Today, the Claremont Institute is better known for three things. First, there is the Trumpism of its people and publications, from the “Flight 93” essay onward. Second, there is the American Mind, which is constantly pumping out combative, juvenile, and grotesque articles and podcasts and Substack content that attract far more attention than the slower, more academic output of the CRB. And third, there is what we might call the “Claremont Expanded Universe”—the shifting web of publications and projects that are not formally owned and operated by Claremont but are perceived as connected. Chief among these is American Greatness, a publication that churns out Trumpist propaganda alongside overt white supremacy. It extensively overlaps with Claremont: Everyone on its masthead has a Claremont connection, and Claremont’s most prominent scholars—including Angelo Codevilla, William Voegeli, Allen Guelzo, and of course Michael Anton, Glenn Ellmers, and John Eastman—have all written for it.
Like think tanks from time immemorial, Claremont hoped that it could influence the president and his administration. But the lines of influence mostly pointed in the other direction: Claremont’s encounter with Trumpism left Donald Trump unchanged—he did not become enamored of America’s highest ideals—while the Claremont Institute was remade in his image. Not just nativist and racist. Not just illiberal and prone to conspiracy theories. But even post-truth. And now, explicitly anti-democracy.
And I worry that they are just getting started. Claremont is swiftly becoming a propaganda juggernaut. It is welcoming divisive, anti-democratic figures. Through its publications and other programs, it is in a position to warp the intellectual formation of young writers, lawyers, and academics who will presumably play an important part in the future of the American right. And the institute, having been thus transformed by its years-long embrace of Trump, now yearns for a radical remaking of America.