Racist dog-whistles

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As usual, Digby says it better than I can:

Here's a piece of McCain campaign manager Rick Davis's press release from last week:

Barack Obama is the biggest celebrity in the world, comparable to Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. As he told Congressional Democrats yesterday, he has become the "symbol" for the world's aspirations for America and that we are now at "the moment ... that the world is waiting for."

Only a celebrity of Barack Obama's magnitude could attract 200,000 fans in Berlin who gathered for the mere opportunity to be in his presence. These are not supporters or even voters, but fans fawning over The One. Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day, demand "MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew -- Black Forest Berry Honest Tea" and worry about the price of arugula.

Yet, despite all of the fans, paparazzi and media adoration, the American people still have questions: Is Barack Obama prepared to lead?

This press release is, of course, supporting a McCain attack ad depicting Obama as a massive celebrity and associating him with the likes of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. As wingnut attacks go, though, this press release swings for the fences. Not only does it hit on many of the classic effete, liberal-elitist themes -- love from the Euros (200,000 in Berlin); fussy, non-manly eating habits (organic tea and arugula); and obsession with appearance (trips to the gym) -- it manages to throw in a couple of good-ol' racist GOP dog-whistle tactics.

Now, what do I mean by GOP racist dog-whistle tactics?

Racist dog-whistles are coded words or phrases that the GOP uses to speak to its racist base. (Yes, there is a racist base to the GOP. Let's not hurt ourselves trying to deny it.) This is nothing new -- it's been going on for years, since Nixon implemented his "Southern Strategy." It's not ok for GOP candidates to be openly, vulgarly racist, so they speak in code -- dog-whistles -- to their base. I say "dog-whistles" because the racist base hears them in a way that others don't.

It's what Nixon was doing when he talked about "law and order." Or Reagan when he talked about "welfare moms." Or Bush the Smarter's Willie Horton ad, or Jesse Helms' "Hands" ad. Or when Bush the Dumber gave campaign speeches at Bob Jones University, where interracial dating was (until recently) forbidden. Or when anyone mentions "illegal immigrants."

Consider: When Reagan launched his campaign for president in 1980, he did so in Philadephia, Mississippi. Why did he choose this little backwater Southern town when he could have chosen anyplace in the nation? Was it for its folksy charm, it's small-town simplicity?

No. Reagan chose Philadelphia, Miss. to launch his campaign because that's where those three civil rights workers were brutally murdered during the Freedom Summer. That's a racist dog-whistle.

And when a McCain ad mentions Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, or when Karl Rove constructs an image of Obama as the smooth guy at the country club mixer with the beautiful date -- it's a racist dog-whistle. Why? Because Obama is being associated with promiscuous young white women, which, of course, is one of the scariest things a racist can imagine. The ad even throws in the tried-and-true "uppity Negro" meme (Obama is adored by the masses).

Here's David Gergen calling out the coded racist speech. Good on yer, David.


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The logical absurdity of racism and race! People forget that Obama has Irish ancestry through his mother(O'Bama?). That makes him Irish-American, doesn't it? In addition to being African -American.