Do you hear that? If you’re having any trouble, cup your hands behind your ear and try again. Now do you hear it? Yep, me too. Racial Dog Whistling of campaign 2012 has been on Too Short mode for over a week now and show no sign of abating. Why? Since last Tuesday the race has ever so slightly tipped back towards Barack Obama and certain people in America are getting scared.
For the uninitiated or the deaf, “Dog Whistling” is the term used to describe coded language that politicians use to say one thing publicly, usually something banal and appropriate, and say something else to their base that wouldn’t go over so well if state explicitly in public. The metaphor works because just like a real dog whistle, when you blow it, only your dogs can hear what you’re saying and no one else has a clue. It used to be that you’d have to be Krypto for anyone other than the target audience to hear the whistle. Most White Americans didn’t consciously pick up that Clinton was appealing to the Bubba vote by attacking Sister Soulja back in 1992. But ever since Obama first ran for president in 2008 and certainly in election 2012 we’ve all developed super hearing.
The whistling got out of control last week after the final presidential debate when a slew of polls started coming out showing that the race was tipping back in Obama’s favor. State numbers are showing that Obama is holding a lead for winning the electoral college and after almost 10 days of Romney leading in national polls the race moved back into a virtual tie. Suddenly it became frighteningly clear “The Black GUY might win AGAIN!” and the whistling started.
Dog Whistle Politics, just like the Bradley Effect, are essentially worthless in the Obama era of national campaign politics. Why? Anyone who is going to have any part of their lizard brain affected by racial dog whistling left Team Obama a long time ago. There were never many undecided voters in this campaign to begin with, only weak partisans, and weak partisans would already have been peeled off of Obama for racial reasons to begin with. It’s not like there’s anyone in America who was planning on voting for Barack last week and suddenly upon hearing that America is more ‘racist’ decided OH MY GOODNESS I ALMOST did it AGAIN?! Obama’s presidency is a fact, if you like what he’s done or you don’t your racial politics are already baked into the pie and if anything Obama over-performed with White voters in 2008 (he won 42% of the white vote, more than any other Democrat since Kennedy). The scary undercurrent for many of these Dixie Whistlers is that Obama might win re-election with less than 40% of the White American vote. That would mean that for the first time in American history White political hegemony for the highest office in the land is no longer an absolute. Another key aspect of white political identity would be in the trashbin of history (along with the presidency always being a white guy, the country becoming majority minority and openly gay men getting their own prime time sitcoms).
With the Hurricane this week the sound of rain splashing against the shore may drown out the whistles. However if the storm starts helping Obama out (and usually events like this help the incumbent) we’ll hear more. It’s just important to point out that for the first time in history that everyone in American has developed political super hearing.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.