What the Hell Happened to the Claremont Institute?Roundup
tags: conservatism, intellectual history
Laura K. Field is a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center and a scholar in residence at American University. Twitter: @lkatfield.
Just before 11 o’clock on the morning of January 6—an hour before President Donald Trump began riling up his “Save America” rally in front of the White House, and two and a half hours before the U.S. Capitol was overrun—Rudy Giuliani spoke to the rallygoers. By his side on the dais stood John C. Eastman, then a law professor at Chapman University and a visiting scholar at the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization at the University of Colorado Boulder. Wearing a dark suit with a red striped tie, a red and cream paisley scarf, a camel overcoat, and a brown brimmed hat, Professor Eastman cut a suave figure next to the grimacing man who, two decades and a lifetime ago, had been dubbed America’s Mayor.
According to Giuliani’s introductory remarks, Professor Eastman’s job that day was to explain what had happened the night before in Georgia: “How they [the Democrats] cheated and how it was exactly the same as what they did on November 3rd.” Eastman took to his task with gusto. Chopping the air with his hands, he asserted that dead people had voted and that state election officials had ignored or violated state law. But his main focus was the voting machines. According to Eastman, the “old way” of doing fraud “was to have a bunch of ballots sittin’ in a box under the floor,” but now “they put those ballots in a secret folder in the machines.”From there, Eastman’s theory goes like this: When 99 percent of the vote was in, the Democrats pulled a trick. By this point they knew who had and hadn’t voted, and they knew how many more votes would be needed for Democrats to take the lead in the count. So they paused the counting, took out their stash of electronic ballots, matched each of “those unvoted ballots with an unvoted voter,” and “put them together in the machine,” marked as Democratic votes. “And voila! We have enough votes to barely get over the finish line. We saw it happen in real time last night, and it happened on November 3rd as well!” At one point he elaborated: “You don’t see this on Fox or any of the other stations” but you can see it in “the data.”
Eastman, who had reportedly spent the day before in the Oval Office arguing to Vice President Mike Pence that he had authority to intervene in the counting of the Electoral College vote, ended with an impassioned plea for Pence to allow state legislators to look into these matters, so that “we get to the bottom of it, and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not.” Eastman became very animated, pumping his fists and yelling:
We no longer live in a self-governing republic if we can’t get the answer to this question! This is bigger than President Trump! It is the very essence of our republican form of government, and it has to be done! And anybody that is not willing to stand up to do it does not deserve to be in the office! It is that simple!
As wild as this presentation was—with a tenured law professor arguing that the only way to preserve our system of government is for Congress to heed conspiracists—Eastman’s moment was one of the tamer parts of the rally. Everyone knows what followed.
After the mob attack of January 6, Professor Eastman, under pressure, resigned from his faculty position at Chapman University. He was also stripped of his public duties at the University of Colorado Boulder (for which action he is reportedly preparing to sue).
But one place where he is still welcome is the Claremont Institute. Eastman is a senior fellow at the four-decade-old conservative think tank; a member of its board of directors; and the founding director of its Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a shingle under which he sporadically files lawsuits and amicus briefs. When Eastman resigned from Chapman, he defended himself in the American Mind, a Claremont web magazine. In Claremont’s flagship publication, the Claremont Review of Books (CRB), one of the institute’s foremost scholars, Charles C. Kesler, defended him in turn. Eastman may be persona non grata at institutions wary of anti-democratic conspiracy theorists, but at the Claremont Institute he fits right in.
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