The Claremont Institute: The Anti-Democracy Think Tank - 2023-08-10
Earlier this year, nearly 1,000 supporters of "National Conservatism" gathered at the semicircular auditorium of the Emmanuel Centre, an elegant London meeting hall a couple of blocks south of Westminster Abbey, to hear from a range of scholars, commentators, politicians, and public servants. NatCon conferences, as they are often called, have been held in Italy, Belgium, and Florida and are broadly associated with what is increasingly called the "New Right." In London, speakers denounced "woke politics," blamed immigration for the rising cost of housing, and said modern ills could be solved with more religion and more (nonimmigrant) babies. The break room was lined with booths from organizations such as the Viktor Orban–affiliated Danube Institute, the U.K.-based conservative think tank the Bow Group, the Heritage Foundation, and the legal powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom, which is headquartered in Arizona but has expanded to include offices in nearly a half-dozen European cities.
When I attended NatCon London in May, I heard a number of American accents in the crowd, and I was not surprised to see Michael Anton, a former national security official in the Trump administration and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank, on the lineup. These days, Anton and other key representatives of the Claremont Institute seem to be everywhere: onstage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC); at the epicenter of Ron DeSantis's "war on woke"; and on speed-dial with GOP allies including Josh Hawley, J.D. Vance, and Donald Trump.
Most of us are familiar with the theocrats of the religious right and the anti-government extremists, groups that overlap a bit but remain distinct. The Claremont Institute folks aren't quite either of those things, and yet they're both and more. In embodying a kind of nihilistic yearning to destroy modernity, they have become an indispensable part of right-wing America's evolution toward authoritarianism.