Coded Racial Messaging in Politics

“Conservatives have been using this message about minorities not just to win votes but to engender hostility toward government.”

Ian Haney Lopez is a UC Berkeley chaired law professor and author of Dog Whistle Politics, how coded racial appeals have reinvented racism and wrecked the middle class. He says that in 1963 at a conference in Denver, the Republican party made a decision to use race as a way to attract white voters away from the Democratic Party. 1964 was the last year that a Democratic candidate for President won a majority of the white vote. Haney Lopez says that today the Republican party draws between 90 and 94% of its support from white voters. He says that coded messages are used by the party to trigger racial anxieties and to engender hostility towards government. He says that hostility toward government is then translated into a series of policies that are very good for the very rich and terrible for everybody else.

Haney Lopez says that phrases like “illegal aliens” and “decent hardworking Americans” very often carry strong racial connotations. On the surface they don’t reference race, but just underneath the surface they carry a message about race. He says these type of phrases operate like a dog whistle, not audible to the human ear, but they elicit strong reactions.


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Ian Haney Lopez will speak on Decoding the Silent Language of Politics in America at the History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway on Tuesday April 28th from 6-8pm. Local community leaders will join him-Dr. Tony Robinson, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Colorado Denver; Shadana Dickerson-Sultan, Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce; Louis Johnson, Comedian.

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