Claremont's Bogus "Censorship" Charge Against American Political Science AssociationBreaking News
tags: conservatism, Cancel Culture, Claremont Institute, John Eastman, American Political Science Association
Laura K. Field is a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center and a scholar in residence at American University. Twitter: @lkatfield.
You may know the Claremont Institute as the intellectual home of John Eastman, the lawyer behind the infamous six-point memo, who helped President Donald Trump concoct his plan for rejecting the Electoral College results on January 6. Or you may know the Claremont Institute as the publisher of the gross “Flight 93” essay comparing the 2016 election to a terrorist hijacking and warning Americans to “charge the cockpit” (i.e., vote for Trump) “or you die” (i.e., see the country wrecked under a Democratic president).
In recent weeks, the institute has been entangled in a dispute with the American Political Science Association. APSA is the country’s premier professional association for political scientists, and the dispute with Claremont concerned Eastman’s participation in APSA’s annual conference.
Spoiler alert: The conference is over, Eastman did not participate, and Claremont is claiming it has been censored—and even affirmatively defending Eastman and naming him in its latest fundraising efforts. In a sense, this is just a minor kerfuffle, but the stakes are higher than they might at first appear. It is worth taking some time to unpack the factual record and sort out the disputed claims.
Do American political scientists have a legitimate beef against John Eastman, and even against the Claremont Institute?
Are Claremont and its senior fellow John Eastman the victims of a “combined disinformation, de-platforming, and ostracism campaign,” the goal of which is to “prevent the Claremont Institute or its scholars from presenting our views,” as the institute’s leaders have proclaimed?
Is Patrick Deneen right when he suggests that this was “a political purge” that prefigures the end of serious thought and inquiry in American academia—the final closure of the American mind?
The conflict between APSA and Claremont doubtless seems mostly inconsequential from the outside. But it manifests, in microcosm, vital civic questions. Questions like: How much radical thought—and radical or unlawful action—can or should be accommodated by civil society in a liberal democracy? What obligations do American intellectuals and scholars owe to the American system of government? The episode—and the response to it on the part of Claremont’s leadership and the institute’s apologists—also brings into relief the question of whether there is any hope for a saner future for American conservatism.
Let’s dig in.