Pick And Choose
So I’ve recently become aware of The Claremont Institute, an organization founded in 1979 that purportedly aims to help restore limited, constitution-approved government to America. In other words, it’s a wingnut think tank. They’re an active one, filing amicus briefs, hawking books, and offering fellowships so people can further study how to be a wingnut.
What are they up to lately? Teaching sheriffs not to enforce laws that they personally feel go against the Constitution.
The Claremont Institute, a far-right research group that’s home to a number of former Trump administration officials, announced a new crop of eight “sheriffs fellows” selected from across the country on the basis of their “character, aptitude, accomplishments, zeal, and community reputation” to visit Claremont’s California campus and study a syllabus of standard conservative political catechism.
The coursework, Claremont says, is fairly anodyne—lectures on Locke, the Federalist Papers, and English legal history—but the Institute’s choice of students is far more radical. Of the eight fellows announced this week, six have some affiliation with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), an organization labeled as an anti-government extremist group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center for its endorsement of the idea that sheriffs can pick and choose which laws to enforce based on their own personal beliefs about what the Constitution allows.
In that spirit, members of Claremont’s first crop of sheriff fellows have vowed not to enforce pandemic restrictions, vaccine mandates, gun laws, and basically any laws they disagree with. For far-right groups like the Claremont Institute, those efforts to sidestep the rule of law and the will of democratically elected governments are a feature, not a bug.
Being a “constitutional sheriff” is apparently nothing new, arising in the 1970s. There’s still plenty today, especially ones who are refusing to enforce COVID-related directives. One Claremont approved scenario in 2020 imagined that ordinary citizens might need to be “deputized” by sheriffs to form posses that would quell unrest in the event of a contested election. That sounds like a great idea.
We’re in weird territory, folks. Not being able to trust lawmen to, you know, uphold the law sounds a little scary to me.