|Brian T. Kennedy|
The Claremont Institute is an American conservative think tank based in Claremont, California. The mission of the Claremont Institute is "to restore the principles of the American founding fathers to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life", and to "remake American politics" as established by the founders in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
To this end, the institute seeks to establish a limited and accountable government that respects natural law, private property, promotes a stable family life, and maintains a strong national defense. The Institute's work is national in scope, but it also gives a special emphasis to the problems of California, where it is based.
The institute was founded in 1979 by four students of Harry V. Jaffa, a professor emeritus at Claremont McKenna College and the Claremont Graduate University, although the Institute has no affiliation with any of the Claremont Colleges.
The institute came to prominence under the leadership of Larry P. Arnn, who was its president from 1985 until 2000, when he became the twelfth president of Hillsdale College. The institute is now led by ballistic missile expert, Brian T. Kennedy, along with chairman of the board, Bruce Sanborn.
Today, approximately 20 staff members now coordinate conferences, lecture series, and other projects. The institute also publishes the Claremont Review of Books, a quarterly journal of political thought and statesmanship, as well as other books and publications, including reprints of Jaffa's works.
Some conservatives start, as it were, from Edmund Burke; others from Friedrich Hayek. While we respect both thinkers and their schools of thought, we begin instead from America, the American political tradition in all its genius and profundity, and the relation of our tradition to revealed wisdom and to what the elderly Jefferson once called, rather insouciantly, "the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc." We think conservatism should take its bearings from the founders' statesmanship, our citizens' loyalty to the Declaration and Constitution, and the scenes, both tender and proud, of our national history. This kind of approach clears the air. It concentrates the mind. It engages and informs the ordinary citizen's patriotism. And it introduces a new, sharper view of liberalism as descended not from the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, nor (God forbid) Abraham Lincoln, but from that movement which, a century ago, criticized George Washington's and Lincoln's Constitution as outmoded and, as we'd say today, racist, sexist, and antidemocratic. The Progressives broke with the old Constitution and its postulates, and set out to make a new, living constitution and a new, unlimited state, and the Obama Administration's programs are merely the latest, and worst, installment of that purported evolution.
The institute's guiding text is the Declaration of Independence, and especially its central proposition that "all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."
Atypical for a U.S. conservative organization, members the Claremont Institute tends to reject the constitutional philosophy of strict constructionism and often publishes material that is critical of conservative strict constructionists such as Robert Bork, William Rehnquist, and Antonin Scalia. This is consistent with the institute's emphasis on the principles of the Declaration of Independence as distinct from the U.S. Constitution.
According to some Institute writers, their legal philosophy is closer to that of Clarence Thomas, who has said the institute has "played a significant role in my own education"; supporters include columnist William Rusher, British historian Sir Martin Gilbert, Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak, Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., and Sonny Bono.
Many of the Institute's scholars are students of the teachings of Leo Strauss, including Jaffa, who studied with Strauss. The institute's members has great admiration for the statesmanship of America's founding fathers as well as that of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.
Notable staff and fellows
- William J. Bennett (Washington Fellow)
- Mark Helprin (Senior Fellow)
- Harry V. Jaffa (Distinguished Fellow)
- Larry Greenfield (Distinguished Fellow)
- John H. Hinderaker (Institute Fellow)
- Scott W. Johnson (Institute Fellow)
- Paul Mirengoff (Institute Fellow)
- William A. Rusher (Distinguished Fellow)
- Charles R. Kesler (Senior Fellow)
- Michael M. Uhlmann
- Brian T. Kennedy (President of the Institute)
The institute publishes the Claremont Review of Books, a quarterly journal of political thought and statesmanship founded in 2000. The CRB is edited by prominent scholar and institute mainstay Charles R. Kesler and features regular columns by Boston College faculty member Martha Bayles, as well as novelist and journalist Mark Helprin.
Publius Fellows program
The Publius program is the institute's oldest fellowship program. Since 1979, the institute has hosted a number of young conservatives for seminars and symposia on American politics and political thought. Publius fellows, usually college seniors, recent college graduates, and graduate students, meet with the institute's fellows and other distinguished scholars for several weeks during the summer.
Lincoln Fellows program
Since 1996, the internship has offered fellowships to young professionals serving elected officials or appointed policy-makers in the federal government, as well as staff members of national political parties and non-profit institutions that research and publish on public policy and constitutional issues.
Among the 60 alumni of the program are senior staff members of U.S. Representatives and Senators, White House speech writers, legal counsel and senior advisors in the U.S. Departments of Justice and State, as well as political editorialists for the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard.
Notable alumni of the Lincoln Fellows program include former California State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, now a vice president with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, political commentator Carol Platt Liebau, editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez, attorney and talk radio host Mark Levin, and Delaware politician Christine O'Donnell.
Ronald Reagan Freedom Medallion
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Debates with Ludwig von Mises Institute
The Ludwig von Mises Institute (LvMI) is one of Claremont's most frequent sparring partners among conservative think tanks. Though both hold similar positions on many moral and economic issues in general, the two are substantially different in other aspects of their respective political philosophies.
The two differ radically in their opinions about Abraham Lincoln and have engaged debates about whether Lincoln should be embraced or shunned by conservatives. This controversy over Lincoln's significance to conservatives predates both think tanks, and encompasses Jaffa's debates on the subject with National Review editor Frank Meyer and scholar M.E. Bradford. In 2002, Jaffa debated Thomas DiLorenzo, a Senior Fellow at the LvMI on the merits of Lincoln's statesmanship during the American Civil War.
- Johnson, Reed (March 6, 2001). "Claremont Institute's Mission: Conservative". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-09-27. "These and other vital matters of statecraft press heavily on the staff of the Claremont Institute, a scrappy cadre of a few dozen men and women with a singular, uncompromising mission: to remake American politics in the sacrosanct image set down by our Founding Fathers—not in the Constitution, but in the Declaration of Independence—while steering the nation away from its present, perilous path of political and moral 'degradation.'"
- Kesler, Charles. "A Decade of CRB". Claremont Institute. Claremont Institute. Retrieved 2011-08-01.
- "Getting Real With Justice Thomas". Claremont Institute. October 1, 1999.
- "Former Lincoln Fellows". Claremont Institute. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
- "Sharron Angle". SharronAngle.com. Retrieved 2011-09-27. "For her fight to protect the Constitution, Sharron received the Claremont Institute Ronald Reagan Freedom Medallion in 2004."
- Jaffa, Harry V.; DiLorenzo, Thomas J. (May 7, 2002). "The Real Abraham Lincoln: A Debate". The Independent Institute. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
- claremont.org The Claremont Institute's website