Dog-whistle politics, also known as the use of code words, is a type of political campaigning or speechmaking which employs coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted subgroup of the audience.
It’s an interesting thing, to explain dog whistles to someone that doesn’t understand what they are, that doesn’t hear them, but that’s what I did last night, while watching the news with my son. For the past year or so, we’ve watched a lot of news together, and spoken about what we were watching and what he thought about it, but last night might have been the first time that I had to tell him about some racist jackassery that he might not have heard because he’s a good son, and he wouldn’t hear it until he knew what to hear.
You see, we were watching a segment of the Rachel Maddow show, about dear Mittens and his talk at first the NAACP and then his return to his base afterward. Specifically, when he said this:
Romney response to NAACP: “Remind them of this: If they want more stuff from government, tell them to go vote for the other guy—more free stuff,” Romney reportedly said at a fundraiser in Hamilton, Montana. “But don’t forget, nothing is really free.”
And the segment, here:
I visibly sucked in a breath and he asked me why. Because what he heard and what I heard weren’t exactly the same thing and he didn’t get it until I explained what was so bad about it. Like the “Obama isn’t working” bit, and countless other instances, it’s racist lashing out, claiming that Obama, and Black people in general, ‘don’t work’ and want the government to just give them free stuff.
Now I’m White, and I’m not American, so my history, and my son’s, is different. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get it. Then again, “I” was supposed to, because, being White, that whole bit was targeted at “me” in the first place.
So now my son knows about the dog whistles. In time, he’ll come to hear them too, but it pleases me that, when he knew the undercurrent of what was being said, it pissed him off.
More on that:
Hmm. So, the far-right presidential candidate deliberately antagonized the nation’s most celebrated civil rights organization in the morning, then complained to his donors in Montana about the black voters who want “more free stuff” from the government in the evening.
I speculated yesterday that Romney may have provoked the booing on purpose. Soon after, he told Fox’s Neil Cavuto he “expected” the negative reaction, and soon after that, Romney was using the incident to deliver a cheap line at an exclusive fundraiser.
As someone who’s read the transcript of nearly every Romney speech for a year, I should note in fairness that he’s used the “free stuff” line before. But in this case, this realization isn’t especially helpful to his defense.
A few months ago, for example, the GOP presidential hopeful responded to questions about contraception access by saying, “If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy.” Soon after, Romney complained that Obama is trying to buy students’ political support by offering them “free stuff.”
There is a pattern to this. If you’re a woman who wants access to preventive care you might not otherwise be able to afford, Romney sees you as wanting “free stuff.” If you’re a young student who can’t afford higher-ed tuition, Romney assumes you expect “free stuff.”
And if you’re an African American supporter of the NAACP who wants your family to have access to affordable health care, Romney suspects you’re just looking for “free stuff.”
• “If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him,” Romney said. When the crowd booed and hissed at him, Romney said, “You take a look.”
• Booing Romney: In fact, this was entirely predictable — the far-right Republican presidential candidate spoke to the NAACP and effectively proclaimed, “Vote for me and I’ll make sure 7 million African Americans lose their health insurance.” What kind of campaign pitch is that? For crying out loud, of course Romney got booed. At the risk of being overly cynical, I can’t help but wonder if Romney did this on purpose precisely so he would be booed.
• Romney Booed at NAACP Convention. If he came to play a part for his base that shows some black people treating Romney in ways that might be deemed impolite, the ruse then worked like a charm. He was greeted with boos when he pledged to repeal “Obamacare” and was heckled at another point in the speech when he criticized Obama.
• “I spoke with a number of African-American leaders after the event and they said, you know, a lot of folks do not want to say they will not vote for President Obama but they are disappointed in his lack of policies to improve the schools,” Romney told Fox after his speech to the NAACP national convention Wednesday.
• NAACP Reacts To Mitt Romney: ‘Patronizing,’ ‘Totally Disconnected,’ ‘A Serious Misjudgment’. He was cordially received by the audience, who greeted him with a standing ovation, but the tone changed quickly after the GOP presidential candidate began his remarks.
• Mitt Romney says he has secret black supporters. Imagine how shocked he’ll be to discover that Barack Obama has openly white supporters. Mitt, Dude, saying that black people don’t have any courage ain’t exactly gonna load up the Romney Soul Train.
• Let’s be clear: Going to the NAACP and sneering derisively at “Obamacare” was an act of disrespect. Romney actually had the gall to tell the nation’s oldest civil rights group, which has fought for a century to expand voting rights for African-Americans, that he’d be a better president for African-Americans than Obama, whose Justice Department, under Holder, is fighting the new wave of voter restrictions that are rightly compared to a poll tax.
• According to NAACP official Hilary Shelton, Mitt Romney tried to rig the crowd at the convention by flying in his own non-member African Americans to cheer for him. Romney did not meet with any of the convention rank and file after his speech, and only met with the African-Americans that he planted in the crowd. On numerous occasions during the Republican primary the Romney campaign bused in Mormon college students to fill out the candidate’s crowds.
• House Republicans are set to vote down President Obama’s healthcare law for the thirty-third time, although it is the first repeal vote since the Supreme Court upheld most of the law as constitutional. The GOP’s constant reiteration of its opposition to the president’s largest domestic achievement has reduced legislating to message discipline. …By stoking another healthcare debate, even for a failed vote after a court loss, they are distracting people from the relentless GOP obstruction on economic recovery. And if there’s no jobs plan, of course, it’s easier for their nominee to keep asking where the jobs are.
• Obama takes executive action to ensure that part time firefighters get access to same health insurance opportunities as full-timers. Colorado’s four Republican members of Congress have thus far made no statement on the record about this executive action.
• Immediately after the Republicans spent their 89th hour trying to take away health coverage from middle class Americans by voting to repeal Obamacare, the GOP turned their attention to a topic perhaps less consequential to their constituents: Golf.
• There’s some good news coming from House Republicans: children in America no longer have to fret about dying due to lack of health care. We’re going to starve them to death. No need for health care then, eh?
• In just the first half of 2012, states have enacted 95 new provisions related to reproductive health and rights, including 39 new laws restricting women’s access to abortion services.
• The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on Wednesday continued to block a law that would shutter the state’s only abortion clinic. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III issued a restraining order shortly after the law went into effect on July 1, effectively saving the Jackson Women’s Health Organization from being shut down. After a hearing on Wednesday, Jordan continued to block the law from being implemented.
• EXCLUSIVE: DoD Report Reveals Some Detainees Interrogated While Drugged, Others “Chemically Restrained”.
• Fast and Furious: In the two complaints filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the group claims that Issa “violated federal law by including material from a sealed wiretap application in the Congressional Record.”
• Ever since the popular painkiller pill OxyContin became harder to crush into powder two years ago, many US drug abusers have turned to heroin instead, researchers said Wednesday. The formula change did not appear to stop people from snorting or shooting up, but rather caused them to switch to a dangerous street drug that mimics the same high. [And who benefits from THAT switch?]
• A ricin scare at Fort Bragg put military and Fayetteville haz-mat crews on high alert after reports emerged of someone having the poisonous substance on post.
• Yesterday on Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney’s radio show, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) appeared to endorse Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) paranoid quest to root out the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged infiltration of the U.S. government.
• Romney’s ownership of various Bain and Bain related assets shown in two SEC filings from July 2000 and February 2001 in which Romney lists his “principal occupation” as “Managing Director of Bain Capital, Inc.”
• Scranton, PA, must “pay employees full wages”, according to a Lackawanna County judge. Scranton’s mayor had imposed minimum wage on all employees, but unions challenged that action. Update: “Scranton ignores judge’s ruling, cuts worker pay to minimum wage”. Unions have filed for contempt hearing.
• Florida Officials Reverse Course, Prepare To Release Secret List Of 180,000 Potentially Ineligible Voters. Florida elections officials have belatedly decided to release a followup list of 180,000 voters whose voting eligibility is being questioned by the state. Because it is not being sent to county election officials, no voters on the list face being removed from the rolls at this time.
• “If you are attacking capitalism, then I suppose that we are supporting socialism.” – During an appearance on MSNBC Wednesday morning, Carlos Gutierrez, a Romney senior adviser and Honorary Co-Chair of his National Hispanic Steering Committee, said that questioning the GOP presidential candidate’s reluctance to turn over his tax returns and come clean about his investments in foreign countries amounts to “socialism.”
• What was once “Even Senate Democrats don’t support Obama’s plan!”[to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone's first $250,000 in income] is now “Senate Republicans are blocking middle income tax cuts unless top earners get theirs too.”
• Romney Covers Up ‘Snob Productions’ Logo At Colorado Event. The company, Snob Productions, has handled lighting and sound for various political candidates, including President Obama in 2008. But Romney’s campaign was apparently concerned the name would feed into Democratic attacks on the candidate’s wealth in an embarrassing way.
• “I know you are, but what am I” – The RNC campaign has said that money from the Recovery Act was given to companies who ultimately sent those jobs overseas, but a New York Times report shows the Republicans are spinning their wheels and not telling the truth at all.
• The war crimes trial of ex-Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic adjourned Thursday after he was taken to the hospital because he was ill, the court said.
• In an apparent flip-flop, Palestinian investigators looking into Yasser Arafat’s death said Thursday they want to review reports from a Swiss lab before deciding whether to exhume the leader’s remains.
• Suha Arafat, widow of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, intends to sue the French government, demanding an investigation into his 2004 death, her lawyer says.