Debates about divisive legislation is a popular activity across the country today—with average citizens, talking head pundits and elite Washington politicians participating in them.
With both sides discharging their political artillery about a topic like government healthcare legislation, something of utmost importance gets lost in the lingering smoke: the founding principles that have long kept this country’s government stable and solidified its glory among all nations.
Enter the Claremont Institute. The conservative think tank in California does not underplay the importance of policy decisions, but primarily seeks to immerse the elite and average citizens in the core principles of the Founding Fathers.
Harry Jaffa, Professor Emeritus at Claremont McKenna College, formed the think tank back in 1979 along four of his students, aiming at trying to rekindle the founding principles of limited government and personal liberty in the realm of political discourse.
It was also a significant time because they formed the institute during the tensions enflamed by the Cold War, a time when foreign powers were testing America’s fortitude.
Throughout its history, Claremont has always sought to be a beacon of constitutional truth, presenting thought-provoking ideas as foreign ideologies have continually sought to undermine constitutional truth.
Claremont seeks to equip conservatives, providing the intellectual material to serve as their political arsenal to combat these forces.
“Conservatives have always been against big government, but they haven’t always been able to say why,” says Brian Kennedy, President of the California-based think tank.
The problem of not appealing to the first principles, unfortunately, is a weakness prevalent in Washington, D.C., today, Kennedy says.
“Was there anyone arguing that government healthcare was constitutional?” Kennedy asks, pointing out the minority of lawmakers who appealed to the Constitution’s actual pages at the Blair House Healthcare Summit.
With healthcare reform now the law of the land, it appears veneration for the Constitution is something not prioritized by the nation’s leaders.
Not so for Claremont, where venerating the Constitution is absolutely essential.
To take it a further step back, the institute, showing Jaffa’s influence, emphasizes that the Constitution would not be incarnate where it not for the revolutionary principles contained in the Declaration of Independence.
It is the very Declaration that puts forth the notion that human beings are able to self-govern themselves, having reason at their disposal to determine right from wrong.
Furthermore, the rights of human beings are merely secured by such documents as the Declaration and the Constitution. Ultimately, these fundamental rights are ones that God gives to be secured by the government on behalf of its citizens.
One of the institute’s foremost heroes is Abraham Lincoln, who they hold as defending the very notion of limited government.
“Human beings have a capacity for self-government,” Kennedy says of the Declaration’s principles.
For Claremont, the real battle is between core conservative principles and threats posed to them by their antagonist counterpart: the progressive ideology.
Whereas conservatism adheres to principles of self-government and of God-given rights, Kennedy points out modern progressives like Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama espouse the idea that people cannot govern themselves and that rights ultimately come from government institutions.
In essence, God does not factor into the progressives’ government utopia.
The institute has hit progressivism relentlessly in the face, using scholarship as its weapon, with the institute’s various scholars writing extensively on the subject in such publications as the Claremont Review of Books.
Claremont’s Review seeks to reach both scholars and average Americans with scholarly political arguments in layman’s terms.
Claremont also has various online projects such as the Ballistic Missile Defense Project and the Investment Security Program, each of which has a website devoted to the respective subjects of national defense and to the use of state pensions.
Kennedy says these online programs embody a practical translation of how the founding principles play out with contemporary specific issues.
Spin-offs of the institute’s work were displayed at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), particularly in Glenn Beck’s riveting keynote address tackling progressivism’s folly.
Kennedy says that Glenn Beck’s speech was influenced by some of the scholarly works put out by Claremont.
Claremont’s claim to political fame also lies in their Publius and Lincoln Fellowships. These programs are aimed at young political professionals who want to learn the background of the nation’s first principles.
These programs have turned out some of the most brilliant, prominent minds within the conservative movement, including talk radio host Laura Ingraham, author Dinesh D’Souza, Weekly Standard columnist Stephen Hayes, and 2010 California U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore.