Conservative group calls decision to cancel in-person panels at political science conference ‘shameless’, but some say move does not go far enough


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (WIAT) – The Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank, is calling the decision to cancel its in-person panels at a national political science conference “shameless”, but some academics have said their main professional organization had not gone far enough.

Political scientists across the country have called on the American Political Science Association to completely sever ties with former Trump lawyer John Eastman and the Claremont Institute.

An open letter signed Monday by 260 political scientists said the organization should “remove John Eastman from APSA membership” and “cancel the Claremont Institute’s status as an APSA-related group.”

Eastman made headlines this week following the publication of a memo he wrote outlining a six-step plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

“The bottom line here,” Eastman wrote in that memo, “is that Pence should do it without asking permission, whether from a joint-session vote or from the Court.”

Eastman was scheduled to speak at APSA’s annual conference in October. The two panels in which he was scheduled to speak, which dealt with the 2020 elections and the Supreme Court, were organized by an “APSA-related group”, the Claremont Institute.

APSA initially moved both panels and the group’s in-person reception to a virtual format, a move the Claremont Institute called “gutless.”

“The APSA unilaterally and without explanation canceled all in-person panels at the Claremont Institute (and only the Institute) and moved them to virtual, which prevented our panelists from attending other panels in no one, “the group told CBS 42 on Monday. “They also canceled our in-person reception, which absurdly allowed this to take place virtually as well.”

Although APSA did not provide a reason to move the Institute’s panels to a virtual format, the organization said in a tweet that after the change, the Claremont Institute canceled the virtual panels themselves. same.

Some have speculated that the group’s cancellation of the virtual events was due to the panelists not being vaccinated or objecting to APSA’s requirement that participants provide proof of vaccination. The Claremont Institute contested this request.

“It had nothing to do with the mandate of the COVID vaccine, but rather appears to be the shameless response of APSA management to calls for it to cancel the Claremont panels because some APSA members do not disagree with the views of some of our panelists, ”the group said. “We are exploring all legal options in response to this unprofessional and rather egregious conduct by APSA.”

Dave Karpf, a professor at George Washington University who circulated the open letter, said he was happy the Claremont Institute panels were canceled, but he still wants APSA to end his relationship with the conservative group. .

Political scientists who signed the open letter sharply criticized Eastman and the Claremont Institute.

Jennifer Victor, associate professor of political science at George Mason University, said there should be a wide range of ideas that are a fair game for academic discussions, there are a few exceptions.

“The market for ideas should be quite creative and widespread,” she said. “But I think it should also be consistent with certain principles. And I think one of those principles is a version of democracy itself. Democracy comes in many forms, but I think what Eastman is advocating is by no means democracy.

Dr Thessalia Merivaki, assistant professor of US politics at Mississippi State University, said allowing Eastman or the Claremont Institute a platform at APSA would appear “hypocritical.”

We teach our students what democratic theory means and what it means to be respectful of democratic institutions and how to critically assess what is going on and study and observe political phenomena, ”she said. “So it looks like we’d be very hypocritical to provide a platform for people who are committed to doing the opposite of that. So what does that say about us as a discipline and organization when we allow this to happen? “

Merivaki said she does not accept arguments that allowing individuals like Eastman or institutions like Claremont to voice their opinions is simply a balancing of views.

“It’s not a two-sided issue, as one could argue that there needs to be a forum for the other side,” she said. “But in this case, promoting someone who aimed, by their actions, to overthrow democratic institutions – this is not the equivalent.”

Miranda Yaver, visiting assistant professor of politics at Oberlin College, said preventing Eastman and Claremont from having a platform at APSA was not a partisan issue.

“The American Political Science Association is the premier professional association of political scientists representing approximately 11,000 members, give or take,” she said. “And we represent Democrats, Republicans, Independents. We do not have a partisan affiliation. But one thing we stand for is democracy.

While APSA did not respond directly to the open letter on Eastman, this is not the first time the organization has been in the spotlight on controversial speakers. In 2011, academics opposed John Yoo’s attendance at the APSA annual meeting that year. Yoo was an attorney for the old Pres. George W. Bush who wrote documents describing the alleged legality of torture techniques. In responding to members’ objections that year, the APSA Board of Directors stated that it supported the right of members to protest Yoo’s presence “as we support the right of APSA members. to produce panels and speakers on subjects they deem important for the association to consider. The organization said it supports a “healthy controversy” within its ranks.

Yaver said the controversy that arises from giving people like Yoo and Eastman a platform is not healthy, however.

“I think we can, I think we can do better to normalize the author of the torture memos,” she said. “I think we can certainly do better than normalize someone who undermines free and fair elections.”

Yaver said there is a major difference between the policy differences and the issue here.

“We need to keep clear what is a partisan difference as opposed to a defense of democracy itself,” she said. “I don’t think this falls within the realm of healthy controversy.”

Several attempts to reach the American Political Science Association for comment were unsuccessful.

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