The Claremont Institute Is Upsetting the Right People
A Claremonter’s response to the New York Times.
One advantage of working at the Claremont Institute, which the New York Times recently called “a nerve center of the American right,” is that you get a lot of real-time feedback when you are winning. Of course, not all of that feedback is necessarily pleasant. The left is many things, but it’s not stupid when it comes to realpolitik. If you’re causing real damage to their team, they’ll come after you.
That’s why we’ve been the subject of extended profiles (some more negative than others) in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, the Atlantic, and other major left-wing publications in just the last couple of years. Not bad for a think-tank whose annual budget is equal to the cost of a few of the missiles that America lobs ineffectually at Houthi tribesmen in Yemen.
Now the Times is back with a front-page above-the-fold Sunday piece calling us “the nexus” that is responsible for the “playbook and thinking” of anti-DEI forces on the right.
Guilty as charged.
The Times article perhaps isn’t a full-on hit piece, although it does a fair bit of bottom-feeding on sarcastic and humorous internal Claremont emails. Yet to be strictly fair, it does occasionally seem to be interested in why we actually take the positions that we do rather than simply screaming “Nazi” at us for not having our thoughts fully vetted by the New York Times editorial board. Yet the only scandal uncovered is that so many right-wing donors are giving to ineffective organizations or losing political candidates, rather than to groups like Claremont that actually move the ball—and the narrative—forward.
Indeed, there is less to the Times report than meets the eye. Principally, they seem scandalized that we are against DEI and America’s current racialist regime. I am not a disinterested observer of this of course. My forthcoming book The Unprotected Class (available for pre-order now and being published in April) is entirely devoted to the rise of anti-white discrimination and racism in America. This rise in racism has been enabled by our DEI and affirmative action regime, and is fundamentally anchored in metastasizing civil rights law and, perhaps even more importantly, subsequent rulings from the unaccountable administrative state.
The Times article was largely pieced together from public records requests, enabled by the fact that some Claremont scholars also have public university affiliations. One could scarcely imagine a similar unprovoked fishing expedition done by the New York Times against a left-wing organization.
The notion that “flippant banter” as my friend David Azerrad appropriately called it—joking remarks that were dashed off in a few seconds for friends and colleagues-- somehow represents Claremont’s secret “real” views is comical. Much of the conversation is gallows humor, understandable given the completely marginalized state of conservatives from establishment institutions. The idea that these comments, rather than the ideas Claremont scholars express in books and articles that we painstakingly write and research for weeks, months, and even years, represent our “real” views is a rather ungenerous assessment.
None of my emails popped up in the Times article, but no doubt if you selectively published my (or most other people’s) private correspondence at various times over the thirty or so years I’ve been emailing friends, one could construct a monstrous, and wholly inaccurate, parody of me and my views. Journalism by innuendo is an unsavory way to conduct business.
As to the substance of the article:
Yes, it is true that Claremont does not believe that diversity is our greatest strength. In fact, I have written endlessly and publicly (as have many of my Claremont colleagues) about how, ceteris paribus, diversity is often a weakness.
Yes, it is true Claremont does not think that every racial disparity in outcomes is a result of racism. Indeed, we think this is a pernicious view that, while not necessarily hegemonic in the initial civil rights ideology—King’s “content of their character” vision still has its partisans—has increasingly come to dominate it.
Yes, it is true that Claremont President Ryan Williams and my colleague Scott Yenor have written that the Civil Rights Act, and, most importantly, its administrative and jurisprudential interpretations “have warped American law and culture and traded one set of racial preferences for another.” That is a wholly accurate statement, and in a sane society, would not be controversial.
Yes, it is true that Claremont opposes restrictions of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of association. At times this has been a lonely struggle, but, as Williams and Yenor write, absent that view, America has moved “toward a country with weak, easily controlled subjects cut off from republican control of their government or policy.” We don’t think that’s good for anyone.
Yes, it is true that Claremont would like conservative and traditional ideas of the good, consistent with our Constitutional system, to replace the current far left ideology that runs America’s public schools. The Times is shocked that we have publicly claimed to advocate for diversity while in reality wishing to eliminate leftist ideas from our colleges in schools. This is trivially true in the sense that it is true that I would have wanted to knock out prime-era Mike Tyson in boxing—but in reality, I would have been ecstatic to settle for a draw. Similarly, in 2024, almost everyone at Claremont would be utterly delighted to have ideological balance in our educational institutions rather than our current intransigent and unaccountable left-wing hegemony.
Yes, it is true that, as our Board Chairman Tom Klingenstein wrote, “In support of ridding schools of CRT, the Right argues that we want nonpolitical education,” “No we don’t. We want our politics. All education is political.” This is not necessarily incompatible with some diversity of ideas being presented. But we want our vision of education to be the base, rather than the left’s version, unmoored from the traditions of both the American founding and the West more broadly. This is, again, not a radical notion: The idea of education being inherently political goes back to Plato and Aristotle, if not earlier.
Yes, it is true, as Klingenstein and Yenor have stated, that Claremont believes that “intellectual diversity and free speech are not ends in themselves but means to other important ends, including a vision of education.” This is not a shocking statement, nor is it at all new in conservatism. Indeed, it was the central conceit of William F. Buckley’s 1951 book God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom’, arguably the work that kicked off the modern conservative movement.
Yes, it is true that, as Yenor wrote, that Claremont does not believe that “‘the good of minorities’ is the standard by which we judge public policy or the effects of public policy.” We believe that public policy is best when it serves the needs of *all* American citizens, not just minorities.
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Yes, it is true that it is our goal “to energize conservative politicians and thinkers, many of whom [we regard] as too timid, or even complicit with a liberal regime infecting American government and business.” Our scholars and leaders say this in public pretty much every day, and you don’t need to read our private emails to find this out.
Yes, it is true that we as an institute are very concerned that Americans do not seem to understand the difference between the generally laudable notion of equality and the entirely pernicious notion of equity—and that we intend to inform them of the difference and fight against the current equity regime.
We believe all these things. And we wish to tell the New York Times and the rest of the liberal grandees that nobody at Claremont is ashamed of what we believe. In the long run, you are going to lose this fight and we will win it. Your false and pernicious vision for America’s future will be replaced with a vision based on the principles of our founding, principles that served America well for centuries, and, with the work of organizations like Claremont, will do so again in the future.