Cooke: Anglo-American is Not a Dog Whistle

National Review

Let me put this impolitely: This is moronic. And not just a little bit moronic. This is so moronic, so dim, so utterly and incandescently stupid that I frankly worry for the future of the republic. I have been reading through these reactions for a few hours now, and I can still scarcely imagine the rank historical and legal illiteracy that it takes to hear “Anglo-American” in such a context and to assume it’s a racial reference. Sessions could not have been more clear if he had tried. His talk was to sheriffs — about sheriffs. His subject was the “historic office” that most of his audience filled. His point — “literally”! — was that, “since our founding, the independently elected sheriff” has played a “critical” role within a law enforcement system that developed in England and was then adopted in America. (“Sheriff” derives from a combination of the word “shire” and the word “reeve.”) In order to make that point at that talk, he said, “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”

It is hard to overstate just how commonly used this phrase is in this context. Within the law, “Anglo-American” does not mean “white.” It does not mean “the KKK.” It is not a “dog whistle.” It is fundamental. It is used — shock! — to refer to those institutions, ideals, structures, and customs that are common to England and the United States — that is, to the common legal heritage the two countries share. Most basically, it means “common law,” but it can also apply more broadly. There is, for example, an identifiable “Anglo-American” conception of due process, which is distinct from, say, the Napoleonic system. That some people also use the word “Anglo” to mean “white” has no bearing on this. Has Senator Schatz never read a history book?

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