The Claremont Institute, a West Coast Straussian institution founded by Harry Jaffa, is philosophically dedicated to small government and traditional values; many of its chief voices were strong proponents for President Trump during the 2016 election. It’s that latter fact that led to outsized focus on an incident that took place last week on an Institute email listserv connecting alumni of the Institute (full disclosure: I’m a former 2006 Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute, though I’m not on the listserv). Apparently, Darren Beattie, a speechwriter for Trump, was fired after CNN reported that he spoke at a 2016 conference of the H. L. Mencken Club; other speakers included Peter Brimelow, creator of the white-supremacist site VDare.com. He then asked the listserv for help defending himself.
One of those who replied was alt-right uber-troll Charles Johnson, a former Publius Fellow. Johnson wrote, “Beattie’s offense is that he spoke at an event where — gasp! — there were white nationalists afoot! Heaven forbid that some thinkers — like the American founders who favored our country be majority white — think that the US of A should stay majority white! Perish the thought. Can’t have that.”
Immediately, members of the list asked to be removed. Within an hour, the Institute killed the listserv altogether. Politico’s Eliana Johnson reported on the story within days.
The story prompted spasms of glee from the left-leaning press. “Trump-loving think tank wracked with white nationalist controversy,” chortled Jeet Heer, official village idiot of The New Republic. “The problem is so persistent that it can’t be seen simply as fringe individuals trying trying [sic] to jump on the Trump bandwagon.” Nick Confessore of the New York Times tweeted, “Apparently the Claremont Institute ran a listserv of conservative thought leaders that included Charles Johnson.”