Is it a "dog whistle" when White people do it?

I know dog whistle politics. We’ve watched the GOP hone it to a science, that’s no longer a “dog whistle”, but rather an air raid siren when they use their code words to signal the religious right, racists and money people. We know this.

Yet, it’s very rare that you hear people refer to it as such. Sure, the liberal blogosphere can recognize the dog whistle to the religious right, but on other such things they tend to be tone deaf and willfully at that. That was why it was laughable to me to log on to MyDD and see the title Obama’s Dog Whistle Politics? and see people having a Serious Discussion about this. To recap my post from yesterday, Jesse Jackson Jr., national co-chair of the Obama presidential campaign said this:

(transcript from TPM)
We saw something very clever in the last week of this campaign coming out of Iowa, going into New Hampshire, we saw a sensitivity factor. Something that Mrs. Clinton has not been able to do with voters that she tried in New Hampshire.

Not in response to voters — not in response to Katrina, not in response to other issues that have devastated the American people, the war in Iraq, we saw tears in response to her appearance. So her appearance brought her to tears, but not hurricane Katrina.

Were supposed to be worried that the Obama campaign my engaging Black people. As I said in my post yesterday:

IMO, no matter what Jackson Jr. said, it would be called a “dog whistle” by someone in the blogosphere simply because he is a Black man defending another a Black man. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see people (especially in the liberal blogosphere) hollering for Obama to distance himself from the remarks for various reasons I’m going to be too nice to mention.

The reason I say this is that I’ve been searching for a post called Clinton’s Dog Whistle Politics? in the liberal blogosphere and I’m just not finding it. I most certainly haven’t found it on MyDD. Why should I expect it? Well, as we’ve seen these last 4 months, especially in the last 3 weeks, from the Clinton campaign, they are most certainly not above their own brand of dog whistle politics.

UPDATE 01.07.08: I logged on to BooMan Tribune this morning and coincidentally enough, there just happens to be a post titledTeam Clinton’s Anti-Black Dog Whistle.

I’m not even going to touch Sen. Joe Biden’s “he’s articulate and clean” line, instead I’ll go with Bill Shaheen said about a month ago:

“It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?’ ” Shaheen told the Post. “There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome.”

Did you sell them to anyone? Maybe it’s just me, because I certainly don’t remember anyone, let alone anyone advising a presidential campaign, asking that of our self-admitted cokehead president. Do you? Nah…why? Because apparently in Shaheen’s world, only Black people sell drugs. When was the last time? From what I understand, Sen. Obama addressed his drug use in his books and it seems it’s been a long time since he last did drugs. Meanwhile, judging from our current president’s actions and behaviors, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did a line before boarding Air Force One the other day. But I’m wondering if Shaheen had these same concerns in Bush’s run in 2000 and 2004. A quick Google search shows he didn’t.

Is that dog whistle politics?

Sen. Bob Kerrey managed to bizarrely bring up Sen. Obama’s middle name in an interview. I saw bizarrely as I can’t think of one situation where a politician’s middle name has been so abused. Not only that, but Kerrey repeated a debunked lie created by the Clinton campaign Kerrey said:

[That] he liked “the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim.” Later, in explaining his remarks, Kerrey threw another jab by saying he wasn’t troubled by the fact that Obama “spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa.”

Kerrey, clearly decided to go for the xenophobic, I-Hate-Muslims group with this one. Anyone with more than two brain cells knows that Hussein isn’t necessarily a name of a Muslim. The reason I added the clip is that not only was CNN debunk the “secular madrassa” smear, but when Kerrey spoke in this interview, he got into the “he’s so articulate” zone. So that was a three-fer.

Is that dog whistle politics?

Two days after Kerrey made his remarks, Mark Penn, the Clinton campaign strategist dropped in another drug reference on Hardball:

Chris Matthews: These comments that are coming out of your campaign from different directions — and I’m not sure how they’re coming, nobody does — but going after his perhaps youthful drug use, which he admitted in his book, and going after comments he made as a kindergarten student, at the age of 5 … do you think those are appropriate shots at the opponent or are they below the belt?

Penn: Well, I think we’ve made clear that the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising … I think that’s been made clear. I think this kindergarten thing was a joke after Senator —

Joe Trippi: He just did it again! He just did it again!

Penn: This kindergarten thing after what the senator did …

Trippi: Unbelievable … He just literally —

Penn: Excuse me.

Trippi: No, no, no, Mark, excuse me. This guy’s been filibustering this thing. He just said “cocaine” again. It’s like —

Penn: I think you’re saying “cocaine,” I don’t know. I think you’re saying it.

Trippi: You just did, and I think there’s something wrong …

Is that dog whistle politics?

Then Pres. Bill Clinton got into the act, repeatedly calling Obama “kid” last week, despite the fact that the Senator is the same exact age Bill Clinton was when he first ran for president. The intonation and mere dismissal of the Senator’s campaign when Bill Clinton derisively said “This is the biggest fairytale I’ve ever seen.” riled up Black America. That kind of coded racism, doesn’t belong in our political discourse and surely shouldn’t be coming from a former president. At least not in public. And most definitely not from a Democrat.

Is that dog whistle politics?

And today, we have Andrew Cuomo who has given us “shuck and jive” while speaking about Clinton’s win over Obama in NH.

”It’s not a TV crazed race. Frankly you can’t buy your way into it,” Cuomo said. “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference,” he added. “All those moves you can make with the press don’t work when you’re in someone’s living room.”

Fine. Let’s take his staff’s statment at face value that isn’t isn’t about Obama, but about Clinton. But then Politico talked to Cuomo after these remarks:

“Barack Obama is a beautiful symbol. He’s a powerful speaker. He’s a charismatic figure. And what he has to say is important for the Democrats,” Cuomo says in the interview, with the New York Post’s Fred Dicker.

“It was never about Obama in the first place,” Cuomo told me of the use of the phrase, which he said he was using “as a synonym for ‘bob and weave.'”

Is that dog whistle politics?

We got a drug dealing reference.
We got a Muslim reference* along with a “he’s so articulate” smear.
We got a “boy” reference.
We got “shuck and jive” and “a beautiful symbol”.

As Black people in this country, we’ve grown up with these smears and denigrations. We’ve had to deal with being insulted because there are way too many White people who think that all Black people use and/or sell drugs. There are way too many White people who think that Black people are children. There are way too many White people who think “you’re so articulate” is a compliment. And Lord knows that I’ve been used a symbol by White people who think that having this articulate Black woman on board means that they aren’t racist, meanwhile dismissing my contributions or suggestions and taking full credit when they get implemented and work.

Let’s put it this way…when you got Donna Brazile offended, you crossed a line:

BLITZER: Were you surprised to hear the former President going at it like that?

DONNA BRAZILE: I can understand his frustration at this moment, but, look, he shouldn’t take out all his pain on Barack Obama. It’s time that they regroup, figure out what Hillary needs to do to get her campaign back on track. It sounds like sour grapes coming from the former Commander-in-Chief, someone that many Democrats hold in high esteem. For him to go after Obama using “fairy tale,” calling him a “kid,” as he did last week, it’s an insult. And I tell you, as an African-American, I find his words and his tone to be very depressing.

BLITZER: You know, as I said earlier, you have campaign staffers who are supposed to do that kind of talking, whether a Terry McAuliffe or any of the other top people in the campaign, but for the former President to be doing that, it does underscore a certain frustration.

BLITZER: But tell me why, as an African-American, Donna, you feel that the President’s comments weren’t appropriate?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, if Bill Bennett had said some of the things Bill Clinton is saying about Barack Obama, I would have called Bill Bennett out of his name and said that Bill Bennett should shut his mouth because he is not speaking in the right tone. I think his tone, I think calling Barack Obama a “kid,” he’s a United States Senator, he’s experienced, the people of Illinois elected him, and regardless of what kind of items on his resume, this is a man who has worked all his life. He has proven, he’s been a college professor, I don’t have to give Barack Obama a resume, I’m not for anyone at this point. But I think, for Bill Clinton to go out of his way to become a distraction to Hillary Clinton, and to launch the kind of attacks on Obama is just out of character for Bill Clinton. I think it’s time that he helps Hillary talk about her message and not go down this road.

She’s right, of course, but to hear the small portion of the liberal blogosphere that’s actually talking about it tell it, none of this is a big deal and it’s all being blown out of proportion. Here we have White people saying these things that are code words. Yet, I don’t see a post on any liberal blog asking about the Clinton’s dog whistle politics. Instead a quick look through the liberal blogosphere has many people excusing all the above statements. They say, “Well, I didn’t know it was racist.” or “I don’t know why it’s a smear.” I’ve been emailed and told that I’m being overly sensitive or that I’m racist.

As rikyrah over at Jack and Jill Politics said:

I’ll keep on repeating this:

When ‘Isolated Incidents’ cease being ISOLATED & INCIDENTAL

They form a PATTERN.

Accept what the PATTERN tells you.


So tell me liberal bloggers…Is any of this dog whistle politics?

Or is it different when a white liberal does it?

*As a Muslim, I’m totallly offended that these liberals think it’s acceptable to use my religion as a smear.


3 thoughts on “Is it a "dog whistle" when White people do it?

  1. Talks like a racist, walks like a racist, quacks like a racist– the Clintons are engaging in smear politics worse than anything Nixon could have dreamt up. I had been a Clintonite supporter, now I despise the Clintons with such a passion– we need to destroy the Hillary campaign, with all the ruthlessness we can muster.

    It’s easy to see what the Clintons are doing here– from the drug dealing and madrassa references, to Hillary’s slamming of Martin Luther King, to the Muslim smears, to the probable vote-tampering in New Hampshire for Hillary (Obama wins the exit polls, wins on the traceable paper ballots but the hackable Diebold ballots show the opposite? WTF?), to Bill Clinton’s openly racist insults against Obama as a kid, to Andrew Cuomo’s invocation of KKK terminology against Obama.

    It’s not hard to connect the dots together and see how deliberate this is. The dog whistle in this case is blowing so loudly and blatantly, even a deaf person could hear it– the Clintons playing racial politics of the most reprehensible kind. I’m so sick of it, I don’t care if they’re nominated, I’m not voting for them. I’ll even support the Republican candidate instead. And I’m hardly the only one to register this disgust.

    The danger is that this could erupt into something even worse. With the 9/11 imagemongering, the likely electoral fraud in New Hampshire, and now the open racism campaign against Obama by the Clintons, Black communities across the country are losing all trust in a system that is clearly stacked against us, even when we have a figure as strong as appealing as Barack Obama, against power-drunk corporate sycophant egomaniacs like the Clintons. If the Democrats go the full fraud route and nominate Hillary, like one of my friends said, the streets will spill out and fire and smoke will be consuming the cities. It’ll be rioting and rage much worse than anything we’ve seen in decades– when the democratic system is clearly rigged against you, it seems for people, then you run out of other outlets to express your anger!


  2. I don’t know about rioting, but I do find it that even as I defending Clinton just weeks ago, these racist antics of her campaign have pushed me closer and closer to supporting Obama.


  3. For two years I am working on a book about the Fire-Eaters, the venomous folks that used written words to help start the American Civil War during the 1840’s on… I ran across info on a George Fitzhugh who said this “the Negro is but a grown up child”, and sounds like some of you are familiar with this rhetoric. Interestingly while I found photos of Mr. Fitzhugh, he was a carbon copy of the now ex-Senator George Allen from Virginia. Maybe infinite justice is for all and is a reality, and God/nature takes care of these pigs in due time, and this clear racist from a past life, is paying his dues, with the macaca mess, for all the racism he promoted in his past life. He wrote “Cannibals All,” a horrible book, and “Sociology of the South,” look them up, fascinating. I also found a match for O’Reilly, James Henry Hammond, and he looks just like Mr. Luffa himself. And was caught molesting his nieces. Hahahahahaha. This research I am doing is phenomenal. The photo and info is at


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