Six Case Studies in Dog Whistle Politics

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Ian Haney Lopez

Ian Haney López (Photo: Dale Robbins)

In his latest book, Dog Whistle Politics, Ian Haney López writes about the subtle, racially coded messages politicians use — “dog whistles” — to harness below-the-surface racial tensions to get elected and to advance policies that are often contrary to voters’ self-interest.

“Think about a term like ‘welfare queen,’ or ‘food stamp president,’” Haney López told Bill. “On one level, like a dog whistle, it’s silent. Silent about race — it seems race-neutral.” But on another level it has a shrill blast “that can be heard by certain folks … a warning about race and a warning, in particular, about threatening minorities.”

We asked Haney López, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley and a senior fellow at the research and policy center Demos, to walk us through some examples of political TV ads aired during the last three decades in which “dog whistle politics” are on display.

First up: Ronald Reagan: “Prouder, Stronger, Better” (1984) »

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