Six Case Studies in Dog Whistle Politics

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Jesse Helms: “Hands” (1990)

In one of the most famous cases of political dog whistling, North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms campaigned against Democratic opponent Harvey Gantt’s support of affirmative action in hiring, which Helms derided as racial “quotas.” Gantt, the former mayor of Charlotte, was hoping to be the first black senator elected in a Southern state since Reconstruction. “The ostensible issue here is whether race in general should be used in allocating jobs,” Haney López wrote to BillMoyers.com, “but the clear import is that affirmative action favors minorities and discriminates against whites.”

 

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