Notes and Reflections on Books and Media
by Hannah Leitheiser
Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
- Haney López, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class (2015)
The book's thesis is roughly that following World War II, overt statements of white supremacy became repugnant, however many Americans implicitly wanted to maintain the racial hierarchy. This desire could be appealed to by politicians in concern for state rights, when desegregation was enforced. Expressing the need for greater law and order in the era of civil rights marches. Concern over the fairness of government enforced hiring quotas. Worry that welfare and similar payments went to undeserving segments of society. A desire to be especially harsh on street crime and drugs. Disbelief in Obama's legitimacy as natural-born president. Fear of voter fraud. None made explicit mention to race, but their effects were to slow or stop the integration of non-whites.
The book's thesis continues in saying the wealthy and their agents have used these coded messages to entice voters to dismantle governmental checks on inequality that were widely supported following the Great Depression, and the culture of color-blindness and avoidance of racial topics keep people from addressing the racial element and effects of politics openly.
It's a hard argument to establish with certainty because it involves the implicit sensibilities of voters. The racial aspect is set forth as the best explanation for why middle class voters might favor policies that make it more difficult for their class economically. Can't say I have much of a counterargument, except perhaps to a conservative the connection between social programs and the health of the middle class will be doubtful.