I think I know what he meant:
The Normans may have conquered them 946 years ago, but Mitt Romney has the backs of the Anglo-Saxons.
An unnamed adviser to the Republican presidential hopeful has caused a scandal by raising the apparent plight of Anglo-Saxons under U.S. President Barack Obama in an interview with a British newspaper.
The aide suggested that the Republican presidential hopeful could forge deeper ties to the United Kingdom than the president due to Romney’s heritage.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser told the Telegraph.
“The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”
Naturally enough the MSM has had a field day with this one. I've never seen so many Battle of Hastings jokes in my life. The Romney adviser was not so much incorrect as old fashioned in his language. A century ago people routinely referred to the Anglophere as "Anglo-Saxon civilization." It was never a precise description as the English are the ethnically speaking the great mutt race of northern Europe. Until the Normans, England was a soft target for various marauder societies.
The modern Anglosphere is an even more diverse place than when Churchill wrote his book on the English speaking peoples. There are millions who are ethnically and racially anything but white western Europeans, yet who are culturally "Anglo-Saxons." I've meet many immigrants from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad who are more English than many modern Englishmen. The British Empire was so successful that people whose ancestors have no blood link to the British Isles believe themselves to be spiritually British.
What replaced the old Empire of steam and telegraph was the newer Empire of ideas. The men and women who represent every creed and colour and for whom Magna Carta and 1688 ring strong and clear. Barack Obama is deaf to those ideas, as he is to so many things. An American President who considers Britain just another country is not really an American. The identity of the Great Republic was forged first by British settlers and then by their revolt against the Crown. To fail to grasp that heritage, or to dismiss it as historical arcana of no relevance today, is the confession of a dangerous ignorance.
Your humble correspondent has no trouble describing himself culturally as an Anglo-Saxon, though my ancestry comes not from England but from England's oldest ally. Still the term carries with it certain ethnic connotation. The Romney adviser, who was likely just trying to ingratiate himself with his British interlocutor, should have employed a more ethnically neutral terminology to describe the special relationship. He also should have kept in mind Mother England's other not so wayward children. Nothing irks Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders so much as being ignored by Americans.
The working term many are now using is the Anglosphere. It is less cumbersome than "English-speaking peoples" though it lacks warmth. Anglo-Saxon has a nice old ring to it, yet there is the connotation problem. The "Anglosphere" sounds like a geometrical expression. The term British subject would exclude those parts of the English speaking world that are, unfortunately, republics. The word instead should be something hallowed yet as broad as possible. My own nomination would be "Commonwealth."
The Commonwealth as an institution has had an unfortunate reputation for being neither fish nor fowl. Not really a proper successor to the old Empire, it sometimes falls prey to the mortal sin of being inoffensive. It is not quite a talk shop, since many members of the Commonwealth do feel a warm regard to the institution and their fellow members, but it often fails to take a firm stand on matters of moral and political importance. The last major moral issue the Commonwealth was united upon was Apartheid.
Still there is enough in the institution and in its ideals, which are British ideals spread through out the world, to believe the institution salvageable. This would begin by a clear declaration of principles and insistence that all members adhere to certain liberal democratic standards. The Singapore Declaration of 1971 could be used as a starting point. The suspension of Zimbabwe from membership was the correct though ultimately a belated decision. Compared to the rampant amoralism seen at the United Nations, the Commonwealth has performed well in upholding broad liberal democratic values.
Yet just as the League of Nations failed without the support of the United States, so the Commonwealth will continue to remain a pale shadow of its potential without American membership. The largest and most powerful English speaking nation its presence would greatly enhance the global importance of the organization. Unlike the UN it would have clear moral principles, unlike the G20 and G7 it would be founded upon cultural and linguistic affinities. Even in a globalized economy businesses prefer to trade and invest in countries with similar laws and languages to their own. The potential for the Commonwealth to acts as a trade clearing house, insisting on economic standards higher than those of the WTO, while cutting through red tape to facilitate trade between members.
From the adoption of free trade in 1846 until the outbreak of World War One, Britain held an ambivalent view of its Empire. Was it a lodestone around Britain's neck, or a vast strategic asset? The first two existential struggles of the twentieth century clearly confirmed the latter view as overwhelmingly correct. As America fades in relative importance it will look for global mechanism to maintain its influence. It can no longer "go it alone" as it so recently assumed it could. The Commonwealth could act as a force multiplier for America, while allowing Commonwealth actors easier and more direct access to, and influence toward, the world's leading liberal democracy.
An America in the Commonwealth has enormous practical advantages. It also has a great symbolic advantage in clearing up who "we are" as Anglo-Saxons in spirit if not also in blood. A word and idea that unites the English speaking peoples. There would be many obvious objections. Anti-Americanism is rife in parts of the Commonwealth, and America's long republican tradition would make it awkward for it to join an organization with a monarchical head. Yet the real gains that could be made far outweigh the imagined losses.
Should there be a President Romney, who will hopefully have taken some lessons in tact in the intervening months, he should return to Britain and express his belief in our shared Commonwealth heritage and ideals. American membership would take years of backroom negotiations, careful PR campaigns and a psychological adjustment period so that when a formal request is made for membership it will not come as a shock.
This is, as the Americans like to say, a "win-win" scenario.
For another take on the "Anglo-Saxon Controversy" see Daniel Hannan's recent post.