual enterprise can best serve the common good, albeit indirectly. But I take issue with David French-ism’s almost supernatural faith in something called “culture”—deemed to be neutral and apolitical and impervious to policy — to solve everything. Questions that are squarely political — that is, that touch on our shared quest for the common good — become depoliticized by this culture-first strategy. The libertine camp prefers the same depoliticization, of course; they’re much better at winning in the realm of culture than David French will ever be.[3]

The request to change tactics and move away from the "small government" one conservatives had been using for decades, put together with the sly shot at the notion of politics being downstream from culture, one associated with conservative idol Andrew Breitbart,[6] resulted in Ahmari's essay being incredibly controversial, with several right-wing authors expanding on or criticizing his ideas.[7]

The question of what it was going to be replaced with was where things got especially worrisome. Charles C. W. Cooke, writing in the National Review, specifically criticized Ahmari for not actually explaining what he wants and how he intends to get it.[8] John Zmirak, although he does go after French in his article on the topic, still called what Ahmari wanted "a mongrelized mix of theocratic socialism, Catholic authoritarianism,[note 1] and despair or contempt for our country."[10] Meanwhile, Damon Linker argued in The Week that Ahmari's demand for those in the religious right to have power despite the country not agreeing with them was actually an attack on the idea of democracy itself.[11]

From neoconservative to whatever he is now[edit]

My moral opinions were as interchangeable as my clothing styles and musical tastes. I could pick up and drop this ideology or that. I could be a high-school "goth," a college socialist, a law-school neoconservative. I could dabble in drugs and build an identity around my dabbling. I could get a girlfriend, cheat on her, dump her willy-nilly, and build a pseudo-identity around that, too.
—The man himself[12]
Over his checkered career, Ahmari has undergone a number of conversions, from secular Muslim, to atheist, to Communist, to Catholic (with a few side trips along the way), so his newfound admiration for Chinese hegemony may simply be the next step on his ideological evolution toward… well, who knows. The only thing that seems certain is that the arc of Ahmarism does not bend toward freedom.
—Charlie Sykes[12]
Here’s what stares me in the face: Ahmari’s life story — a Muslim immigrant who wound up becoming a Trumpian moralist by way of Marxism and then free-market conservatism — is a tribute to the value-neutral liberalism he now claims to despise. Whatever hopes remain of a decent conservative movement rest in rejecting the illiberalism he now embraces — the one that would close the door to some future Ahmari, embarking on an experiment in living all his own.
—Bret Stephens[13]

James Kirchick, a neoconservative writer who has been with Ahmari since the start of his career as a commentator, documented exactly what his time in the spotlight has been like in a 2022 article for the website Tablet. In it, he notes how Ahmari began as a relatively standard neoconservative himself, and somebody who was particularly concerned about the illiberalism on the right after events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump (calling it "the worldwide crisis" in an article for Commentary from 2016[14] and the arguing this was a "terrible American turn" the following year[15]), only for Ahmari to himself become one of the biggest cheerleaders for what he once fought against.[16]

Kirchick specifically noted that this shift occurred after Ahmari moved away from The Wall Street Journal and Commentary and becoming the editor of the op-ed pages for The New York Post in 2018 as the thing which caused a shift in Ahmari's perspective.[16][note 2] From this point forward, the rest is history:

In March 2019, the conservative Catholic journal First Things published an open letter that Ahmari helped draft. Titled “Against the Dead Consensus,” it looked favorably on Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, lambasted “consensus conservatives” for “fetishizing” “individual autonomy,” and condemned other aspects of “tyrannical liberalism” such as “the transhumanist project of radical self-identification.” Two months later, Ahmari went further. In “Against David French-ism,” also published in First Things, he singled out the even-keeled, evangelical political commentator as just the sort of spineless conservative “unsuitable to the depth of the present crisis facing religious conservatives.” (As the titles of his First Things manifestos suggest, Ahmari had become motivated more by his animosities than his passions.)[16]

From this point forward, Ahmari has spent the majority of his career doing little more than defending foreign authoritarians, regardless of how much their actions actually align with his values, funnily enough. One particularly infamous tweet saw him declaring he's "at peace with a Chinese-led 21st century."[16] However, one is forced to wonder why Ahmari, a practicing Catholic who bases his political views off of his theology, would be fine with a world led by a state atheist nation[19] where Christianity is cracked down on.[20]

What does he actually believe?[edit]

Best as anybody can tell, nothing. Back in 2021, Shannon Last, a Catholic speechwriter, made an entire Twitter thread noting various contradictions in what Sohrab used to say and what he says now.[21]

When this is brought up, Ahmari will usually frame this not as him changing his views for the sake of grifting, but instead merely him changing his mind as a result of new information. Responding to the various attacks on him for his change in worldview, he wrote:

The Bulwarkers’ and Never Trumpers' tantrums against me can be summed up as, "He has changed his mind!" Have I? Yes. But so did many of my conservative icons, most of whom were converts of various sorts. For that matter, so did my patron saint in the Church, Augustine of Hippo, who spent a decade as a Manichee and then a Neo-Platonist before assenting to the fullness of the Catholic faith.[12]

However, the issue is not merely that he changed his mind on certain subjects, it is that he did so suddenly and out of nowhere. If this were the Ahmari we arrived at after, say, a decade of him having new experiences and learning more about the world, even if his positions would still be disagreeable, few would have the complaints they do today. However, Ahmari's overnight transformation from a defender of liberal democracy to one of its loudest critics reeks to many as throwing away his old beliefs for the sake of becoming more popular in the Trump-era intellectual right. This is the man who once famously said, "There is no returning to the pre-Trump conservative consensus that collapsed in 2016."[22] It very much seems like he came to that conclusion and wondered what views would get him the most support in this new landscape, not that he changed his mind because he finds these ideas worthwhile.

The fact that his pick for a right-wing target was David French, somebody who Trump supporters infamously harassed on Twitter during the 2016 Presidential Election[23] (and whose dislike for Trump is so strong he even considered running for President himself just to give anti-Trump conservatives somebody to vote for[24]), further backs up this notion. Jonathan Last specifically notes while writing in The Bulwark that, although Ahmari could have picked many conservatives to target as several fit the mold of the kind of right-winger he wants to criticize, it seems like he picked French specifically because of his opposition to Trump.[25]

This is especially notable because, as both Last[25] and French[4] note, Ahmari's description of "David French-ism" has almost nothing to do with the man, and his constant referring to Donald Trump as somebody who brought back the religious conservative movement bears little reference to Donald Trump. The man who couldn't name his favorite Bible verse[26] and screwed up a Biblical citation at Liberty University[27] is far from a dedicated Christian. He infamously rarely attends church services[28] and who most Americans don't even see as Christian.[29] Yet he, and not the self-identified evangelical Christian David French,[30] is the one on the side of the religious in the culture war.


  1. Zmirak is himself a Catholic and has a long history of writing within the Catholic right-wing.[9]
  2. Although Kirchick makes a small factual error. He says The New York Post "had endorsed Trump in 2016" when that's not quite what happened. Although the newspaper did endorse Trump for the Republican Primary that year,[17] comments like this usually are referencing who was endorsed in the general election, and the newspaper failed to give Trump said support.[18]


  1. My Family’s Iranian Revolution
  2. "If you can't see why children belong nowhere near drag, with its currents of transvestic fetishism, we have nothing to say to each other. We are irreconcilably opposed. There's no polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war. The only way is through." by @SohrabAhmari, 5/26/2019
  4. 4.0 4.1 What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong
  6. The right loves to say "politics is downstream from culture," but on the right the opposite is true
  7. The Ahmari/French debate: A reading list
  8. Okay, Sohrab Ahmari, but Why Did You ‘Snap’?
  9. John Zmirak
  10. The Iran-Iraq War Among Conservatives
  11. How the intellectual right is talking itself into tearing down American democracy
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 New York Post Editor Sohrab Ahmari’s Strange Journey From Communist to ‘Theocrat’
  13. The High Church of the Low Blow
  14. Illiberalism: The Worldwide Crisis
  15. The Terrible American Turn Toward Illiberalism
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 When the Pope Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie, That’s Ahmari
  17. The Post endorses Trump for NY primary
  18. Why didn’t the New York Post endorse Donald Trump? The right-wing tabloid’s silence speaks volumes
  19. Is China a religious country or not? It’s a tricky question to answer
  20. 4. Christianity
  21. Although it has since been deleted, an archive can be found hereand here
  23. Harassed On Twitter: 'People Need To Know The Reality Of What It's Like Out There'
  24. David French came ‘really close’ to running for president
  25. 25.0 25.1 Sohrab Ahmari’s ‘Culture War’ Is Really Just About Donald Trump
  26. Trump says Bible is his favorite book, but declines to share favorite verse
  27. Donald Trump Mistakes Biblical Citation at Liberty University Event
  28. Republicans see Trump as a more of ‘person of faith’ than Biden, Pence, every 2024 GOP candidate
  29. Most Americans don’t see Trump as religious; fewer than half say they think he’s Christian
  30. David French, Sohrab Ahmari, and the Battle for the Future of Conservatism