Dog whistle politics is so yesterday

In his latest attempts to try and derail the Donald Trump juggernaut that is trampling all over his own candidacy, Jeb Bush accuses Trump of using “dog whistle politics” to gain popularity with his call to ban all Muslims from entering the country, saying:

“Americans are scared. Republicans and Democrats alike are very scared with the situation we have now, but to make his proposals out there just to basically — these are dog whistle proposals to prey on people’s fears and consume the news. It’s not a serious campaign.”

Jeb Bush seems to be as clueless about language subtleties as his much-ridiculed older brother. ‘Dog whistle politics’ is when you use coded language for unsavory ideas so that your target audience understands what you mean but you can maintain plausible deniability that you were not appealing to their worst instincts. By now, most of us know the codes: ‘urban’ means black, ‘welfare cheaters’ means black, ‘moochers and looters’ means black, ‘terrorist’ means Muslim, ‘Judeo-Christian’ means Christian, ‘family values’ means anti-LGBT, anti-choice, anti-women, and so on.

In fact, ‘dog whistle politics’ is exactly what Bush and the Republicans have been using all these years to whip up their supporters into a foam-flecked frenzy. What Trump has done is dispense with the dog whistle as unnecessary. Why bother to use a dog whistle when you can now say openly what you mean and still retain your supporters? In fact, you can increase your support among those who are too dense to interpret the code and among those who like having their prejudices expressed openly.

NPR had a segment this morning about a focus group of Trump supporters and their reaction to Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering. His support seems to have increased with this group. It seems that his supporters are unfazed even if you point them to strong criticisms of Trump about the negative effects of his comments.

Watch Susan DeLemus, a New Hampshire state representative giving a wild-eyed statement of why she supports Trump. Her intensity is quite scary.

As I said before, it looks like in this election cycle, everything is good news for Donald Trump.


  1. says

    As the saying goes, “A drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.” Dog whistle politics are the sober man who harbours ugly ideas, and Chump is drunk on the power of termporary popularity. Bush, Cruz and the others aren’t so much bothered about Chump’s anti-immigrant tirades as envious that they didn’t or couldn’t have said it first.

    The idea of Cheney criticizing Chump would be laughable were it not so disgusting. He was part of an administration that sought to convict and execute people based on torture and secret trials. Six out of every seven held at Guantanamo have been released without charge, potentially six hundred innocent people that might have been murdered.

  2. lorn says

    Imagine that since 1980 you have had to speak about ‘urban’ , ‘welfare cheaters’ , ‘moochers and looters’ when you really just want to scream nigger, nigger, nigger. Trump isn’t quite there yet but he is clearly moving in that direction. He speaks in relatively unvarnished language about things that were only spoken of in code.

    After thirty-five years of disguising their actual thoughts these people just want to, in the language of hippies, let their freak-flag fly.

    I think of it being, in the main, healthy. Left under cover the feelings fester, inflame, turn rancid, and threaten to poison the body politic. Boils are better off lanced, drained, cleaned out and exposed to fresh air and light. The lancing of boils is scary to contemplate and it is usually momentarily painful, messy and gross. What comes out is ugly.

    Once lanced and cleaned out the healing can begin.

  3. says

    It seems that his supporters are unfazed even if you point them to strong criticisms of Trump about the negative effects of his comments.

    That matches Altemeyer’s research on authoritarianism. It appears that authoritarian followers double down on their beliefs when challenged. It sounds like a bit of sunk cost fallacy combined with studies that show it’s easier for people to get an idea than it is to give it up. “Whadda ya mean ‘change my mind’?? I went to a lot of trouble getting this shiny opinion from Fox News, and now you’re telling me I need to question it?!”

  4. Nick Gotts says

    That’s an extremely dubious analogy. Trump is in fact the end product of a process of escalation in the hateful and violent rhetoric of the American right*, which could be regarded, in your analogy, as the “lancing of the boil”, but this has led not to healing, but to a spread of infection and worsening fever. Increasingly bizarre conspiracy claims and degrading language have become normalized by constant repetition from Limbaugh, Robertson, O’Reilly, Beck and the whole Fox crew of professional liars. People hear this crud, and it affects the way they think, as well as the things they themselves say -- why do you think so much of it is put out there otherwise? Since Obama came in, it’s become increasingly advantageous for Republican professional politicians to join the chorus of far-right ignorance, bigotry and conspiracy-mongering if they want to keep their seats. But a bigot can always be outshouted by a more uninhibited bigot, so once a contest in bigotry is set going, the biggest mouth usually wins.

    *Yes, there’s been some from the liberal/progressive/left side, but “both sides do it” here equates a mountain to a molehill.

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