At the start of a new decade, it is worth remembering some of the political achievements of the last ten years. There have been many, of course. But the five most significant of those achievements were, arguably, the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court, the passage of the 1996 Federal Welfare Reform Act, the passage of Proposition 209 that ended race preferences in California, the impeachment of President Clinton, and, most recently, the nomination of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.
Clarence Thomas The appointment of Thomas put a man on the nation's highest court who believes in the natural law teaching of the American Founding. It was this very teaching that the Claremont Institute was created to defend. Contrary to popular belief, it was Judge Thomas's adherence to the principles of the Declaration of Independence that drew the most hostility from liberal Senators during his confirmation hearings. A long-time friend of the Claremont Institute and a recipient of our Statesmanship Award, Justice Thomas is the most prominent jurist on the bench today who adheres most closely to the principles of the American Founding.
Welfare Reform After decades of destructive welfare policies, Congress passed the 1996 Federal Welfare Reform Act that ended welfare in America as we know it. Though far from perfect, it enshrined into law the requirement that welfare recipients must work in return for taxpayer support. Today, welfare rolls are down more than 50 percent nationwide, and illegitimacy is on the wane. During the welfare reform debate, the Institute published numerous essays on welfare and the founding and explained in detail how modern welfare policies are so destructive of the family. Eloise Anderson, one of the nation's leading proponents of welfare reform and former director of Social Services in California, is now director of the Claremont Institute's Program for the American Family, where she makes these arguments daily.
Ending Preferences The same year that Congress reformed welfare, the people of California passed a landmark measure to end the state's policy of racial and gender preferences. The Claremont Institute was on the front line in the fight against these unconstitutional practices. In the debate over Proposition 209, the Institute sponsored numerous debates and conferences, and produced an outstanding series of scholarly papers explaining the incompatibility of state-mandated preferences with a government founded on the principle of equality before the law. The end of this divisive policy has begun to restore this principle in the nation's most populous and racially diverse state.
Impeachment Americans will debate the impeachment of Bill Clinton for years. But few should forget the forceful and principled arguments made by the House Impeachment Managers, and Rep. James Rogan of Glendale in particular. Rogan lost his seat in November, in no small part because of his stand against the President. The Institute was proud to be cited by Rogan during the impeachment hearings. We explained that it was the duty of Congress to uphold the rule of law under our Constitution, regardless of what the public opinion polls may say. In the face of overwhelming media pressure, Rogan turned to the Constitution — and the Claremont Institute — for an explanation of what should be done.
National Defense The appointment of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense is, in these early days of the new Bush Administration, the most significant since Justice Thomas. No one in America is more publicly identified with the issue of missile defense than Rumsfeld. He chaired a bi-partisan commission that found the ballistic missile threat to the United States to be real and imminent. If Rumsfeld is confirmed as Secretary of Defense, the country will have as its point man a patriot who believes that the United States should not be held hostage to the threat of ballistic missile attack or blackmail. His appointment is a signal that President Bush is committed to building a national missile defense and defending this nation from terrorist attack.
These events are significant because they demonstrate that the work of saving America is about making an argument and about men and women who are willing to carry that argument to the public square.
There is certainly much to be done. Justice Thomas needs more allies on the Supreme Court, welfare reform has yet to help the other 50 percent off the welfare rolls, affirmative action still exists on the federal level, a good man like James Rogan lost his seat for defending the Constitution, and a national missile defense is not yet a reality. But it is clear that within the principles of the American Founding are arguments to which the progressive left in America has no answer. In this coming decade it will be the duty of the Institute to carry these principles forward and restore the limited government for which this Republic was founded.