Harry Jaffa was pugnacious, a word (he would be happy to tell you) that comes from the Latin pugnus, “fist.” A Golden Gloves boxer in his youth, he never lost his love of a good fight, whether in the ring, the seminar, or the public square. To the people, and they were many over the years, who tried to dance away from his public criticisms he liked to apply Joe Louis’s defiant quip, “You can run, but you can’t hide!”

As quick as his historical footwork and as sharp as his dialectical jabs could be, they didn’t exhaust his game. In southern California, where he taught at Claremont McKenna College and Claremont Graduate University for almost 50 years, he took up long-distance, competitive cycling, a sport that involves going round and round the same track, racing against your personal best as well as against your competitors. Harry played this long game, too, retracing and perfecting his arguments in his spirited effort to revive political philosophy and reform American conservatism. “The fate of the West depends on the fate of America,” he liked to say. “The fate of America depends on the fate of the Republican Party. And the fate of the Republican Party depends on the fate of the conservative movement.” Which in turn depended on him.

That was a boast, but not an empty one. Among

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