Is Claremont Good for Conservatism?

The New York Times published an expose on the Claremont Institute and its influence on modern American conservatism.

Anyone paying attention to conservative politics since 2016 would recognize the wide ranging impact on the conservative movement from Claremont and its programs.

The quickly abandoned 1776 Commission Report might as well have been stamped, “Produced and Approved by the Claremont Institute.”

Claremont provided most of the intellectual muscle for the Trump administration.

This wasn’t a good thing.

Let me explain.

I agree with Claremont and its scholars on most of their policy positions. They are solid on immigration and the culture war, for example.

But this is only part of the story.

The Claremont scholars don’t understand that their core principles run counter to real American conservatism and by default open the door to progressivism.

They are essentially parrots of long discarded leftist talking points repackaged as “conservative.”

This is due in large part to their intellectual godfather, Harry Jaffa, who wrote an entire essay describing equality as “conservative.”

You can’t conserve anything if you base your political “ideology” on Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his distortion of the Declaration of Independence.

I wrote two essays on this topic at Chronicles last year. Senior Claremont wonk Michael Anton didn’t like my critique and responded at American Greatness.

The New York Times piece had some surprisingly prescient critiques of Claremont, including the offhanded recognition that Jaffa hated the Southern tradition.

This explains why American conservatism based on Claremont is doomed from the start.

Russell Kirk understood that American conservatism had to include John Randolph and John C. Calhoun. Claremont rejects both men.

If you want a robust American conservatism, it has to include Southern giants like Calhoun. Otherwise, you will simply be leaving the door open to the egalitarian progressives bent on remaking society.

That is exactly what the Radical Republicans intended to do in the 1860s and 1870s, the same Republicans Claremont people like to champion.

They weren’t conservative, by the way.

I discuss the New York Times piece and Claremont on episode 685 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

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