Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn and National Review Senior Editor Jonah Goldberg clashed over Donald Trump’s views of the Constitution, commitment to conservative ideas, and fitness for office at the college’s Constitution Day Celebration in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 15.
Hillsdale College students, supporters, alumni, and faculty gathered at the Renaissance Marriott Hotel in Chinatown to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution.
During the event’s first panel, titled “Trump and Conservatism,” Arnn and Claremont Institute Senior Fellow John Marini sparred with Goldberg over whether or not Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump adheres to the Constitution.
Goldberg argued Trump isn’t conservative because he has said he rejects American exceptionalism and constitutionalism.
“Getting Trump to talk about the Constitution is like getting my daughter to eat Brussels sprouts,” Goldberg said. “She’ll do it, but it’s not a pretty picture, and she tries to get it over with as soon as possible.”
Arnn disagreed, stating Trump has consistently advocated for constitutional provisions.
“I made a specific claim,” Arnn said. “And that is the rule of law and the separation of powers are central and that Trump has spoken consistently well on it. And as far as I can find, that is true.”
Senior Graham Deese said he was disappointed with the panel, noting he was surprised how extensive the support for Trump was among audience members.
“The Donald Trump discussion really demonstrated the lengths that conservatives will go to dilute themselves about the qualities of the candidates,” Deese said. “They’re defending Donald Trump, even with his obvious negative qualities. Just how extensive the support was for him was quite surprising, when I’m certain most of those people never supported him in the primary.”
Later, Terry Moe, Stanford University professor of political science, faced opposition during a second panel from the audience. Moe argued giving the executive branch of government more lawmaking authority and limiting that power in Congress would increase government effectiveness. His remarks were shouted down and greeted with laughter from the audience.
Senior Gwendolyn Hodge said the audience’s response to Moe’s conclusions disappointed her.
“We talk about how we are willing to bring in liberal speakers, and we’re open to that kind of thought,” she said. “But one man was in the room, and he was attacked.”
A few of the six members of Hillsdale’s George Washington Fellowship Program, however, said the other events overshadowed the conflict. The celebration also included a dinner and keynote address by Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., and a luncheon at which Todd Huizenga, senior research fellow at Calvin College, spoke. Other panelists included Hillsdale Professor of Politics Ronald Pestritto and F.H. Buckley, a professor at George Mason University School of Law.
“Constitution Day was an incredible experience,” senior Emily DePangher said. “It was a great opportunity to have fun and also to connect with the donors and just be able to appreciate Hillsdale from an outward perspective.”