Republican Racism is an Air Raid Siren, Not a Dog Whistle
Republican candidates are overtly signaling that whiteness and American identity are intertwined.
January 19, 2012
On his MSNBC show Hardball, Chris Matthews called out Newt Gingrich and other Republicans for what he described as their "dog whistle" appeals to white racism during the South Carolina debate on Monday night.
He was correct in identifying the work that racism does for the Tea Party GOP and its candidates in their efforts to win over white conservative voters. However, Chris Matthews was too generous and kind. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and other Republican candidates are not engaging in subtle dog whistles to their faithful, where racism and white racial anxiety hides in the background, masked and hidden by other language.
Definitions matter: dog whistle politics are based on a signal or cue to the in-group, and one so subtle that those not in the know will overlook it as no more than quixotic background noise, a blip, a comment without context or meaning.
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In all, the Tea Party GOP's campaign for the presidency rests upon marshaling white anger and rage at The Usurper, a perpetual Other, and one not fit for the presidency by virtue of his birth and skin color--he who we know as President Barack Obama. If Birtherism is not based on this calculation, on what else does it rest?