BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Wyatt) – The Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank, called the decision to scrap its personal committees at a national political science conference “ruthless,” but some academics said their top professional institution did not go far enough.
Political scientists from across the country have called on the American Political Science Association to completely sever ties with former Trump attorney John Eastman and the Claremont Institute.
An open letter signed by 260 political scientists as of Monday stipulated that the organization should “strip John Eastman of APSA membership” and “revoke Claremont Institute’s status as an APSA-linked group.”
Eastman made national headlines this week after the publication of a memo he wrote outlining a six-step plan to nullify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In that note, Eastman wrote: “The main thing here is that Pence should do so without asking permission – either by a vote in joint session or by the court.”
Eastman was scheduled to speak at the APSA’s annual conference in October. The two committees on which he was scheduled to speak, and which dealt with the 2020 elections and the Supreme Court, hosted an “associated group” with the APSA, the Claremont Institute.
APSA initially moved the panels and the group’s personal reception to a virtual format, a move the Claremont Institute called “gutless”.
“APSA unilaterally and without explanation rescinded all Claremont Institute (and only the Institute) personal panels and moved them to virtual panels, preventing our panelists from attending other personal panels,” the group told CBS 42 on Monday. “They have also canceled our in-person reception, and ‘allowed’ it to be done by default as well.”
Although the APSA did not provide a reason for moving the institute’s panels to a virtual format, the organization said in a tweet that after the change, the Claremont Institute has scrapped the virtual panels themselves.
Please note that modifications to the various board are still being made. After APSA moved Claremont Institute’s paintings in person into virtual ones, Claremont chose to scrap all of its paintings, both in person and virtual. View the updated program schedule. https://t.co/nyXcatgnZX
– APSA (APSAtweets) September 25, 2021
Some speculated That the group’s cancellation of virtual events was because committee members had not been vaccinated or opposed the APSA’s requirement that attendees provide proof of vaccination. The Claremont Institute disputed this claim.
“This has nothing to do with the mandate of the COVID vaccine, but appears to be a harsh response to the APSA leadership’s calls to cancel Claremont boards because some APSA members disagree with the views of some of our committee members,” the group said. “We are exploring all legal options in response to this unprofessional and somewhat egregious behavior by the APSA.”
Dave Karpf, the professor at George Washington University who distributed the open letter, said he was happy to see the Claremont Institute boards scrapped, but still wanted to see APSA end its relationship with the conservative group altogether.
The political scientists who signed the open letter were outspoken in their criticism of both Eastman and the Claremont Institute.
While there should be a variety of ideas that are fair game for academic discussion, there are some exceptions, said Jennifer Victor, associate professor of political science at George Mason University.
“The market for ideas should be creative and widespread,” she said. But I think it should also be consistent with some principles. And I think one of those principles is a version of democracy itself. Democracy comes in many forms, but I think what Eastman advocates is by no means democracy.“
Dr. Thesalia Merivaki, associate professor of American politics at Mississippi State University, said allowing Eastman or the Claremont Institute a platform at the APSA would seem “hypocritical.”
“We teach our students what democratic theory means, what it means to respect democratic institutions, and how to critically assess what is happening and study and observe political phenomena.” “So it seems we would be too hypocritical to provide a platform for individuals committed to the opposite. So what does it say about us as a system and as an institution when we allow this to happen? “
Merivaki said she does not buy into the arguments that allowing people like Eastman or institutions like Claremont to express their opinions is simply providing a balance of opinions.
“It’s not about two parties, because one could argue that you have to provide a forum for the other party,” she said. “But in this case, the promotion of a person who aims, by his actions, to overturn democratic institutions – this is not equivalent.”
Preventing Eastman and Claremont from owning a platform at the APSA is not a partisan issue, said Miranda Yaffer, a visiting assistant professor of politics at Oberlin College.
“The American Political Science Association is the primary professional association for political scientists representing about 11,000 members, give-and-take,” she said. We represent Democrats, Republicans and independents. We have no party affiliation. But the only thing we stand for is democracy.“
While the APSA has not responded directly to the open letter about Eastman, it is not the first time the organization has been in the spotlight about controversial speakers. In 2011, scholars disputed Jun Yu’s participation in that year’s APSA annual meeting. Yu was Bryce’s former lawyer. George W. Bush who wrote documents outlining the alleged legality of torture methods. In response to members’ objections that year, the APSA Board of Directors said it supported members’ right to protest Yoo’s presence “because we support the right of APSA members to produce panel discussions and speakers on topics they believe are important to the association’s consideration.” The organization said it supported “Health controversy” in its ranks.
Yaffer said the controversy that arises from giving people like Yu and Eastman a platform isn’t healthy, though.
“I think we can think we can do a better job of normalizing the torture memoir writer,” she said. “I think we can certainly do a better job of normalizing someone who has been undermining a free and fair election.”
There is a big difference between the political differences and the issue here, Yaver said.
“We need to preserve the integrity of the partisan divide as opposed to defending democracy itself,” she said. “I don’t think this falls within the realm of health controversies.”
Multiple attempts to reach the American Political Science Association for comment were unsuccessful.