Dog Whistle Politics
In the opening, the writer introduces the reader on tactic used by the republicans to win elections. It includes a quote of republican national committee chairman who admits that the party has used a strategy of focusing on white male voters, leaving out other majority groups. The same remarks were given by another top leader of the republican who said that his party had given up on the effort to win back American voters.
These two remarks from the top party officials show that the issues of racial divisions were used by political parties for their own benefits. The author is surprised that such revelations received no attention from the American people (Haney-López 4). The Democratic Party kept quiet on the issue and renowned commentators failed to give out strong objections. The republican has become a party of the whites but nobody could explain how it ended up sidelining the minorities. The republicans have been accused of racial favoritism and the few faces of the minorities in that party are only there to save face.
The author goes further to point out that issue of racial favoritism and discrimination is regarded by many American critics as a small issue. The republicans are quoted by the New York time as having openly lamented that they lose because they are not enough middle-class white men to vote for their candidate. The issue of race is evident in American elections and not even gender, region or age could affect racial divisions in elections. Only whites from four states out of fifty states voted awesomely for Obama. This shows that whites generally support the Republican Party’s candidate.
It is also pointed out that the republicans have constantly used racial pandering to gain favor among the whites. It enacts policies that favor the rich while wrecking the middle class, which is mainly, made of the minority groups. The republicans have also in away taken advantage of the whites who support them during elections. The policies enacted are said to protect the whites from the rising minorities. What this has done is to affect even the whites who are in the middle and low classes as well. The author’s introduction therefore gives out racial pandering as an excuse by the republicans to win over white voters when in the real sense it does not have their interests at heart but those of the affluent in the society.
Chapter one looks at how the Republican Party became a white man’s party. The author traces dog whistle back to George Wallace. Wallace is described to have undergone changes from non-racist, moderate racist and then to a full-blown racist (Haney-López 14). He was involved in politics whereby after losing for the first time, he never lost hope and tried again, He realized that the voters were much keen when he talked about segregation than when he talked about important issues such as roads, schools and other things that should matter in the lives of people.
Wallace took advantage of the racial differences and continued to enjoy the support of the white majority voters. It took the courage US Deputy attorney Katzenbach to make Wallace back down and allow black students to the University of Alabama. The letters that the Alabama received after the incident made Wallace realize that even the whites in the North hated blacks. This made him to re-invent his tactics and reach out to other whites.
He also realized that hardcore racism could land him into trouble but a little intelligence could make him a national figure. He stopped calling racist names and instead concentrated on things that made whites believe that they had to protect their status, neighborhoods and schools or else they will be invaded the blacks.
The chapter explains further that Wallace had joined the Democratic Party which tried to champion equal rights among the American citizens. The republicans had the same manifesto and people voted for the two parties almost equally. After this, people noticed that democrats are likely to implement the supportive civil rights (Haney-López 20). Republicans had looked good when they stood strong to support black students but it looked like that was an election tactic to gain votes. When they realized that they had lost favor with the minority groups in presidential election of 1964, they decided to take advantage of the racial hatred in the hearts of the whites. The republicans viewed Democratic Party as a threat to the nation for distributing the national wealth to less fortunate.
They also noticed that the wealthy people in the society were not pleased by wealth distribution strategy adopted by the Democratic Party. The party therefore re-invented itself to become a white man’s party and has continued in that way up-to-date. The civil rights act of 1964 was disputed my majority of the republicans. The government itself never wanted to be involved in the issues of racial segregation. The republicans campaigned among the whites claiming that the freedom of association meant that they had a right to decide who they want within their backyard or property.
Top republican official called Goldwater noticed that the new deal for racial equality had done better to the black people. They could access electricity unlike before; new infrastructure could be seen in the black neighborhoods. He used these to threaten the whites and make them believe that with time, the blacks could take their place and become their masters. The whites had to guide their properties and status and republicans promised to safeguard the rights and properties of the white people from the blacks. He never succeeded because the whites from the south were not convinced. They also viewed his party as the reason for the civil war. These incidents show why the Republican Party decided to double their efforts in convincing the whites from the north that the only party that would look after their interest was the republicans’ party.
In chapter two, the author introduces strategic racism. He mentioned Nixon, Goldwater and Wallace as example of politicians who used dog whistle politics for their advantage. They said things that were meant to reach white people as a need to protect their country from black invasion. These politicians never talked openly against the African American, they even talked against practices that encouraged racism in America (Haney-López 35). They used strategic racism whereby, they sent coded messages that could be interpreted differently by both the whites and the blacks.
They look for things that when done, hurts the back the most even without mentioning race in them. Death penalty is given as an example of a case that received support from the white because they were told it affected the blacks more. By sending such messages to the white voters, the politicians managed to find soft spots among them. The avoid mentioning race in death penalty to make it look like it affects everybody the same, when that is not the case. The African Americans were linked to crime by these politicians.
New punishable crimes were introduced to tame the rising African Americans. The law became so strict with black men accused of any crime and the jails were soon filled with blacks. The slavery had given black men the freedom they never had before and many of them found themselves on the wrong side of the law. The economy of the south was greatly affected by the end of slavery and when the system made it possible to lease convicts as laborers, they immediately seized the opportunity.
Convicts could be leased out or sold to white families to work in the farms. The number of arrests on the African Americans showed that no black man was safe, unless he was under the custody of a white master. The author argues that convict leasing occurred only with the black convicts. The white convicts were never sold out as slaves (Haney-López 42). The prison warder selling a convict is definitely a racist. The white family buying the convict is also racist but might not be considered racist. They are not like those racist people who scream at the black children to get out of their neighborhoods, but they belong to the same category.
Another type of racism discussed in the chapter is structural racism. This does not involve a single individual but the whole structure. It is embodied in the culture and accepted as normal by majority in the society. The system that allows the leasing of convicts is racist. Structural racism is sometimes referred to as institutional racism and is mainly promoted by the past mistreatments that cause inequalities. The government programs that lead to the booming of the middle class could only be accessed by the white population. This segment of the society become rich while the African Americans were left poor and at the mercy of their rich white neighbors. The inequality between the African Americans and the whites become tool used by the Republican Party to garner votes among the whites. The riches accumulated by the whites had to be protected from the African Americans who were viewed as revengeful.
The implicit bias is another form of racism that many politicians have used to their advantage. People draw judgment on others in line with their race. The African Americans are easily judged and categorized as violent and criminals. This is pointed out as a factor that affects everybody and that everyone would draw judgments based on race. Politicians take advantage of this fact and try to activate the brains of their voters to see the racial differences and then convince them that the other race is dangerous and should not be allowed to come close. The white voter considers this normal and votes for a person that would protect his interest and the future of his children.
Dog whistle politicians have mastered the art of sending effective coded messages that creates fear in the mind of their voters to vote them in and get the protection promised to them. The fear comes from the possible loss of the current privileges, reverse societal status and the need to protect life and property.
In chapter 3, the author looks at how dog whistle politics wrecks middle class. Dog whistle politicians have found a way to convince the white voters in the middle class that voting against their own interest would harm other races more than it harms them. The policies enacted by the Republican Party are aimed at protecting the rights of the rich in the society at the expense of the middle class (Haney-López 55). While the claim to protect the rights of the whites in the middle class, their main agenda is to protect the affluent in the society.
In their messages, they say that the policies are meant to protect the nation from the illegal aliens and undeserving poor yet in the end it affects all those who are in the middle class irrespective of the race. By voting for the policies that favor the rich, they are practically handing over the government to the wealthy who in turn take advantage of them and gain more wealth. The author agrees with what his law school professor had once told them in class. He had said that in America, racism is permanent, that it only adapts new tactics to make it invisible.
In his discussion of wrecking of the middle class, the author agrees that dog whistle politicians have done more harm to the middle class than they may know. Racial pandering is hereby viewed as an enemy to both the minority and the middle class. Racism adapts to the changes around it for example, when they realize that the non-whites are gradually becoming the majority, they changed tactics. The decided to include Latino as whites as they did earlier to include southern Europeans to broaden the narrow Anglo-Saxon. This tactic is meant to suppress the African Americans and to give the white more dominance over other races. This dominance is then exploited for election purposes.
In chapter four, the author discusses the false attempts by parents to teach their children to ignore race. This is hard to do because race exists in our stereotypes and even though they may decide not to discuss race, it still comes out clearly. It is recognized that for an ideal world, people must stop talking about or recognizing race (Haney-López 77). The author explains that the difficulty comes as a result of expecting people not to see something that exists. Neighborhoods have become metropolitan and whites are afraid of saying anything that might sound racist. Not talking about racism or discussing is the best solution to all.
The author further states that those who are colorblind are more racially hostile compared to those who are not colorblind. The failure to recognize and comment on the social differences among races has been be viewed by others as suppressed dislike. The suppression generates more hate among those who adopt colorblindness strategy. Parents may avoid mentioning race to their children but how they view other races would be evidenced in their daily discussions at home. The children form their own opinion about other races from the discussions they hear from their parents.
It is this suppression of true feelings that makes some whites to see themselves as being threatened racially. Colorblindness backfires because the children grow up with racial ideas that their parents are trying to hide from them. The author proposes that the best way to deal with racial issues is to confront them, talk about them and tell the children what the racial differences mean.
Chapter six looks at how modern day politicians get away with racism. The author attributes this factor to the fact that racism is everywhere in general and nowhere in particular. Almost everything that a person does or says can be assigned racial connotation. When a white police man shoots a white man, it is regarded as a normal occurrence, yet when he shoots a black man; it is regarded as racism (Haney-López 127). People have stopped talking about race but have not forgotten about the racial difference among them. It has become so hard to distinguish areal case of racism and another which is not.
The racial biasness has become normal to some and people can even make racial jokes and get away with it. A politician is allowed to make a racial joke to garner more votes and he will not be penalized. The author uses Osama’s example of how his opponents tell voters because of his funny name and the fact that he does not look like the past presidents. This statement is racist in nature but hidden in coded message. When a cartoon of Obama later surfaced, the lady behind the print said she did that to criticize Obama for drawing attention to his race. People give excuse for being racist and it becomes easily forgiven because it has become hard to distinguish between racist and non-racist statement and action.
The author argues that it easy for politicians to get away with racist remarks because of the voters’ need to vote for one of their own. Obama could have said something that implied he is being racist, but pro-democrats easily overlooked that to ensure that their candidate is elected president. With racism, everywhere people believe that if they concentrate on issues of racism they would not make a step. They have chosen to concentrate on other matters. Coded messages are no longer strange to the intended audience because it is a normal routine and racism has become normal.
Fedele is an example of an ordinary citizen who recognizes the loopholes that exist concerning racism. She avoids mentioning race and blames those who mention race while criticizing her. She applies dog whistle to avoid mentioning race but mentions class, behavior and culture. This further proves that racism in the united states cannot end any time soon; it only changes its form.
Chapter seven discusses Mitt Romney and the tea party. Romney when nobody wanted him there. He was described by some as unwelcomed guest in the party. Texas governor Rick Perry was riding high above him and was sure to win the party’s candidature for the top post. Romney had all the traits that made him a better candidate than Perry, but Perry had more swag and looks more appealing to the supports of the Republican Party (Haney-López 147). Romney was clever enough and went back to drawing board to find out how he can win the party’s supporters. Romney took advantage of the party’s culture of racial pandering. This did him a lot of good and saw him gain the support of the party’s supporters.
The republicans soon forgot about the charm and swagger portrayed by Perry. Romney learned to speak the messages that they are used to and was able to have their support. Most of the statements he made about Obama being ant-welfare were lies but that never stopped his supporters from voting for him. The tea party had found a perfect candidate to challenge president Obama. One thing Romney learned was that the culture and practices of a party are what makes a person an ideal candidate. He was able to capitalize on this to take the candidacy right under Perry’s nose.
Chapter eight looks at issues with the white voters. The author fails to understand why white voters are the only ones targeted by the tea party in every election period. The white voters have not joined hands to vote as a block to elect one single candidate. The republicans have not realized this and still continue to target them while leaving other races out. Not all whites can be swayed through the use of coded messages (Haney-López 169). There are various categories of whites with different interests. Politicians have failed to realize that there are educated whites and non-educated. These two groups make their decisions based on different factors. The educated whites make decisions based on informed ideas.
They know policies that are of benefit to them and those that are not. They vet politicians according to their campaign manifesto and not on their political affiliations. This is the major problem that dog whistle politicians face. There have been cases whereby the tea party lost many of the white voters to their rivals due to their unpopular manifestos. Coded messages do not influence every white voter and this may require that proponents of dog whistle to look for better ways of convincing the modern white voter not to vote against them.
The last chapter looks at how Obama has made efforts to create a post-racial America. The author discusses some of the Osama’s actions that are meant to make the nation free from racism. In order to appeal to both sides of the divide, Obama has avoided making anything mistake that might look as if he is taking back from the majority and giving to the minority. Some people might have feared that all the policies that favored the affluent in the society would be scrapped by the Obama administration (Haney-López 192). He managed to stay away from racist actions while at the same time not teaming up with the liberals. He has relied on advisors to ensure that he remains on course and does not look like he is favoring one faction over another.
The author has looked at prominent issues in the American politics. His views shed light on the rising income inequality among the American people. His explanations are both political and social and may not help but notice the exploitation of the working and middle class by the political class. The middle class and working class have been convinced every time to vote against the policies that could have benefitted they as they concentrate on the income divide in terms of race. In this book, the author has discussed dog whistle politics as tactic used to pass information with hidden message to undermine the ability and intelligence of other people based mainly on racial differences. The book gives a clear picture of how race has contributed to the inequality observed among the American people.
Haney-López, Ian. Dog whistle politics: How coded racial appeals have reinvented racism and wrecked the middle class. Oxford University Press, 2015.