American Decline

The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War

By Emma Green The Atlantic

A faction of the right believes America has been riven into two countries. The Claremont Institute is building the intellectual architecture for whatever comes next.

“Let me start big. The mission of the Claremont Institute is to save Western civilization,” says Ryan Williams, the organization’s president, looking at the camera, in a crisp navy suit. “We’ve always aimed high.” A trumpet blares. America’s founding documents flash across the screen. Welcome to the intellectual home of America’s Trumpist right.

As Donald Trump rose to power, the Claremont universe—which sponsors fellowships and publications, including the Claremont Review of Books and The American Mind—rose with him, publishing essays that seemed to capture why the president appealed to so many Americans and attempting to map a political philosophy onto his presidency. Williams and his cohort are on a mission to tear down and remake the right; they believe that America has been riven into two fundamentally different countries, not least because of the rise of secularism. “The Founders were pretty unanimous, with Washington leading the way, that the Constitution is really only fit for a Christian people,” Williams told me. It’s possible that violence lies ahead. “I worry about such a conflict,” Williams told me. “The Civil War was terrible. It should be the thing we try to avoid almost at all costs.”

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