Straussian Civil Wars

Ken Masugi, Library of Law and Liberty, August 25, 2013.


Jaffa’s achievement was to revolutionize the serious study of American politics and political history and as well to goad American conservatism into an examination of founding principles. Not just as a Barry Goldwater speechwriter (“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice….”), Jaffa may be credited with being the intellectual grandfather of the Tea Party movement.

Similarly, in arguing that “Far more than most conservatives, [Jaffa] insisted that the principle of equality is the cornerstone of the American republic.” Smith does not recognize Jaffa’s true radicalism, which takes a leftist adage, equality, and shows how that shibboleth, properly understood, is the one and only underlying principle of America—portraying human nature as an in-between condition under gods and over beasts. No one else, and certainly no conservative, makes such a claim. In A New Birth of Freedom, Jaffa’s sequel to the Smith-noted Crisis of the House Divided, he again takes a term touted mostly by the left, the social contract, and tries to restore it to its original meaning, one that restricts government power in the name of natural rights.

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