Welcome Ian Haney López (UC Berkeley Law) (Twitter) and Host F. Michael Higginbotham (Univ. Baltimore School of Law) (FMichaelHigginbotham.org)

Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class

Many Americans believe the election of our first black president signaled the entry into a post-racial America from which racial prejudices of the past have been eliminated. Author Ian Haney López convincingly challenges this notion in his latest book Dog Whistle Politics. Far from being over, he argues racism continues to permeate key aspects of American political life without overt racist references. Instead, race neutral references about criminals and welfare cheats, illegal aliens, and sharia law are repeatedly made. “Superficially,” he says, “these provocations have nothing to do with race, yet they nevertheless powerfully communicate messages about threatening nonwhites.” Americans must recognize these “dog whistles” for what they really are, code word appeals to racial biases and prejudices. Haney López provides plenty of examples to facilitate such recognition.

Campaigning for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan told stories of Cadillac-driving “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. In trumpeting these tales of welfare run amok, Reagan never needed to mention race because he was blowing a dog whistle: sending a message about racial minorities inaudible on one level, but clearly heard on another. In doing so, he tapped into a long political tradition that started with George Wallace and Richard Nixon, and is more relevant than ever in the age of the Tea Party and the first black president.

The most recent examples of dog whistle politics can be found in race neutral characterizations of President Obama as “the food stamp president,” “the affirmative action president,” or as a follower of Islam. While race is never specifically mentioned in any of these cases, the subtle reminder that the president is not white is never far from the political conversations.

From Reagan to Romney, Haney López offers a sweeping account of how politicians and plutocrats deploy veiled racial appeals to persuade white voters to support policies that favor the extremely rich yet threaten their own interests. Dog whistle appeals generate middle-class enthusiasm for political candidates who promise to crack down on crime, curb undocumented immigration, and protect the heartland against Islamic infiltration, but ultimately vote to slash taxes for the rich, give corporations regulatory control over industry and financial markets, and aggressively curtail social services. White voters, convinced by powerful interests that minorities are their true enemies, fail to see the connection between the political agendas they support and the surging wealth inequality that takes an increasing toll on their lives. The tactic continues at full force with the Republican Party using racial provocations to drum up enthusiasm for weakening unions and public pensions, defunding public schools, and opposing health care reform.

Rejecting any simple story of malevolent racism, Haney López links as never before the two central themes that dominate American politics today: the decline of the middle class, and race as a source of loyalty to the Republican Party. Dog Whistle Politics will generate a lively and badly needed debate about race as a fundamental driver of economic inequality that imperils the middle class, white and non-white alike. This FDL Book Salon provides a unique opportunity for you to enter this debate.

Ian Haney López is the John H. Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Senior Fellow at Demos. He is the author of two previous books, White By Law and Racism On Trial.  

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

98 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ian Haney López, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class”

BevW February 23rd, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Ian, Michael, Welcome to the Lake.

Michael, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.


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Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Hello and welcome to the FDL Book Salon. I am your host Michael Higginbotham. My first question to our author, Ian Haney Lopez, is what motivated you to write this book and what gave you the idea to call it “Dog Whistle Politics”?

dakine01 February 23rd, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Ian and Michael, welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon.

Ian I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a question or two.

What prompted you to write this book? How do you respond to the Tea Party folks who pick and choose data allowing them to proclaim “but we’re not racists (even when they have never been bothered when Bush or Reagan – or Clinton, had done something similar (such as the numbers of embassy bombings/attacks with much more loss of life than at Benghazi?

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:01 pm

What does the term post-racial mean?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:09 pm

let’s start with the motivation to write the book: at first, I was trying to figure out what had happened in Constitutional Law over the last fifty years. Only after figuring out that the main answer is a transformation in our politics did I realize this is a much bigger story about race in American politics.

eCAHNomics February 23rd, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Barack Obama, Corey Booker, Deval Patrick are three examples of U.S. ruling class trainees who hide extreme right wing actions under left cover. Comment?

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 2:11 pm
In response to Ian Haney Lopez @ 5

When you say “race,” are you also saying racism and bigotry? Just to clarify.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:13 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

The “we’re not racists” line is interesting. Among those who purposefully manipulate racial animosities, this is simply part of the dance. Alabama Gov. George Wallace–of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” fame–would always deny that he was a racist after he switched to coded appeals like states’ rights.
On the other hand, many of those stirred by these appeals genuinely believe they are not racists–and they’re not, if one means racist in the “hate every black person” sense. Nevertheless, they draw heavily, if unconsciously, on racial stereotypes in how they think about themselves, others, and society.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:17 pm
In response to RevBev @ 7

Race, racism, and bigotry are overlapping but distinct concepts. In general, I would say this is a story about “race,” meaning a set of ideas and practices connected to the notion that humans are divided into biologically distinct groups marked by physical differences that correspond to groups commonly known as races. As to racism, there are many varieties, as one would expect of a complex phenomenon, and the bigotry associated with consciously held stereotypes linked to white supremacist beliefs are one variety.

CTuttle February 23rd, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Aloha, Ian and Michael…! Did you mention the significance of Reagan’s appearance in Philadelphia, Mississippi…?

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:19 pm

A few questions and answers have referred to George Wallace and Richard Nixon. You say in the book Reagan tapped into a long political tradition that started with Wallace and Nixon. Don’t racial Dog Whistles predate them?

Crane-Station February 23rd, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Hello Ian and Michael. Please forgive me because I have not read the book yet, but I find the subject interesting and important. There is mention in the post of a “crack down on crime.” I am wondering if you can comment on dog whistle politics as it relates to misguided drug laws and mandatory sentencing requirements. In the alternative, can you comment briefly on the crack down on crime?

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 2:20 pm
In response to Ian Haney Lopez @ 9

To follow up on the introduction, in the simplest terms, can you describe what it is about Obama that seems to drive these people crazy? I see it among some people pretty close to me and would completely deny it is “race.”

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:21 pm

For some, “post-racial” is a claim that race is no longer relevant in society. Let’s grant that this is absurd and leave that be.

For others, “post-racial” is a strategy, an approach toward race. Often embraced by liberals, including Obama, this approach assumes that race is still a powerful force in society, but also sees it as divisive, and even incendiary. Thus, the preferred strategy is to *pretend* that race is not relevant, even when it clearly is. Witness in this regard Obama’s insistence that racial prejudice does not influence how people respond to the Affordable Care Act. Of course it does for some–but Obama calculates he cannot risk saying so.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:25 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 10

Yes, Reagan’s decision to campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., formed a core part of his dog whistling.

But in the book, I’m trying to move the conversation beyond merely the use of race, to focus on the political dimensions of coded appeals. Race is used by conservatives especially to demonize New Deal liberalism as a sop to grasping minorities.

Thus, just as important as his campaigning is what Reagan did with hostility toward minorities: he used it to create hostility toward government, justifying massive tax cuts for the very rich and deregulation that favored large industries.

This is how dog whistle politics connects to a middle class in crisis today.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Following up on the “Obama drives some people crazy” aspect, you mention in the book that the GOP is now a “white man’s party”. How did the GOP become a party with so few minorities?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Racial appeals in general have a been a staple of American politics since the inception of the country.
CODED racial appeals are another matter. Dog whistling focuses on hidden appeals that seem race-neutral on one level but trigger racial fears on another. This only comes into national prominence in the 1960s, and reflects the triumph of the civil rights movement, which turned the public against explicit appeals to racial solidarity.

bluedot12 February 23rd, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I wonder if you would expand on how race is involved with the ACA? Are you referring to the Medicaid portions of the act and the fact many states have not accepted the expansion or to the umpteen times the republicans have tried to repeal it?

Phoenix Woman February 23rd, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Professor Lopez, thank you for coming here!

Professor, I notice that in your book you criticize the narrow focus on the Southern Strategy (aka the way Big Business gets poor and middle-class whites to vote against their own best interests) by persons attacking racism in politics.

My observation is that while the concept is familiar to many politically-interested persons, it’s almost impossible to get the very words “Southern Strategy” into a venue where they stand a fighting chance of even being seen by most Americans. (Do an internet search on the words “southern strategy” and notice that none of the results on the first page will be from one of the Big Three newscasts, or even a cable news program.) I suspect that this is because most corporate media outlets are, for various reasons, on friendlier terms with Republicans than with Democrats (or any lefties, unless they think the lefties can be used to beat up on other lefties).

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Ian has mentioned some of the dog whistles of Reagan and other Republican presidents. Is this just a Republican phenomenon or do the Democrats use Dog Whistles as well?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:33 pm
In response to Crane-Station @ 12

Here I wanted to give a shout out to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Her book is a brilliant illustration of how dog whistle politics plays out in the particular context of criminal justice.
In short, in looking for a proxy language for minorities, one variant was “criminals.” Politicians took to promising to get tough on crime, with these promises migrating from the stump to the legislative chambers. Soon enough, the Democrats picked up this same theme, so that for decades both parties competed to show who could enact the most draconian policies. The result is that today, with 5% of the world’s population, the US has 25% of the world’s prisoners.

CTuttle February 23rd, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Race is used by conservatives especially to demonize New Deal liberalism as a sop to grasping minorities.

But, isn’t it sad that it was Clinton that finished off the New Deal, with the ’96 ‘Welfare Reform’ Act, and, later with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act…?

Crane-Station February 23rd, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Thank you, Professor Lopez.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I second Ian’s shout out to Professor Alexander. An outstanding book and love that title. Why is it that dog whistles seem to be so effective, particularly in the criminal justice arena where policies have been so harmful in wasting human and economic resources?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:41 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 19

Don’t just blame the media. My sense is that over the last four decades there has been a dramatic retreat from engaging with race, and that this too is a result of dog whistle politics.

As conservatives shifted to coded terms, they also adopted a powerful defensive and offensive tactic: they redefined racism to include only explicit references to race. As a defense, this allowed them to say that their incessant invocations of welfare queens, gang bangers, and illegal immigrants had nothing to do with race–because race was not expressly mentioned.

And then, as offense, conservatives could attack liberals every time they mentioned “race”–for, the right argued, the real source of racial division in our society lay in talking openly about race.

Cowed by this, Democrats stopped talking about racial inequality–and then often picked up dog whistling themselves. For mainstream organizations like big media, foundations, and unions, the response was simply to stop talking about race.

The result is that we live now in a milieu suffused with rightwing racial innuendo, one in which the left is largely silent on race–even as conservatives continue to slam liberals for always playing the race card.

erik February 23rd, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Interesting question and one that is still being studied in order to provide a complete and fully accurate answer.
The most widely accepted thesis of which I’m aware posits that Demonrats do indeed employ a significantly different form of whistle than do the republiturds. The Demonrat whistle is generally considered to be far more subtle, some would say insidious. The effectiveness though is clear and as so far as achieving change ‘we’ can believe in, well…It’s obviously working.

FORWARD!!!!

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:43 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 22

Dog whistling is not just a GOP tactic. Clinton in particular adopted an “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” attitude, as evident in his campaign jabs at Jesse Jackson and his substantive policies around welfare and crime.

Phoenix Woman February 23rd, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Indeed. And that’s why I think mass-media mentions, much less an honest discussion, of the GOP’s fundamental electoral strategy are forbidden. It’s one thing to say that the GOP is using racist tactics for electoral gain, but it’s quite another to explain that Big Business favors this as a way to keep white voters from backing the regulation and taxation of businesses.

That’s why Lee Atwater’s 1981 interview is so revelatory: It shows just how strong the ties of common cause are between the GOP, institutionalized racism (such as the Council of Conservative Citizens), and the American business community. Scratch a deficit hawk, find a racist or a race-baiter.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:45 pm

But that said, we should be clear that dog whistling is much more a tactic of the right — again, because it’s connected to a conservative assault on New Deal liberalism.

HERE’S THE MAIN POINT OF THE BOOK: dog whistling isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about making many whites afraid of government, and in particular of government programs that help the broad middle class, in a way that ultimately leads to support for policies that favor the very rich.

Phoenix Woman February 23rd, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Further evidenced by the idea that “only Southern white men can successfully run for the White House as Democrats”, an idea that had many followers during the 1990s and 2000s.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Ian has referenced a number of dog whistles from presidents and other political leaders. Do you see any dog whistles in supreme court decisions over the last few decades?

bluedot12 February 23rd, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I don’t know if I have a specific question but would appreciate your thoughts on this. The Republican Party adopted a southern strategy in the 1960s that continues to this day and seems to play out in opposition to anything and everything Obama wants to do even for their own ideas, like cutting social security. There are places in the south, like where I lived in Virginia, where democrats are nearly extinct. No need for a dog whistle anymore.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:49 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 30

That’s right. Obama has shattered that notion, which is great. But many conclude that this means dog whistling is over. The composition of the House says otherwise, as does the demographics behind the Romney voters.

gavbrown01 February 23rd, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Mr. Lopez, it seems to me that we are in an endgame of some kind – the dog whistling seems to be getting louder and louder, but is that just the screech of a dying group of older white racist males, crying against the lessening of their power as they become less a percentage of the populace?

CTuttle February 23rd, 2014 at 2:50 pm

It’s about making many whites afraid of government, and in particular of government programs that help the broad middle class, in a way that ultimately leads to support for policies that favor the very rich.

Amen, Ian…! ;-)

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:51 pm

The S Ct has been key–and it’s important to start by noting that the 5:4 majorities conservatives have enjoyed since the late 1980s have been consistently composed of justices appointed by presidents who won through dog whistle politics. Thus there’s a synergy between the racial ideas on the Court and among conservative politicians.

Phoenix Woman February 23rd, 2014 at 2:51 pm

HERE’S THE MAIN POINT OF THE BOOK: dog whistling isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about making many whites afraid of government, and in particular of government programs that help the broad middle class, in a way that ultimately leads to support for policies that favor the very rich.

Exactly. Exactly.

Which is why this will never, ever be clearly and accurately defined on network TV where most Americans could see it. (Especially since, even if they weren’t all scared to death of FOX and so let FOX drag them ever rightward, the network moguls have their own reasons for upholding the silence.)

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Is there anything to enlighten the mind of the Romney voter? Such as facts or self-interest?

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Why are dog whistles so effective? If dog whistling is not only about winning votes but making voters afraid of government programs, how can such fears be alleviated? What are some of the solutions to dog whistle politics?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:53 pm

One example of this synergy is affirmative action. The Court was an early leader in crafting AA as racial discrimination against whites, and Reagan picked up on this to use AA as a dog whistle. Officially, he was against “racial discrimination” of any sort. In fact, all understood that AA was supposedly racism against whites–an idea given legitimacy by the reasoning of conservative majorities on the Supreme Court.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Is there anything to enlighten the mind of the Romney voter? Such as facts or self-interest?

There’s this book I can recommend . . . . :)

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Will the right people read it? ;)

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 2:58 pm

You mention affirmative action and criminal justice dog whistles. So how should those opposed to such dog whistle politics counter the us against them messages sent by such code words?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 2:59 pm

More seriously, many Romney voters are deeply concerned about their financial state, the future, and the future of their children. They are in real pain. Yet when they look around to understand what’s happening in their lives, they accept the conservative refrain that minorities are ruining America and taking over government.
At least as a start, we can begin to reach these folks by showing the pattern in which the GOP has used racial appeals now for 50 years. And we can make some headway by insisting on the simple point that we have much more to fear from corporations and the very rich taking over government than we do from poor minorities.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:01 pm
In response to RevBev @ 42

let’s hope so.

CTuttle February 23rd, 2014 at 3:01 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 37

Karen did a great job earlier today, PW…! ;-)

Why progressive groups are opposing Obama’s nominee

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:02 pm
In response to RevBev @ 42

I’m not sure many of the ‘right’ people will read it–but, judging from a smattering of the reviews posted on Amazon, at least a couple have . . . and they really like the opening sentence where I start with the “open secret [that] Republicans rely on racial entreaties to help win elections.” :)

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Very powerful point . I hope people will begin to listen and understand.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:06 pm

The response has to come along two fronts simultaneously:
1. a renewed defense of liberal solutions. We know what ails the 99%, and we know roughly what works.
2. a vocal repudiation of attempts to use race to continue to stampede voters.
These must go together because every attempt to reinvigorate liberalism will be met with attacks framed in terms of coded racial appeals.
And these must also go together because it’s important to emphasize that racial demagoguery is being used to make almost all of us worse off.

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Would you name some other voices tha are speaking out? I think of Bill Moyers….Candidates?

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:07 pm

We have now entered into the second hour of the book salon. I will ask Ian to look into his crystal ball and tell us what dog whistles he sees occurring in the next elections both Congressional and presidential?

perris February 23rd, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I’d like to point out, if there weren’t “blacks and jews” it would be italians, if there were no italians we can go for “muslims, if not those then “hispanics” if no hispanics it would be chinese, japanese, and if not any of those it would be women

if there were none of those and no women, it would be blond hair or black

if everyone had the same hair it would be those short people, those green eyed people

they need a villain or a tribe and they need an enemy of the masses

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:10 pm
In response to gavbrown01 @ 34

Mr. Lopez, it seems to me that we are in an endgame of some kind – the dog whistling seems to be getting louder and louder, but is that just the screech of a dying group of older white racist males, crying against the lessening of their power as they become less a percentage of the populace?

I wish this were so. In fact, Democrats have been telling themselves since 1970 that dog whistling will soon fade away and that we should just wait it out. And instead, it continually evolves and remains as powerful today as ever.

Consider that Romney won by 20% among whites. Only Nixon in ’72 and Reagan in ’84 did significantly better.

Yes, Obama still won. But — as I discuss in the book’s conclusion — we should expect racial language to evolve in a way that appeals to more Latinos and Asian Americans.

perris February 23rd, 2014 at 3:12 pm
In response to perris @ 52

interesting enough, star trek had an entire episode based on what I just said, nobody could tell the difference between two mortal enemies, until the end when one said “can’t you see, he is black on the left side, I am white on the left side”

great message there

I don’t know if capt kissed ohora before or after that episode

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:12 pm
In response to RevBev @ 50

Speaking of Bill Moyers . . . I taped an interview with him that will be broadcast over two episodes of Moyers & Company beginning this next week. It was a wonderful conversation, and I’m deeply honored that he has taken such a keen interest in this book.

Crane-Station February 23rd, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Yet when they look around to understand what’s happening in their lives, they accept the conservative refrain that minorities are ruining America and taking over government.

Right. But only some minorities and not others. I have heard this sentiment supporting boots-on-the-ground and such, coming from someone whose spouse was an immigrant and did not attain citizenship in the US for many years. But in this person’s mind, that is different, because the spouse didn’t immigrate from a dog whistle place, south of the border.

perris February 23rd, 2014 at 3:13 pm

we should expect racial language to evolve in a way that appeals to more Latinos and Asian Americans.

see my 52

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:14 pm

In the book you talk about Reagan as a hero for Conservatives and Goldwater’s revenge, and how some believe liberals must be careful even in victory because America is essentially a conservative country. Following up on your solutions suggestions, do you believe that most Americans are conservative or can the struggle for the “hearts and minds” of Americans be won by electing more liberals and putting more liberals on the Supreme court?

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Thank you. Im sure it is a great conversation and certainly an honor. THanks for letting us know.

marym in IL February 23rd, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Yes! Instead the Democratic establishment gives the appearance of validating the dog whistles by folding on ACORN, and Shirley Sherrod, and food stamps, or fails to fight for policies that even people susceptible to the dog whistles could see first-hand having an impact on their lives (drug re-importation, jobs programs), fights that even if they lost they could keep pointing to and saying “See – this is what we’re trying to do. This is how problem X would have been avoided if piece-of-legislation Y had been passed. This is what an African-American President and his party tried to do for all of us.” One of the greatest lost opportunities of the Obama Presidency.

perris February 23rd, 2014 at 3:16 pm

and how some believe liberals must be careful even in victory because America is essentially a conservative country

America is essentially a liberal country, however they identify themselves as conservative.

when polled about specific policy rather then “political tribe” so to speack, the majority express liberal agenda

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:16 pm
In response to perris @ 52

There’s a deep truth here:

Dog whistling is not about racism itself. It’s not motivated by hurting minorities, though that surely follows from this sort of demagoguery.

Rather, it’s a strategy that seizes on what’s available to win votes and to advance the agenda of the wealthiest in society. Race just happens to be a convenient weapon.

And race is just one weapon among many. In this sense, racial dog whistling connects up with the broader culture wars, including battles over gender, abortion, marriage equality, guns, Islam, and labor unions. These are all fronts in a broader campaign to convince voters of the danger of liberal government in a manner that ultimately serves society’s sultans.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:19 pm

The National Republican Party recently announced an effort to recruit more minorities to the party. Will this effort succeed and , if not, why not? Will the Republican Party be more successful with Latinos and Asian Americans than with Blacks?

eCAHNomics February 23rd, 2014 at 3:22 pm
In response to perris @ 54

Brits & Irish physically alike as peas in a pod. Yet antipathy couldn’t be greater.

Darwin enumerated 42 “races” and Irish were at the bottom. Wasn’t Protestant-Catholic thing, though that played a role.

It’s not race per se, it’s ruling class using every method to divide & conquer. 1s keeping 99s down.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:23 pm

I reject the idea that the US is a fundamentally conservative country.

Consider that in 1964 LBJ promised to expand the New Deal into a war on poverty, and won 65% of the white vote. New Deal liberalism was broadly popular among Dems & Reps alike for nearly 30 years.

Yet in ’72, running on dog whistle themes, Nixon won 70% of the white vote. Did so many whites switch their vote because they had turned against the New Deal?

I do believe Americans have a “we’re all in this together” commitment to each other–we just need to stop allowing race to divide who we see as “we.”

gavbrown01 February 23rd, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Mr. Lopez, thanks for answering my prior question. Is this at the highest view an old battle – the aristocrats vs. democracy?

perris February 23rd, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I reject the idea that the US is a fundamentally conservative country.

you are correct, It’s not, it was founded on liberalism and continues

although a small majority might identify itself as conservativve,when polled on actual policy rather then political tribe, americans axpress liberal agenda

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:25 pm
In response to marym in IL @ 60

Yes! Instead the Democratic establishment gives the appearance of validating the dog whistles by folding on ACORN, and Shirley Sherrod, and food stamps, or fails to fight for policies that even people susceptible to the dog whistles could see first-hand having an impact on their lives (drug re-importation, jobs programs), fights that even if they lost they could keep pointing to and saying “See – this is what we’re trying to do. This is how problem X would have been avoided if piece-of-legislation Y had been passed. This is what an African-American President and his party tried to do for all of us.” One of the greatest lost opportunities of the Obama Presidency.

Couldn’t say it better myself!

marymccurnin February 23rd, 2014 at 3:25 pm

In my conversations with conservatives, I usually talk about how the power structure has worked very hard to divide the population. They almost always agree. This surprised me at first and has given me a little hope.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Before his assassination in 1968, Dr. King led a poor people’s march. He was uniting a number of powerful coalitions including poor people, minorities, and other politically powerless groups. Do you see an opening in this arena today with more focus on economic inequality for someone like Dr. King to create a powerful political movement that might put an end to dog whistle politics?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:28 pm
In response to gavbrown01 @ 66

At the end of the day, this is about how power manifests itself in our society. We learned during the Great Depression that a government and a marketplace organized to favor the very rich brings ruin for the rest of us.

Yet, bamboozled by racial appeals (and other culture war tactics), we lost sight of that basic truth.

In the wake of the Great Recession, we’re poised to relearn this lesson–and it sure would help if the Democrats and Obama were taking the lead in getting out a strong message about how we got here, rather than often parroting GOP themes.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:29 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 69

great movie you should watch called blue collar with richard pryor, tommy lee jones, and yaphet Kotto which focuses on such divide and conquer tactics

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:30 pm

From an op-ed I published on MLK Day on Alternet:

King clearly saw how racial and economic justice formed mutual requirements. The strike by African American sanitation workers in Memphis, where King was assassinated, reflected the truth that racial justice for minorities would depend on economic opportunities. In the other direction, the Poor Peoples’ March on Washington that King labored for in the months before his death arose out of the conviction that economic security for persons of every race depended on transcending racial divisions.

These were not lessons that King alone championed. They were also key to President Lyndon Johnson’s drive to build a “great society,” a mission launched fifty years ago this year, for Johnson’s vision encompassed mutually supporting wars on poverty and on racial inequality.

But if King and Johnson saw racial and economic justice as entwined and therefore essential to pursue jointly for the good of the whole society, others perceived the tight linkage of the two and realized they could be placed in opposition—that racial anxiety could be used to foment widespread hostility toward policies promoting a broad distribution of wealth.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:31 pm
In response to perris @ 67

Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs confirm your point in their book “Class War?”

CTuttle February 23rd, 2014 at 3:32 pm

The Moral Monday movement is certainly gaining steam, Michael…! ;-)

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:32 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 69

I agree that there is reason to hope. The falsity of the story that we should fear poor minorities is all around us, and people are increasingly ready to listen.

Crane-Station February 23rd, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Bookmarked!

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Ian, not sure if you were able to respond to my earlier question about looking at your crystal ball and predicting what new dog whistles might be in store for us in the coming elections. Will give you another opportunity.

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Can you generalize at all about younger people? How they maybe see this issue of race/inequality? Speaking out?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I have been surprised by the positive responses I have received from audiences when I talk about this book. To be sure, there’s some self-selection working. But it’s also that case that, once you lay out the evidence of pervasive race baiting over the last 50 years, there’s a force to the story that’s hard to deny.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Following up on Bev ‘s comment, do you see more or less dog whistles on the horizon, particularly with younger voters?

gavbrown01 February 23rd, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Mr. Lopez, thanks for answering my last point. My feeling is that in the era of smart phones, the internet, and cable news, people are too connected to factual information to be as susceptible to dog whistles as in the past. Dog whistling to me is something that appeals to the ignorant. I think the country is growing up. Not to say that a Hail Mary from the conservatives couldn’t subvert it, but I think we are getting to the point where a Hail Mary is their only option.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:42 pm

For 2014, steel yourself for incessant dog whistling about “Obamacare.” Even that term serves as a racial goad–or so I argue in an op-ed I will publish in the next couple of days on HuffPo.

I’m guessing labor unions and public education will also be sites of more dog whistling.

Labor unions will be targets because they represent a threat to conservative politicians. “Unions” also operate as a dog whistle term, as labor and in particular public sector workers are increasingly seen as dominated by minorities.

Crane-Station February 23rd, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Great news!

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:45 pm

You mention early in your book the amazing and prolific Professor Derrick Bell as instrumental in your education on racial issues. Are there others that have influenced your thinking?

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:46 pm
In response to gavbrown01 @ 82

Replying to the questions regarding youth and social media together:

First, even among the youngest cohort of white voters, a majority supported Romney. Young whites are not post-racial.

Second, social media does provide some hope–but not because it provides greater access to “facts.”

“Facts” require interpretation, and that means frames are not just a strategy but a prerequisite. People need to have a way to understand what’s going on around them.

In this context, social media may be an important way to contest conservative framing, and to spread a disruptive challenge like “dog whistle politics,” even when the mainstream media shies from the conversation.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:50 pm

We are getting close to the 7:00 hour, do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with the book salon participants?

BevW February 23rd, 2014 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the last minutes of this great Book Salon discussion. Any last thoughts?

Ian, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, and recognizing and fighting dog whistle politics.

Michael, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Ian’s website and book (Dog Whistle Politics). Michael’s website and book (Ghosts Of Jim Crow: Ending Racism In Post-Racial America)

Thanks all, Have a great week. If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 3:52 pm

To you both, you have been great guests, very responsive and informative. Thank you both. This is an important book and important topic. Best wishes with the work.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I see this book as in conversation with liberal thinkers like Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Robert Reich, Joe Stiglitz, Thomas Frank, and others, who are so astute in describing the roots of today’s economic calamity for the middle class in terms of an assault on New Deal liberalism and also culture war politics–but who fail to appreciate the central role played by racial demagoguery.

Ian Haney Lopez February 23rd, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Thanks very much to all, and especially to Michael and to Bev, for a thoughtful and engaging exchange!

erik February 23rd, 2014 at 3:55 pm

I would suggest that in order to obtain true enlightenment in these matters of such esoteric consideration, one might reflect upon the struggles being lived by progressives such as the Leaders of Venezuela and Argentina.
These Leaders are suffering even as we speak and the horrific injustice and deplorable mean spiritedness being waged against their laudable efforts to serve the movement provide much solace for those of us who remain clinked to the cause.
Oh those suffering… Take heart yet for the ideas of our fancy shall become turds.
Well actually I meant to say true but this shit is seriously getting difficult.
Fuck the right!
Especially Libertardarians.

CTuttle February 23rd, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa, Ian, Michael, and, Bev…! This was another excellent Book Salon…! *g*

gavbrown01 February 23rd, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Thanks Mr. Lopez

RevBev February 23rd, 2014 at 3:58 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 93

You betcha…good to see you among those present. Cheers.

Michael Higginbotham February 23rd, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Ian,

A wonderful book and significant contribution to the current dialogue on racial inequality. I hope it acquires a wide audience and trust that the arguments will persuade others as they have persuaded me. luck on Moyers.

Michael

alan1tx February 23rd, 2014 at 6:00 pm

race neutral references about criminals and welfare cheats, illegal aliens, and sharia law are repeatedly made

That’s one right there.

erik February 23rd, 2014 at 7:12 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 28

Serious??
Did you like just wake-up or something?

Your fan boy ‘president’ has been hijacking the freemarket in between vacations and his hobby of killing brown people with cool remote controlled airplanes for over five freaking years now and you still talk this same shit?

Really??

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