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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 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. In Dog Whistle Politics, Ian Haney Lopez 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 and obvious racism, Haney Lopez links as never before the two central themes that dominate American politics today: the decline of the middle class and the Republican Party's increasing reliance on white voters. Dog Whistle Politics will generate a lively and much-needed debate about how racial politics has destabilized the American middle class — white and nonwhite members alike.


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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 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. In Dog Whistle Politics, Ian Haney Lopez 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 and obvious racism, Haney Lopez links as never before the two central themes that dominate American politics today: the decline of the middle class and the Republican Party's increasing reliance on white voters. Dog Whistle Politics will generate a lively and much-needed debate about how racial politics has destabilized the American middle class — white and nonwhite members alike.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Absolutely fascinating, incredible. Brilliantly articulated. I do not say this lightly, but this is a book EVERY undergraduate in this country should read. Not for the politics of it, but because I've never come across any other piece of writing that so cogently explains the way in which racism has transmogrified over the last half-century, how it is still so pervasive - perhaps even more so in some ways - and how it affects ALL of us. Absolutely fascinating, incredible. Brilliantly articulated. I do not say this lightly, but this is a book EVERY undergraduate in this country should read. Not for the politics of it, but because I've never come across any other piece of writing that so cogently explains the way in which racism has transmogrified over the last half-century, how it is still so pervasive - perhaps even more so in some ways - and how it affects ALL of us.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    I've taken some heated feedback on Amazon for my review (which follows). I stand by the review, and note that many/most of the negative reactions are paddling in the same river. So here's the review: ========================== The opening sentence of this screed betrays its bias: "Let's start with an open secret: Republicans rely on racial entreaties to help win elections." If you are a Democrat who believes this is the unvarnished and complete truth, by all means buy it and reinforce your beliefs. I've taken some heated feedback on Amazon for my review (which follows). I stand by the review, and note that many/most of the negative reactions are paddling in the same river. So here's the review: ========================== The opening sentence of this screed betrays its bias: "Let's start with an open secret: Republicans rely on racial entreaties to help win elections." If you are a Democrat who believes this is the unvarnished and complete truth, by all means buy it and reinforce your beliefs. If you are put off by it, but wish to plumb the depths of self-righteous emotion to learn from it, buy it and observe. If you wish to read a revelation of honest human truth, understanding that creating bugaboos is endemic in every party, stay the heck away. Is it a big shock there is racism in the Republican party? Is it a big shock there is huge racism in the Democratic party? Is it a big shock the leaders of each party play to the prejudices and grudges of their bases? Unfortunately, seeing the speck in our enemies' eyes and failing to see the 2 x 4 in our own doesn't help us evolve from those biases. Democrats will no doubt point to the chapter on Bill Clinton to disagree with my characterization of one-sidedness. Yes, there are 7 pages devoted to the Clinton years (out of 230), acknowledging that Clinton engaged in "dog whistle" race baiting, albeit for a good cause. Perhaps they are right, but a quick nod in the midst of a sermon doesn't quite make the argument fair and thorough. You'll find all sorts of Republican euphemisms and codewords in here... welfare queen, crime, illiterate, jihad, affirmative action, sharia law, on an on. What you won't read are the other ones: social justice, evil corporation, redneck, living wage, voter intimidation. The author is a celebrated professor at Berkeley and a Fellow at Demos, a liberal think tank. =============================

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert Owen

    “Dog Whistle Politics” is a book that’s too smart by half……which still makes it twice as smart as most books on race, earning it my rating of four stars. First, the good. López does a masterful job of articulating the nuances of modern racism and the arc of its history over the last half century. By “dog whistle politics” López is referring to conscious political strategies whereby latent white fears and insecurities about race are channeled into self-destructive anti-minority activism. Beginning “Dog Whistle Politics” is a book that’s too smart by half……which still makes it twice as smart as most books on race, earning it my rating of four stars. First, the good. López does a masterful job of articulating the nuances of modern racism and the arc of its history over the last half century. By “dog whistle politics” López is referring to conscious political strategies whereby latent white fears and insecurities about race are channeled into self-destructive anti-minority activism. Beginning with George Wallace’s cynical self-transformation from racial moderate into a white supremacist demagogue, López tracks the evolution of race-baiting in race-neutral terms as a deliberate political strategy through the careers of Goldwater, Nixon, Regan, the Bush(es) and, most recently, the Tea Party right. In that these tactics have been hugely successful, they’ve served to erode acceptance for liberal policies that were taken for granted as just, right and fair during the New Deal and Great Society eras and have pull Democratic administrations (Carter, Clinton and even Obama) further and further to the right. The result has been the dismantling of many of the great social policy achievements of the first half of the 20th century, and has set in their place pro-business, anti-poor structures of libertarianism that aid the rich and ignore as irrelevant the needs of those most in need of help. By highlighting what he calls “strategic racism” (i.e. racism used as a tool by cynical politicians and thought leaders to intentionally frighten and so, divide the electorate) and differentiating it from its latent and deeply buried cousins, López provides a credible explanation for how there can be racism in a world in which virtually everyone condemns it. However, he goes on to explain the series of cultural and psychological forces at work in the minds of many whites that enable and inflame latent racism. While the overwhelming majority of whites reject overt racism and racist ideologies, the chimera of race neutrality as understood by promoted ideas of “colorblindness” comforts whites regarding their innocence with respect to the depredations of racism, assures them their privilege is legitimate due to their cultural superiority, commiserates with their victimization as the objects of “reverse racism” and so hides from them their own latent racial hostility. As compelling as much of this is, there remains an element of the story that López fails to tell. In addition to the psychological and cultural forces that incline whites to unconsciously imbibe racist attitudes, there nonetheless remain legitimate, rational and just causes for white discomfort over racial politics. While these do not legitimate latent hostilities towards those or other races or rationalize as acceptable indifference to the state of racial disadvantage that clearly exist in the country today, they nonetheless loom large over the debate and deserve treatment. Consider, for example, López’s indictment of “colorblindness”. López argues that “colorblindness”…..the notion that a just and fair society should be blind to race….. acts as a sort of sophistry shield behind which racist projects are protected from societal censure. The “War on Drugs” is a classic “colorblind” racist project as, although framed in popular discourse as a race-neutral initiative designed to rid the country of a horrible scourge, it disproportionately targets black Americans as the principal individuals against whom the war is waged because, as “everyone knows”, all drug dealers are black. To be sure, the War on Drugs is most certainly a racist project for most of the reasons López (and many others before him) contend. This, however, is the product of human mendacity and the capacity for sophistry…..to say and do one thing when you really mean another…...and not grounds for rejecting the principal of colorblindness in the application of law or social policy. In López’s hands, colorblindness becomes, in itself, a racist project. This is absurd. Laws should be colorblind and to the extent they’re not, they should be overturned or never passed in the first place. This is more than mere semantical hair-splitting as in casting colorblindness as a racist project, it provides unconscionable anti-colorblind, or race based remedies that attempt to right wrongs with different wrongs a claim to moral justice to which they are not entitled. Whites hear dogma suggesting that colorblindness itself is a racist project and become upset…..and, to my mind, understandably so…..hell, it upsets me. I hear condemnations of colorblindness in support of race-based affirmative action programs and see in my mind’s eye my own six year old granddaughter and how, under race conscious programs of entitlement, she, with her one, single precious life to live is somehow expected to move back in line in deference to another child who, because of her race, is allowed to step in front of her. With all due acknowledgement of the depredations that have been visited upon people of color over these last four centuries and notwithstanding my sincere dedication to work to achieve a better world, race conscious advancement as an answer to the host of unacceptable social realities afflicting America’s people of color is a thing that neither I, nor anyone else who has non-black children, will ever accept as just and fair. The crazy thing is that race based advancement programs such as educational or job affirmative action are not the only, or even, the best solution. Solutions, for example, that target people who are trapped in poverty and then allocates the benefits proportionally among the racial cohorts constituting the poor would be both compelling and fair. Take every kid (regardless of their race) whose family incomes are below 130% of the poverty line and dedicate additional funds for their education and make sure they have places reserved for them (at government expense) in top Universities and training programs. The same racial disproportionality that characterizes black poverty would, under such programs, of course result in a correspondingly disproportionate allocation of dollars to blacks while nonetheless providing support to non-blacks who, because of their financial condition, suffer the depredations that have plagued the poor since time immemorial. Under race based affirmative action Sally must be black to enjoy the benefit, and if she isn’t then it’s back to the trailer park to begin cooking meth and making babies. Finding this to be unacceptable does not make one a racists……it makes one a parent. My point is that to start with the laudable principal of colorblindness and then combine it with race-hostile programs that come to be articulated in scrupulously race-neutral terms is clearly monstrous. However, to work backwards from revulsion over this exercise in vile sophistry to contend that justice and fairness demands color consciousness not only completely misses the point but also, provides cover for the same principal injustice to be applied to people of a different race. Compelling (and largely right) though López’s analysis may be, in hanging his arguments on a scaffold of indignation over colorblindness, he unwittingly undermines the moral basis of his otherwise very fair and well-reasoned argument. As you can tell from this long personal diatribe, this book provides a number of wonderful insights and a lot for the reader to think about. While I didn’t agree with all of it, I nonetheless found it excellent and would highly recommend to anyone interested in America’s racial history and current issues associated with race and American politics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bakari

    While I have known about the history of coded racial appeals particularly in the political arena for quite some time, it is important that López provides fresh analysis on this issue and how it should be addressed. The conservative right will continue to use race and other cultural wedge issues to push their agenda. With the ever-increasing class divide in this country, the conservative right has no interest in closing the gap when it comes to the economic inequality of politically marginalized While I have known about the history of coded racial appeals particularly in the political arena for quite some time, it is important that López provides fresh analysis on this issue and how it should be addressed. The conservative right will continue to use race and other cultural wedge issues to push their agenda. With the ever-increasing class divide in this country, the conservative right has no interest in closing the gap when it comes to the economic inequality of politically marginalized groups in this country. The conservative right’s agenda is to protect the privileges and power of the economically advantaged class in this country, including whatever is left of the white privilege and power that dominantes institutions in this country. So López is correct that racism and coded racial appeals need to be vigorously called out on all fronts. This must be done not only by white liberals and progressives, but more importantly by racial minorities who are most marginalized by racism and economic inequality. The entire conservative ideology agenda must seriously be challenged because it undermines progress toward providing better education, healthcare, jobs, and other resources needed for all people to live a better quality of life. López is also correct in recognizing that economic inequality and economic privilege are the underpinnings of much of the racism that still pervades this country. Privileged whites have a lot to protect, and that's why they use racism to maintain their privilege. But inequality in this country and around the world deeply undermines real progress. López is a strong advocate of new deal liberalism, which he contends, "doesn't have to mean controlling people. It actually means to be a force for where it makes use of an collectivized resources to benefit everyone. It helps people get jobs; insures education and other services are available for everyone. It monitors, investigates, and regulates how resources are used." However, I don't think new deal liberalism goes far enough. The wide economic gap in this country and around the world is inexcusable. Too much economic control is on the hands of a small class of individuals and families. No one, and no family, needs and deserves millions and billions of dollars personal wealth. This is the type of wealth gap that the conservative right safeguards and promotes. But it comes at the expense of poor and hard-working people in this country. So while we must continue to call out racism, we must also equally callout the class divide and the capitalist economic system that supports it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    T.L. Cooper

    I seriously underestimated how much Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class Ian Haney Lopez would affect me. As I started reading, I expected a rehashing of contents I already knew. While there was some of that, there was also information about the history of racism in the United States that I never fully knew. I expected to read the book quickly without the need to pause and think about what I read. Instead, the book took me quite a while I seriously underestimated how much Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class Ian Haney Lopez would affect me. As I started reading, I expected a rehashing of contents I already knew. While there was some of that, there was also information about the history of racism in the United States that I never fully knew. I expected to read the book quickly without the need to pause and think about what I read. Instead, the book took me quite a while to read as I pondered the contents. As I read an examination of policies I'd long heard explained with twisted logic that never sounded quite right, I realized I've been mislead by half-truths and misrepresentation of facts. This particularly surprised me in regards to some historical policies that were conveniently glossed over or completely absent from my history classes. This book also answered questions for me about how people I think of as generally non-racist and who consider themselves non-racist say and do things that are so obviously race driven. This deeper understanding made me stop and think about my own life and how I perceive the world around me. As I read Lopez's words skewering Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and liberals as well as those who forego any of those labels for engaging in dog whistle politics, I felt despair at times and hope at other times. Lopez encourages us to recognize dog whistle politics and dog whistle attitudes that incite needless fear, so perhaps we can begin to grow past the divisions that are so constantly thrust upon us. Still the question remains... Can we? Lopez points out the problems we face in a book that challenges preconceptions of what it means to be "colorblind" and "post-racial" as he points out the use of fear and stereotypes to keep people separated. As I read Dog Whistle Politics, I felt sickened at times, hopeful at others, angry at times, and filled with love at others. I hope this book reaches an audience beyond those who already understand and agree with its contents. In this examination of the history and continuation of dog whistle politics, Lopez asks us to seek understanding and make a plan for a better future together. Even as Dog Whistle Politics attempts to examine and educate the effects of dog whistle politics on the United States from myriad points of view, Lopez never apologizes for taking a stance against the use of dog whistle politics to keep us separated and unequal.

  6. 4 out of 5

    George Slade

    Instead of rehashing what I've been posting about this book, for the review, I'll merely paste the letter I sent to the author. .............................................................. Mr. Lopez, I just finished reading "Dog Whistle Politics" today. I was deeply disturbed at what I read. I am disturbed that young, impressionable women and men will read this book and take it seriously. You're obviously intelligent and studious; however, you used your time and skills to generate a book that is Instead of rehashing what I've been posting about this book, for the review, I'll merely paste the letter I sent to the author. .............................................................. Mr. Lopez, I just finished reading "Dog Whistle Politics" today. I was deeply disturbed at what I read. I am disturbed that young, impressionable women and men will read this book and take it seriously. You're obviously intelligent and studious; however, you used your time and skills to generate a book that is basically a long example of left wing race baiting. If I take your book to heart, then I, as a white male, owe everything I have to the privilege of being white, oppose Obama based solely on race, oppose affirmative action based solely on race, and oppose welfare abuse based solely on race. You even go as far as to say that whites judge their social standing by how much they control their exposure to minorities. This is beyond ridiculous in my eyes. On top of your insinuations, you basically make anything a white person does that inconveniences any non white person a racist act, whether or not any proof of racism is available. You're telling people, "Look, these white people don't like you, and they're acting to hold you down, but don't worry if you can't prove it, because their motivations are racist. Trust me." I think propagating this message is irresponsible and counter to progress. What is your goal here? Mine is to stop passing along the legacy of hate to the youth. It's time we move on as a people and stop making everything about race. I think you should feel remorse for promoting the notions in your book as current motivations and mind sets. The only real examples of racism in your book are so historical that they bare no relevance on today's society. Let the youth of the nation come up and make their own minds. This type of poison is no less damaging than the inbred white trash clan member passing along his own brand of hate to his children. Thanks for reading, Concerned Reader, ..............................................................

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    What a nice coda in some ways to my law school experience. I recall seeing Professor Haney Lopez give the Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society as a first year law student at NYU. Shockingly, Haney Lopez, now a foremost critical race theorist, described how he stormed out to Professor Bell's class as a student, disturb by Bell's insistence on the permanence of racism in American society. Dog Whistle Politics starts off with this very same story, both the author's initial reaction to Pr What a nice coda in some ways to my law school experience. I recall seeing Professor Haney Lopez give the Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society as a first year law student at NYU. Shockingly, Haney Lopez, now a foremost critical race theorist, described how he stormed out to Professor Bell's class as a student, disturb by Bell's insistence on the permanence of racism in American society. Dog Whistle Politics starts off with this very same story, both the author's initial reaction to Professor Bell, and his eventual honor at being selected to give the lecture bearing the name of the man whose ideas he had originally found so fraught. Dog Whistle Politics delicately dissects the political discourse that continues to use race and racism as a wedge issue, but without ever acknowledging such. From the rise of the Republic Party as the White Man's Party, to the continued use of racial coding to manipulate decision makers on both sides of the proverbial aisle, Han Lopez takes a deep and critical look at the messages behind the words we use. A powerful expose on the unchallenged messages used to rile the masses. The book delves into explaining how voters are continuously duped into fearing coded racism rather than highly concentrated wealth and power. The practice is no secret to political players, and, thanks to Haney Lopez, should no longer be a secret to anyone else either.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Taryn

    At first I wasn’t sure how relevant this book would feel to me considering it was published before the 2016 election, but it turns out dog whistle politics aren’t new at all, they’ve just become more overt in the Trump era. Haney-Lopez’s analysis of how politicians on both sides of the aisle have exploited the fear, anger, and suspicion of white people to garner votes and control the electorate provides useful context for people who are dismayed by the blatant bigotry they see in our country tod At first I wasn’t sure how relevant this book would feel to me considering it was published before the 2016 election, but it turns out dog whistle politics aren’t new at all, they’ve just become more overt in the Trump era. Haney-Lopez’s analysis of how politicians on both sides of the aisle have exploited the fear, anger, and suspicion of white people to garner votes and control the electorate provides useful context for people who are dismayed by the blatant bigotry they see in our country today. While I thought Haney-Lopez fell short when it came to his promised solutions, understanding the historical context goes a long way towards building a vision for the future, so that in itself makes the book a worthwhile read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Randy Cauthen

    Not an awful lot new here if you've been paying attention, but Lopez is a good compendium how the right has used race baiting tactics to undermine the middle class in this country and advance the interests of the very rich, and how the Democrats have failed to effectively fight their demagoguery, largely through a mistaken policy of color blindness. Not an awful lot new here if you've been paying attention, but Lopez is a good compendium how the right has used race baiting tactics to undermine the middle class in this country and advance the interests of the very rich, and how the Democrats have failed to effectively fight their demagoguery, largely through a mistaken policy of color blindness.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roger Leonhardt

    A book about racism from a person who is himself a racist. He believes all white people are racist and that every problem in society is because of that white racism. His answer to racism is even more racism. He sees everything as a zero sum game. The only way to bring someone up is to tear someone else down. That is ludicrous. We are all created equal and should all be treated that way, no matter what color we are. My mom always said two wrongs don't make a right. We do have a problem of racism. A book about racism from a person who is himself a racist. He believes all white people are racist and that every problem in society is because of that white racism. His answer to racism is even more racism. He sees everything as a zero sum game. The only way to bring someone up is to tear someone else down. That is ludicrous. We are all created equal and should all be treated that way, no matter what color we are. My mom always said two wrongs don't make a right. We do have a problem of racism. This problem is not with just one race, it is in every race and ethnicity. Man, being born in sin, naturally hates. The way to fix it is not by more racism. It is by salvation. The Bible says how can you love God if you hate others. The problem in our country and the world stems from turning our backs on God! If we love God we will love those who are created in His image. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Everyone from richest to the poor receive salvation the same way - by grace!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Much like The New Jim Crow and Miner’s Canary, this book eviscerates the idea that modern “colorblindness” is really about racial equality, both in intent and in its fruits. It firmly asserts that most people who have embraced colorblindness aren’t bad people, just ignorant of history and its consequences. Lucid and well cited. Could have used more concrete advice on how to frame the conversation with these not-bad people about how they are on the wrong side of history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Earlier this year, Richard Sherman, a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, taped a post-game interview in which he called out a player from the opposing team and pronounced himself "the best corner in the game," adding, "Don't open your mouth about the best, or I'm going to shut it for you real quick!" The video went viral, and in the days that followed it seemed as though people could focus on little else. Unfortunately, much of the public discourse made liberal use of the term "thug," an insin Earlier this year, Richard Sherman, a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, taped a post-game interview in which he called out a player from the opposing team and pronounced himself "the best corner in the game," adding, "Don't open your mouth about the best, or I'm going to shut it for you real quick!" The video went viral, and in the days that followed it seemed as though people could focus on little else. Unfortunately, much of the public discourse made liberal use of the term "thug," an insinuation that was direct and suggestive but also--purposefully--ill-defined. Later, when he was asked about the reaction to his interview, Sherman--a Stanford graduate and the salutatorian of his high school class--responded, "The only reason it bothers me is that it seems like ["thug" is] the accepted way of calling people the n-word nowadays."* Surprisingly, Sherman's theory--delivered extemporaneously--has a rather strong basis in reality, one that helps us understand the shifting face of America over the last 50 years. Writing about the racism of decades past, Ian Haney Lopez has little difficulty finding examples of public figures--elected democratically, supported by the American people, cherished today as American heroes--who openly and unabashedly employed racial slurs when talking about African-Americans. Decades ago, there was little shame in identifying oneself as a racist, and as Lopez himself documents, being identified as such was often necessary for some politicians to be elected. For example, when George Wallace first ran for the governorship of Alabama in 1958, he was a racial moderate pitted against an outspoken racist: Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP, while his opponent was endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan. After being handily trounced on election day, Wallace remarked to a confidant, "And I tell you here and now, I will never be out-niggered again." This one loss--an indication that the voters of Alabama preferred virulent bigotry to clear-eyed moderation--would forever change the political landscape of America by birthing one of the 20th century's great unrepentant roadblocks to progress and equality. However, in the years that followed, holding racist views and harboring prejudicial tendencies became a drawback rather than a benefit for anyone running for elected office. The media became more diligent in rooting out and confronting those who espoused vile, outdated ideas related to ethnicity, and now, in the age of social media, when a single gaffe or verbal slip becomes a worldwide sensation in mere minutes, public officials are increasingly scrutinized for their views on race, and rightly so. But while our culture has changed, our electorate--at least in some rather large circles--has not. There are still wide swathes of voters who hold the beliefs of George Wallace to be self-evident, that all men are not created equal, and sadly, these people number in the millions. Sadder still, they are reliable voters who are identified almost singularly by their attachment to one of our country's two major parties: The Republican Party. Lopez goes to great pains to qualify his remarks and underscore the fact that not all Republicans are racist, just as he strives to note that not all Democrats are immune from intolerant ideas or race-based pandering. But statistically and historically speaking, it is the Republican Party that has not only appropriated what Lopez calls "dog whistle" politics--that is, the use of sly code words and clever phrasing to make racist entreaties to particularly receptive groups without actually sounding racist--but transformed it into the ultimate political weapon, sharp enough to energize its base while also remaining dull enough to pass by a thorough, scandal-hungry press. Two of the most frequently employed code words, "welfare recipient" and "food stamp recipient," are weighed down with racial implications--the idea that those on government assitance are lazy, fraudulent, and often drug-addicted minorities, a stereotype that has its roots in Ronald Reagan's first run for the presidency more than thirty years ago. However, the caricature has become so ingrained in our collective subconscious that politicians don't ever need mention the ethnicity of those being referenced, and when confronted with accusations of race-baiting, they have distance and deniability, claiming they were simply talking about "entitlement reform" or our nation's growing budgetary crisis. For decades this tactic has shown itself to be quite successful for Republican candidates: Reagan's Cadillac-driving welfare queen; George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton ad; the rebranding of immigrants as "aliens" and "illegals" during the presidency of George W. Bush; Newt Gingrich complaining that "poor children in poor neighborhoods" have no "habits of working" and should be employed by schools to scrub toilets; Paul Ryan stating that "inner city culture" makes men unable to think "about working or learning the value and the culture of work"; and so on, ad nauseam. In each instance, these politicians--all Republicans, all with national name recognition, all seeking or holding the highest offices--used loaded, dog-whistle terms in order to get a point across to their voters that, while they could not specifically comment on the habits and predispositions of African-Americans and Hispanic Americans and other non-Republicans, a few double-edged words could sooth any confusion about where they stood ethnicity-wise. However, all of these examples pale in comparison to the now-infamous 2012 video of Mitt Romney speaking to a supposedly press-free gathering of his supporters: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. In just a few short breaths, the nation's leading Republican managed to utilize an impressive slew of dog-whistle words--dependent, victim, entitled--to explain away the massive support Barack Obama had among the young, the poor, and the non-white. In Romney's skewed view of the world, anyone who supported the incumbent president--a Democrat, a liberal, an African-American--was weak, lazy, immoral, lecherous, or all of the above. In the inevitable fallout over Romney's remarks, the press harangued the candidate over his detachment from how millions of Americans actually lived--a condition, they implied, resulting from a comfortable, sheltered upbringing. Romney did not understand that the men and women who claimed to be victims might actually suffer from a system built against them, keeping them away from financial independence and stability because of their skin, their gender, or the place where they were raised. Romney did not understand that those who use food stamps do so not because they're unwilling to work but because the American economy has been so thoroughly corrupted that getting a meaningful job is actually less beneficial than simply going on government assistance. Romney did not understand that 47% of Americans are free from income tax, not because they've found enough convenient loopholes for themselves, but because they do not make enough money to pay an income tax, even if they're working multiple jobs.** What the press neglected to focus on was how the Republican Party had commandeered the English language--common, everyday words without any racial undertones--and weaponized it, using it time and again to dehumanize millions of their fellow citizens by depicting them as unmotivated, ungrateful, and dangerous, and always couched in racial undertones. The words they use are picks and shovels chipping away at the land we share until a river divides us, and those on one shore are allowed to look across at the other shore and pronounce the division unfair. By refusing to see other people for what they are and instead see them only as a series of words--dependent, victim, welfare recipient, illegal--we remove their humanity and make them less than us. They become an "other." And it's much easier to attack a nameless, stereotypical "other" than a friend, a neighbor, a family member. At the very end of his 2012 remarks, Romney said, "[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." This is, by far, the most horrifying aspect of dog-whistle politics--the belief that those who are being demonized through an abstract code are unworthy of anyone's attention, even a president's, even though, statistically, these Americans are those most in need of attention and assistance. Romney is not entirely to blame for his own worldview; instead, it's the effect of a long-simmering change in our culture, one fed by the way in which politicians have adapted our language to fit their own selfish, inhumane ideologies. In this way, the river between us grows even wider. *Later in the interview, Sherman added, "I know some thugs and they know I’m the furthest thing from a thug. I’ve fought that my whole life, just coming from where I come from. Just because you hear Compton, you heard Watts, cities like that you think, ‘Thug. He’s a gangster. He’s this, that, and the other.’ And then you hear Stanford and that doesn’t make sense, it’s an oxymoron. To fight it for so long, and have to hear it come up again, it’s frustrating." **According to the Tax Policy Center, 60% of Americans who don't pay income tax are employed, which means they still contribute to Social Security and Medicare; 22% are retired; and 7% make under $20,000 annually, which is the threshold for taxation. This review was originally published at There Will Be Books Galore.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Greg Brozeit

    An uneven but ultimately informative account and call to action to address the racism that provides the foundation for much of today's American political scene. I think this book could be considered the third volume of a trilogy that includes Douglas Blackmon's Slavery By Another Name and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow . Lopez's definition of three core components that form dog whistle politics--hate, structural racism and implicit bias--is helpful and insightful. He predictably rec An uneven but ultimately informative account and call to action to address the racism that provides the foundation for much of today's American political scene. I think this book could be considered the third volume of a trilogy that includes Douglas Blackmon's Slavery By Another Name and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow . Lopez's definition of three core components that form dog whistle politics--hate, structural racism and implicit bias--is helpful and insightful. He predictably recounts Republicans' uses of the Southern Strategy and Willie Horten to fine tune dog whistle politics. But Bill Clinton also gets proper blame for using and accelerating these tactics--to his short-term advantage at the expense of the Democratic party and the American people. His analysis of the post-racialism of the Obama years artfully laments the opportunities lost by the president and too many of his advisors and supporters to fundamentally change the public discourse when they had the chance to do so. And while Lopez sees the politics of public education as one of the next battlegrounds in dog whistle politics, I was disappointed that he did not complete the discussion in pointing out how Obama has practically led the way toward this path through the Race to the Top education policies which are Bush's No Child Left Behind program on steroids. Another weakness in building the Lopez's argument was his omission of analysis on both the impact of David Duke and Newt Gingrich on the refinement of dog whistle politics. Duke's brief but significant time in the spotlight in the late 80s and early 90s as candidate for the U.S. Senate, elected Louisiana state representative and race for governor of Louisiana was integral to the eventual scope and strategy of dog whistle politics. This episode provided the test market for the substantively inconsequential but symbolically effective "Contract with America" that led to Gingrich's rise to the office of House speaker. Sadly, this was as important a turning point to the success of dog whistle politics as the Reagan years which Lopez does address in his discussion. Ultimately, I would give this 3 1/2 stars, but lean toward the higher rather than the lower final rating.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

    I'm familiar with the concept of Dog Whistle" messaging. An idea is communicated with carefully crafted words and phrases, and for some the terminology is couched in emotional meaning. And to others it may simply be so many words. The intended message is only heard by some, just as a dog whistle is heard by dogs, but not humans. Lopez has concentrated on how race has been used for 50 years to further the political goals of many politicians, especially but not exclusively in the Republican Party. I'm familiar with the concept of Dog Whistle" messaging. An idea is communicated with carefully crafted words and phrases, and for some the terminology is couched in emotional meaning. And to others it may simply be so many words. The intended message is only heard by some, just as a dog whistle is heard by dogs, but not humans. Lopez has concentrated on how race has been used for 50 years to further the political goals of many politicians, especially but not exclusively in the Republican Party. He very specifically calls it Strategic Racism; i.e. it uses race to gain political or financial advantage with the ultimate goal of getting votes and winning elections. He points out that those who use this tactic aren't usually what you would call a hate based racist. They are for the most part pragmatic mercenaries who take advantage of the race based fears, biases, and anxieties of their target audience. As a matter of fact, race is never even mentioned. Words and phrases such as "state rights, law and order, running your own schools, protecting property rights ,and freedom of association" are heavily freighted with racial meaning for people suffering racial anxiety. I see this strategy as a version of what Newt Gingrich described in 1995 in his GOPAC memo "Language Matters". The author's main contention is that while Dog Whistle Politics has demonized minorities, liberalism specifically and government generally, it has also hurt the middle class very badly. Conservatives have been frightened and angered into voting for politicians who support policies that run counter to middle class self-interest. Though Lopez concentrates on the racial aspects of this strategy, it is also used with audiences that have fears and biases about gender, sexual orientation, religion, guns, debt, deficits, and taxes. Conservatives have been successful in convincing a large swath of the public that their real enemy is our government, and not greatly concentrated wealth.They are all being played like a harp and it is fear-mongering at it's worst by an occupational group that has a public "acceptability rating" in single digits IMHO.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Louis

    Ian Haney López’s Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked The Middle Class analyzes the history of political rhetoric since the civil rights era. In essence, Lopez argues that despite claims of living in a post-racial society, appeals to racism are alive and well. López presents an intriguing assessment on racism, suggesting that there is more to racism than mere bigotry: i.e. many racists are decent people who have come to accept racial disparities and no Ian Haney López’s Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked The Middle Class analyzes the history of political rhetoric since the civil rights era. In essence, Lopez argues that despite claims of living in a post-racial society, appeals to racism are alive and well. López presents an intriguing assessment on racism, suggesting that there is more to racism than mere bigotry: i.e. many racists are decent people who have come to accept racial disparities and normal. His assessment of Governor Wallace’s advocacy for “States Rights” is accurate, as the assessment of President Reagan’s claims about “welfare queens driving Cadillacs.” In essence, neither Wallace nor Reagan used racial epithets but we know who (and what) they were referring to. While there is no reason to accuse López of unethical behavior, much of the ideas presented in this book aren’t new, particularly the notion that a certain set of voters have been convinced to vote against their interests is hardly a new one. Thomas Frank’s What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America is probably the seminal work on this idea. The writings of the late Joe Bageant (see Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War also support this idea. There is no question racism still exists in this country; however, López seems a bit too quick to accuse individuals of racism—as much as I disdain the Tea Party, there are more dimensions to them than racism. Above all, there doesn’t seem to be enough substance to warrant an entire book on the issues presented—López would have been better off writing this as a magazine article or providing interviews on the subject matter.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Made me think. Most people who have followed electoral politics in recent years knows about the "birthers" who believe President Obama is not a US citizen and therefore is not the legitimate President of the United States. Lopez takes the reader through this and much more, looking at how campaigns use "coded" language to demean people of different skin colors and classes than perhaps the audience that the campaigns are speaking to.   The book is a mostly chronological look at campaigns and preside Made me think. Most people who have followed electoral politics in recent years knows about the "birthers" who believe President Obama is not a US citizen and therefore is not the legitimate President of the United States. Lopez takes the reader through this and much more, looking at how campaigns use "coded" language to demean people of different skin colors and classes than perhaps the audience that the campaigns are speaking to.   The book is a mostly chronological look at campaigns and presidencies, starting with the New Deal. Lopez looks at events like the civil rights movement and looks at more recent events such as the infamous WIllie Horton ad, the suspicions that fell upon Muslims after 9/11, how the recent 2008 and 2012 campaigns dealt with race, etc.   While the author openly admits he is liberal in the introduction, he has no problems tackling what he sees as dog whistle politics on the Democratic side, namely Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. However, most of his examples fall on the conservative/Republican side.   Although I was somewhat familiar with the term and his examples, I found the book quite interesting in expanding upon and discussing the issues surrounding the discussion of race, class and how and why dog whistle politics is such a problem. I somewhat wish he had expanded upon it in the general media and advertising, but that is not his focus. I also wish he had discussed gender a bit more as well, but again he has a very narrow focus for his book.   Overall I thought it was a good read without being over the top, but I would imagine someone of a more conservative bent wouldn't like this book at all. It wouldn't be surprising if this book shows up as required reading as a text for a class on politics, race, etc. I think it would be a handy reference to keep and I am considering buying a copy to have on hand.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I found Dog Whistle Politics utterly fascinating, horrifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. Lopez defines dog whistling as "inaudible and easily denied in one range, yet stimulating strong reactions in another." Lopez dissects how dogwhistling started in the 1960s and let to the Republican party becoming the white man's party. He is even handed though and takes Democrats to take as well. His explanation and analysis of why being "color-blind" is actually harmful is one of the best I've I found Dog Whistle Politics utterly fascinating, horrifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. Lopez defines dog whistling as "inaudible and easily denied in one range, yet stimulating strong reactions in another." Lopez dissects how dogwhistling started in the 1960s and let to the Republican party becoming the white man's party. He is even handed though and takes Democrats to take as well. His explanation and analysis of why being "color-blind" is actually harmful is one of the best I've ever read. My biggest take away from this book is what Lopez states repeatedly throughout - racism does not equal malice. It is our narrow, modern day definition of racism as overt words and deeds that have led many to believe that we are living in a post-racial society. In the wake of recent race linked events, like the killing of unarmed suspects by police, this would be an excellent book to recommend to your friends that you would like to educate on what white privilege is and how being color-blind is actually not helpful. I consider myself pretty versed on race issues and I still learned a lot. Highly recommended for everyone.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    I actually wanted to give this book four and a half stars. My half-star "demerit" is for two minor quibbles: one, that he has a tendency to repeat himself, and two, his seemingly arbitrary enlargement of the middle-class to encompass not just the working class or "working poor", but the very poor as well. However, those minor complaints notwithstanding, I think everyone should read this book - blacks, whites, liberals and conservatives. Besides the usual suspects of Wallace, Nixon and Lee Atwater I actually wanted to give this book four and a half stars. My half-star "demerit" is for two minor quibbles: one, that he has a tendency to repeat himself, and two, his seemingly arbitrary enlargement of the middle-class to encompass not just the working class or "working poor", but the very poor as well. However, those minor complaints notwithstanding, I think everyone should read this book - blacks, whites, liberals and conservatives. Besides the usual suspects of Wallace, Nixon and Lee Atwater, the book also contains criticisms of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama. He talks about everything from the John Birch Society to Occupy Wall Street, and people from Barry Goldwater, LBJ and MLK to Derrick Bell, Lani Guinier and Sonya Sotomayor. He talks about Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes. He even has a brief section on "The Wire". There are copious notes, so if there is something you don't want to take his word for, or want to learn more about, his sources are clearly delineated. Read this book. You'll learn something. I guarantee it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryn McAtee

    I sincerely hope that Lopez began rewriting this book in the middle of last year, and we'll see an updated version on the shelves by 2017 or the year after. After five decades of dog whistle politics, it's culminated in Donald Trump, who uses not a dog whistle, but a bullhorn. Reading this book three years after its publication isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things, but politically, it's been an eternity and things have mutated quite drastically. I'd really love to see Lopez's explanat I sincerely hope that Lopez began rewriting this book in the middle of last year, and we'll see an updated version on the shelves by 2017 or the year after. After five decades of dog whistle politics, it's culminated in Donald Trump, who uses not a dog whistle, but a bullhorn. Reading this book three years after its publication isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things, but politically, it's been an eternity and things have mutated quite drastically. I'd really love to see Lopez's explanation of Trump and this current election, as well as racial injustice coming to a head in the media and activist groups such as Black Lives Matter.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dancingfoolvb

    One of my top five books all time. Easy to read, yet comprehensive and detailed. Dog Whistle Politics shows how politicians on both sides use coded messages, mostly racial, to trigger habitual fear reactions, convincing the poor and middle class to give up their power to the manipulative rich in exchange for economic and political slavery. I found the information both fascinating and embarrassing. We need more truth in the world, and books like this are an essential start in that direction.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    Lopez uncloaks covert racist language in contemporary American politics. Tough reading, because of the painful realities of racism still active and hurting so many and betraying the great American promise of equality and justice for all. Particularly important for those who may be skeptical about Lopez' thesis, and for all of us needing to engage these issues and make sure every one's lives matter. Lopez uncloaks covert racist language in contemporary American politics. Tough reading, because of the painful realities of racism still active and hurting so many and betraying the great American promise of equality and justice for all. Particularly important for those who may be skeptical about Lopez' thesis, and for all of us needing to engage these issues and make sure every one's lives matter.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Masumian

    So far I've only read the introduction to this fine book, but if anyone seeks an explanation for the horrifying result of the 2016 US election, this tells the tale, or at least part of it. It's tragic that voters can get bamboozled so easily and work against their own interests without realizing it. So far I've only read the introduction to this fine book, but if anyone seeks an explanation for the horrifying result of the 2016 US election, this tells the tale, or at least part of it. It's tragic that voters can get bamboozled so easily and work against their own interests without realizing it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This is a grim but worthwhile overview of how the GOP's Southern Strategy. Given that Trump has massive support when under his tax plan middle-income taxpayers would see a savings of just two-tenths of 1 percent and the wealthiest would receive a 5 percent cut, Ian Haney Lopez's arguments are sadly on target. This is a grim but worthwhile overview of how the GOP's Southern Strategy. Given that Trump has massive support when under his tax plan middle-income taxpayers would see a savings of just two-tenths of 1 percent and the wealthiest would receive a 5 percent cut, Ian Haney Lopez's arguments are sadly on target.

  24. 5 out of 5

    KK

    This is a fascinating and important book. It took me a long time to finish, as there was hardly a sentence that I did not want to commit to memory. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in understanding and addressing the racial injustices in the US.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    The first third of the book was brilliant, but then it got a bit repetitive. It's worth reading in order to decode all the racial dog whistling. It probably could use an update now that some of the racism is just out in the open, The first third of the book was brilliant, but then it got a bit repetitive. It's worth reading in order to decode all the racial dog whistling. It probably could use an update now that some of the racism is just out in the open,

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I found this book by turns fascinating, illuminating, and infuriating. I find it’s conclusions so dispiriting that I am having trouble even writing about it, and yet if what it asserts is true it is far better it sees the light of day than if we continue to sweep it under the rug. In a nutshell this is a history of racism in politics. It’s thesis is simple; racism isn’t disappearing, it’s adapting. The author traces racism as a political tool from the period after reconstruction when the South w I found this book by turns fascinating, illuminating, and infuriating. I find it’s conclusions so dispiriting that I am having trouble even writing about it, and yet if what it asserts is true it is far better it sees the light of day than if we continue to sweep it under the rug. In a nutshell this is a history of racism in politics. It’s thesis is simple; racism isn’t disappearing, it’s adapting. The author traces racism as a political tool from the period after reconstruction when the South was able to return most blacks to a form of defacto slavery, through the overt racism of the Ku Klux Klan, and finally to the type of coded racial appeals pioneered by George Wallace and Barry Goldwater that is so intertwined with today’s discourse most don’t even view it as racism anymore. In the end the author posits a potential way to combat this form of racist appeal that he hopes will lead the way to a true post-racial society. Today’s coded racial appeals have their genesis in the actual racism of slavery certainly, but also in the backlash against newly “freed” blacks during the Reconstruction period. With the assassination of President Lincoln, any hope for an orderly integration of blacks into society at something approaching equality, was lost. President Johnson, after a briefly furious backlash against southern elites he accused of starting the war, embarked on a program of reintegration of southern states on largely the same terms they had been members prior to it. The main difference of course was that the institution of slavery had been destroyed. However, Johnson’s overly lenient terms allowed southern states to re-institute a system of defacto slavery. This included the share cropper system which forced many former slaves back into the control of their former masters. In exchange for a plot of land on which to live and grow crops these former slaves were required to pay the landowner a percentage of their yield. These terms were often so onerous that any thought of upward mobility was abandoned in an effort to simply get by. In addition to share cropping a far crueler form of defacto slavery was initiated. Convict leasing became a way to force blacks to work without wages on terms that in many ways were worse than their condition under slavery. The system was simple; blacks were arrested for minor or non existent offenses and then sentenced to excessive terms of hard labor. Their labor was leased out to private individuals with payment made to the state. This became rampant in Alabama and Mississippi, with a significant portion of the male black population forced to work against their will and without pay. We see this reflected even today with African American males incarcerated far beyond their percentage of the population. At this same time blacks were the target of violence, mainly in the South but also in the North. The Ku Klux Klan became one of most powerful political groups in the country. Their influence including a campaign of intimidation and murder kept blacks from exercising the civil rights for century. The result of this post war backlash and return to defacto slavery, was to set blacks significantly behind other segments of society in terms of upward mobility, income, and education. It was later efforts to ameliorate this condition that gave rise to the coded racial appeal that results, to this day, in a system in which whites purposely vote against their own economic interest in order not to be equated with those t hey few as inferior. Few people today remember that in his first run for Governor George Wallace was actually endorsed by the NAACP. He was, for the time, a racial moderate, unwilling to use the type of overt racism that had become the norm for politicians in his home state of Alabama. After losing this first run at that office to an opponent who had no trouble using such appeals, Wallace commented to an aide that next time he wouldn’t let anyone out-ni**er him. And he didn’t, though in a way that would have repercussions down to today. This was a time, the late 1950s, when the type of overt racism still practiced throughout the south was becoming less acceptable. Wallace discovered however, that he could still appeal to the racist sentiment in his state by playing to the fears many whites had of being equated economically, and particularly socially, with blacks whom they viewed as inferior. So he couched his racism as freedom of choice and states rights. This tactic was later picked up by Barry Goldwater in 1964 as a way to equate social welfare with aide to minorities. Whites began to view welfare, which objectively would benefit them as well, as a program to elevate blacks to an equal social status. Richard Nixon took this strategy to another level, with a purposeful campaign to appeal to Southern Democrats to join the Republican party, echoing and amplifying Goldwater’s themes. Later, Ronald Reagan expanded this to include social issues such as gun rights, abortion, and affirmation action. This strategy worked to perfection as the South is now solidly Republican. Kicking his 1980 campaign off in Philadelphia, MS, site of the murder of three civil rights workers in 1965, Reagan’s unmistakable message was that the Republican Party was the party of states rights, and of white Americans. It was at this time racists began using a tactic previously employed by Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall; the notion of a color blind society. During his campaign for civil rights Martin Luther King often expressed his hope that American would one day become a color blind society, where the content of a person’s character was more important than the color of their skin. Thurgood Marshall arguing in Brown vs Board of Education echoed the same theme advocating against the doctrine of separate but equal. Twenty years later Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan took this theme and deployed it in the cause of race coded political appeal. What King and Marshall meant by a color blind society was not only one in which skin tone was not a factor, but one in which society took steps to redress the wrongs committed as the result of institutional racism. For them economic justice was just as important (or more important), than ending the overt racism they were experiencing. Nixon and Reagan perverted this concept by conscribing it to mean discrimination solely based on skin color. The societal condition of each group was not the result of racism, but other factors and thus whites should not feel obligated to redress those wrongs. Thus affirmative action no longer meant offering a way for oppressed minorities to catch up, but as discrimination against whites. Welfare, affirmative action, voting rights all became evidence of discrimination against whites. Color blindness no longer means equal opportunity for all, but a lack of concern for structural racisim when implementing public policy. This is where we are today, where any suggestion that coded racial appeals are in fact racism is met with howls of protest from the accused who assert they are merely trying to do what’s best for country regardless of race, and in fact it is the accusers who are “playing the race card.” Republicans, and some Democrats, have perfected not only the dog whistle appeal, but at fighting back against accusations of racism. It is what spawned the Reagan Democrats of the 1980s and what spawned the Tea Party movement in 2009. So what can be done about this? The author proposes a solution, and uses the infamous Willie Horton ad deployed by George H.W. Bush in 1988 as evidence of what can work. In 1988 Republican Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush found himself trailing in the polls by 17 points to Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. Needing something to energize his dispirited followers Bush deployed the famous Willie Horton ad. In it viewers are introduced to Willie Horton of Massachusetts, a convicted murderer who was allowed to leave prison as part of a weekend furlough program. On one of these occasions he didn’t return from his furlough. Instead he robbed, assaulted a young white couple and raped the man’s fiancee. Oh and of course, Willie Horton was black. The ad played on every racial stereotype one can imagine, primarily the fear among whites of white women being sexually assaulted by a black man. It also linked being soft on crime with race, as the face invariably used when one of these types of appeals are deployed, is one of color. The ad worked beautifully at first. Overwhelming numbers of white voters did not see anything racist about it and viewed it only as evidence of Michael Dukakis’s sorry record on crime. It didn’t matter that he had not started the furlough program, or that it worked in the vast majority of cases. All people saw was a bestial black man terrorizing whites.Bush caught up in the polls. That is not the end of the story however. A backlash against the ad began to germinate, with some in the media beginning to quietly question the purpose of the ad. Eventually, Jesse Jackson called it out for what it was, publicly. This produced the usual howls of protest from Republicans that Democrats were playing the race card. But a curious thing happened, polls began showing that more and more people began seeing the ad as racist. The more it was explicitly called out the more folks that looked at it in that way. Eventually “Willie Horton” became a catch phrase for race baiting. According to the author this reaction lights the way to a solution for this problem. Rather than cower in fear of being called a racist for calling out racism, the solution is to publically and loudly decry dog whistle politics at every turn. The more it is exposed he asserts the more it will be recognized when it occurs with the result being its efficacy as a political tool will decline. This of course can lead to a whole host of positive results the primary one being whites, afraid of being classified with those the view as inferior, will no longer view blacks that way, and will stop voting against their own economic interest. Liberal government can again reassert itself with the country as a whole its beneficiary. While not lengthy this book is fairly dense, with closely packed interlocking arguments that I have not done justice too here. The author is often critical of Democratic politicians as well, especially Bill Clinton, but also ironically, Barack Obama who he felt has internalized some of the racial coding he is criticizing. He acknowledges this could be for political reasons. I find his solution a bit naive as he does not deal with the structural problems with our system in which a minority of voters, well funded and homogeneous, can effectively set the agenda. I also think he is a bit too tough on President Obama, and a bit too sanguine about the opportunity for a liberal Renaissance had the President had the courage to go through with it. Overall however, I find the book deeply depressing. It makes me ashamed to be an American in many ways as I cannot believe, 150 years after the end of slavery that we are still dealing with this crap. And I have to admit, I do not see an easy way out. Still though a very valuable book that I am glad I read!! Highly Recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    An in depth accounting of what Lopez calls 'strategic racism'. This is the use of racial appeals, not necessarily out of animosity or hatred towards specific groups, but to elicit an emotional response from the audience for strategic political ends. This has migrated from the overt racism of the Jim Crow era and Goldwater campaign to implied coded language of today against blacks, gays and Muslims to rally a white base on 'social issues'. These white audiences tend to abhor traditional racism, a An in depth accounting of what Lopez calls 'strategic racism'. This is the use of racial appeals, not necessarily out of animosity or hatred towards specific groups, but to elicit an emotional response from the audience for strategic political ends. This has migrated from the overt racism of the Jim Crow era and Goldwater campaign to implied coded language of today against blacks, gays and Muslims to rally a white base on 'social issues'. These white audiences tend to abhor traditional racism, and resent accusations from liberals that they are racist for responding to these dog whistles... which only further solidifies their opposition to these policies. Lopez calls for identifying and ending these subconscious racial appeals, improving our ability to have dialog around racial issues and to shift our focus towards what is still the greatest problem for the middle class: economic inequity. In his book, Lopez endeavors to show that dog whistle politics has hurt the very audiences these dog whistle messages are targeting. New Deal liberalism was widely supported in the country when the primary recipients were white. However when these programs were re-branded as redistribution towards undeserving blacks (even when the primary benefactors will still poor whites), support for these programs plummeted, even among groups who would be helped by them. This dog whistling is what is responsible for the increased feelings among conservative whites that whites are disadvantaged and themselves the primary victims of racial discrimination. Over time, both conservatives and Democrats have called on these subconscious tribalistic instincts to divide the electorate and win votes, and in the process have turned the dialog surrounding these programs into an emotional instead of rational one. Sixty years of this trend has hollowed out support for these programs among lower and middle class whites, as they call to gut programs designed to help them. Lopez also talks about two other ancillary problems - the repurposing of 'colorblindness' from a principle to support racial equality to a mantra to prevent any positive race-based corrective policies since it applies a racial filter to the remedy. This is perfectly summed by up Justice Robert's claim that Affirmative Action should be eliminated because 'the best way to stop discriminating based on race is to stop discriminating based on race' as if the primary source of racial inequality in this country is from Affirmative Action. The other issue Lopez discusses is result of racial sensitivity leading to an unwillingness to discuss race in a public setting for of offending liberals (through a racial insensitive statement) or conservatives (through stating or implying that their views make them into racists). This is especially a problem among white liberals, who Lopez states as being profoundly uncomfortable talking about race and so prefer to avoid the topic altogether. I enjoyed the topics in this book and thought Lopez did a good job laying out the intellectual history of dog whistle politics. However when he reaches the present era, I felt like his book got a little more muddled and repetitive. The tone shifted from a historical account towards more journalism and memoir. The speed at which I breezed through the first half was offset by the slow pace it took me to get through the second half. This book was already pretty short, so my issue was not so much with the length as much as style. With some streamlining and tighter editing I feel like this book could have shone much brighter. Of course the Trump campaign is an obvious application of his thesis, but the Trump era had not yet begun when he published this book. Trump's willingness to blow the dog whistle more publicly has put these tactics more clearly in the public view and it has been an interesting opportunity to apply Lopez's assertions in today's political climate. A few sections of the book I jotted done. p. 31 Programs labeled as “liberal progress” when helping whites, but “welfare” when helping minorities. Creates tribalism, politics of resentment. Focus on perception of groups getting more than they deserved rather than issue of wealth consolidation. p. 32. Danger of backlash narrative -> concludes we should pull back from helping non-whites (book: Chain Reaction). p. 43 3 models of racism: 1) racism as hate – common understanding, easy to spot, reprehensible. “Makes racism seem remote” and rare in the present. Preferred model by conservativism. 2) Structural racism – past mistreatment drives current inequalities. “Racism without racists” but reflects need to change society so rejected by conservatives. 3) Implicit bias – evidence, undermines #1, but risks a) suggesting race is hard wired b) suggests everyone favors own race and bias is inevitable c) there is little you can do. New: 4) strategic racism: serves as justification for actions and forms basis for racism. Not about race but pursuit of power. Green not hate as level. p. 36 Racial stratification not as social problem but as unpleasant fact of life. Racial appeals draws on this “common sense” racism. Harbor no animosity towards non whites. Coded messages are not seen as deceitful manipulations but recognition of objective problems. Outrage not at racial appeal but at labeling appeal as a dog whistle. Support positions more because see label as unfair.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    I had been meaning to read this for a long time and am so glad I did. I knew about the concept of dog-whistle politics and dog-whistle racism, but it is definitely worth reading, even if you are familiar with those concepts. The analysis, explanation, and examples bring so much more to it and there were many places where I feel it crystalized ideas or concepts that I've heard/read before, but in a really accessible and easy to re-articulate way. I definitely recommend it. I had been meaning to read this for a long time and am so glad I did. I knew about the concept of dog-whistle politics and dog-whistle racism, but it is definitely worth reading, even if you are familiar with those concepts. The analysis, explanation, and examples bring so much more to it and there were many places where I feel it crystalized ideas or concepts that I've heard/read before, but in a really accessible and easy to re-articulate way. I definitely recommend it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    To understand how racism has permeated politics for the last fifty years, even though so many politicians openly disavow it, then Haney-Lopez's book is a fantastic primer on understanding America's coded racism. He used the term, "dog whistle politics" to explain that since the 1950s and 1960s with the rise of Geroge Wallace, Richard Nixon, and William F. Buckley have purposely looked to code race by relying upon or making associations between negative imagery (Willie Horton ad), soundbites ("we To understand how racism has permeated politics for the last fifty years, even though so many politicians openly disavow it, then Haney-Lopez's book is a fantastic primer on understanding America's coded racism. He used the term, "dog whistle politics" to explain that since the 1950s and 1960s with the rise of Geroge Wallace, Richard Nixon, and William F. Buckley have purposely looked to code race by relying upon or making associations between negative imagery (Willie Horton ad), soundbites ("welfare queen"), and cultural artifacts (drugs, social services, etc) and then relying on those associations to play upon white fears in order to win votes, push for elimination of public services, or disenfranchise opportunites and rights for people of color. Haney-Lopen focuses much of his work on the Republic Party since their white supremacist strategy (or in the Republican's politically correct term, "southern strategy") have been the hallmark of efforts for over a half-century. However, he also goes after Democrats and their equally appalling efforts to marginalize people of color through attempts to be "tough on crime" (always geared towards populations association with people of color) such as Three-Strikes laws. In total, Haney-Lopez's work serves as a history and decoder for how much structural racism is woven into the modern political discourse. It's fascinating to see this book was written a few years ago but to see how much of it resonates with the politics practiced by Trump throughout the 2016 election cycle, using tactics initially introduced by Wallace and Nixon. In fact, the book does much to explain Trump as the culmination of white supremacy harnessed by the Republicans in their efforts for decades.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Yuvi S Sandhu

    I started reading this book after I finished Derrick Bell's book "Faces at the bottom of the well". Both these books were recommended to me by my philosophy professor, and at the time I really thought these two individuals made great points, but I never really agreed with them completely on their main fundamental point because I thought its was too pessimistic- I now think I just didn't was to face reality. I started this book in the last 2 months of the 2016 election and finished the day after I started reading this book after I finished Derrick Bell's book "Faces at the bottom of the well". Both these books were recommended to me by my philosophy professor, and at the time I really thought these two individuals made great points, but I never really agreed with them completely on their main fundamental point because I thought its was too pessimistic- I now think I just didn't was to face reality. I started this book in the last 2 months of the 2016 election and finished the day after the president was elected. Watching how someone could say and do so many awful things, and yet still win the presidential seat instead of the possibility of a Woman trying to continue to break that glass celling, has made it undeniable that Derrick Bell and Ian Haney Lopez are unfortunately correct in their beliefs.

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