Earlier this week the media world was all agog over the Virginia gubernatorial race. A Republican won. This was in character for Virginia. For decades the party out of power in DC has been the winner in the Virgina governor’s race. Yet the seers in the media spread out the tea leaves to read the deep, meta reasons for this fairly common occurrence.
“Certainly, it must be that the Democrats are in disarray in Washington” they seemed to chortle in unison. “Democrats can’t govern” they continued totally forgetting the low unemployment, the checks that helped us all through some bleak times earlier in the year, climate policy coming together and much, much more. Not a mention that every single Republican voted against every initiative that Democrats bring up. Nor a mention that McConnell continues to use the filibuster to stop any business in the senate.
The other thing that the media seemed to miss is the racial dog whistle that Republican Youngkin used as one of his pivotal issues. Critical Race Theory has become this year’s and no doubt next year’s Republican way of stoking the racial divide in this country without using the actual words that have become verboten in society.
Even though Critical Race Theory is taught nowhere in this country except a few Ivy League law schools, it has become the go-to code word for Republicans who want to turn up the racial heat. If you have never heard of this before, let’s go back to the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater who explained the concept of ‘code words’ in an anonymous interview he gave before his death. Atwater is speaking to Political Scientist Alexander P. Lamis:
Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now you don’t have to do that. All that you need to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues that he’s campaigned on since 1964, and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.
Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?
Atwater: Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*****, n*****, n*****”. By 1968 you can’t say “n*****”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*****, n*****”. So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the back-burner.
What Atwater spoke of in supposed secrecy nearly 40 years ago is still in play today. It was at the core of the Trump campaign. It gets mixed in many Republican campaigns. Blacks are not the only targets of the code word assaults. Latinos have also been targets for a long time.
Over the years the code words or code phrases have changed but the effect is the same – to remind the Republican core that if they don’t stay together then the Democrats will put minorities in charge.
Republicans are already trotting out their strategic messaging for next year. All candidates are no doubt expected to join in the assault, even old senators whose years of service should make him above such scuzzy crap. Yep, Chuck Grassley joined in the other day when he tweeted:
Welcome 2 Pres Biden’s America where 10,000 pounds of fentanyl hv been seized by Customs & Border patrol so far this fiscal yr which is enough to kill over 2 billion ppl or more than 1/4 of the world’s population
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 1, 2021
Most folks probably thought Grassley was making a statement about the drugs coming in to the country. But I tend to look at things a bit differently. The fact that 10,000 pounds of fentanyl was captured I would think would be something to be happy about for a guy like Grassley. What did he want, those drugs to get by the border? Is that what Grassley wanted? Can’t say for sure, but I hope not.
What Grassley was doing was using drugs at the border as a code against Latinos coming to our Southern border. Chuck just doing his part in the dog whistle attack. Seems like Iowa Republicans are charged with scaring up fear of Latinos as their role in the dog whistle attacks. That would explain Covid Kim’s strange deployment of IHP personnel to the border a couple of months ago. Fear, fear, fear.
When I think of Grassley’s little tweet the other day, I can’t help of Steve King’s comment about “cantaloupe calves” to describe a fictitious Latino drug mule a few years back. That one plus others made King too stinky even for Republicans. They should treat Grassley the same way.
You would think that after 42 years Grassley could grow up and act like a statesman. Nope, Chuck uses his stature to blow the dog whistle.
Oh and just as a reminder here are some of the dog whistles from years past:
- Welfare queen
- Forced busing
- Law and order
- Inner city