Political Dog-whistles Don’t Have An Off-Switch For The Dog-whistle Part

by John Holbo on December 2, 2012

Jonah Goldberg : “If the GOP wants to win more black votes, it will need to get a lot more ‘racist.’” Yes, if there’s one thing black voters are waiting for, that might bring them back into the warm embrace of the GOP, it’s the enticing prospect of attending an endless pity party with a ‘liberals – and blacks! – have wrongly accused the GOP of racism’ theme. (Because, after all, the Davis-Bacon Act was totally racist!) But Charles Murray gave Goldberg a run for his money, in the anti-Dale Carnegie sweepstakes, with his hypothesis that the reason Asians don’t flock to the Republican Party is that, as a group, they have a ‘ludicrously inaccurate’ view of … well, of political reality.

Goldberg and Murray – and others I could mention – are casting about for a way for the GOP to win over minorities without saying ‘sorry’. Indeed, they are looking for a way to win over minorities while saying ‘you’re welcome!’ in an aggrieved, long-suffering sort of way (this white man’s burden hasn’t been lifting itself, y’know!)

Let’s take it back to Lee Atwater, since the audio of his most famous interview was recently unearthed, in full. We’ve all read this bit, because it gets quoted a lot:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Listening to the full audio, it’s striking the degree to which Atwater clearly thinks he is showing how the race problem is going, going, gone. He thinks the fact that ‘we want to cut this’ is highly abstract, and ‘blacks get hurt more than whites’ is only a by-product, is enough to establish that the race stuff has really been left behind in favor of color-blind economic self-interest. The idea seems to be that you can scrub racism with a compound of plausible deniability and the doctrine of double-effect. Or it’s an exhausted initial booster stage for the rocket of free market economics. Or some such immaculate conception.

But even if whites at some point, in their sincerest hearts of hearts, want ‘we want to cut this’ to not serve any longer as an in-group/out-group marker (to use the nicest possible term for it) because 1) they have sincerely become less racist and 2) it hurts them at the ballot box, it’s totally unreasonable to expect that out-group members will stop hearing this as dog-whistle ethnocentric signaling, at precisely the convenient moment when it no longer serves the interests of white folks to have it be heard that way. The dog-whistle part doesn’t have an off-switch, so if ‘we want to cut this’ is a dog-whistle, you can’t proposing cutting without dog-whistling.

Be it noted: dog-whistle isn’t a good term for it, although this is the term people tend to use in these cases. There are cases of real dog whistles in politics. I remember reading something about certain turns of phrase Bush used in a speech that were, plausibly, intended to be picked up on by evangelicals, who would associate them with scriptural passages, and with certain interpretations of those passages. All that went over my liberal head. A dog whistle, then. Mostly the stuff I’m talking about – the Lee Atwater stuff – is more like impolite fictions. ‘I know what I mean by ‘let’s cut this’, and you know what I mean, and I know that you know what I mean,’ and so forth. Unstated but mutually recognized in-group/out-group stuff. It actually wouldn’t work if it wasn’t recognized by both sides, because it’s no fun keeping the out-group down if they don’t know you are keeping them down. ‘Dog-whistles’ is the term that gets used for this stuff, however, and the likes of Atwater really do seem to think it works that way: if whites stop intending to message each other in this way, and stop wanting to hear it that way, themselves, no one else will hear it that way, either.

Which is empirically unrealistic. If you have earned people’s distrust, by not saying what you mean, you have extra work to do, convincing people you mean only what you say. If white people have found tribalism an attractive value, for so long, why shouldn’t non-whites find white tribalism to be off-putting, to a comparable degree?

Let’s turn back to the Goldberg piece. I can almost feel sorry for the guy.

And, because Rice is a black woman, well, bla, bla, bla. Racism! Sexism!

Never mind that Republicans haven’t had a white secretary of state since Lawrence Eagleburger concluded his term two decades ago. Never mind that Republicans appointed the first black secretary of state ever (Colin Powell) and the first black female secretary of state ever (Condoleezza Rice, arguably the star of the GOP convention in August). Also, never mind that Rice’s handling of Benghazi — and several other matters — can quite defensibly be dubbed incompetent.

Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that Rice’s handling of Benghazi was plausibly incompetent (I don’t buy it, but suppose.) Problem is: if you have a history of saying abstract things, signaling something else, you have painted yourself into a rhetorical corner when it comes to saying abstractly negative things about Susan Rice and not having black people suspect you are really saying something else. It’s also obvious why Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, etc. do not remove the suspicion that you are trying to paper over your race problem without addressing it.

It might seem unfair that you can’t just be taken at your word, that you get accused of tokenism when you hope appointments of prominent blacks will betoken your good intentions. But, if you don’t like it, build a time machine, go back in time and kill Lee Atwater as a child or something. It’s a bit like whites who complain about the unfairness of being unable to say the n-word – even though every black rapper can! It’s not exactly mysterious how and why this admittedly superficially unfair state of affairs arose, so it’s a bit hard to see who you could complain against, unless it is your own ancestors. (And it’s not as though centuries of chattel slavery, and the lingering effects of all that, have been easy on blacks. So times are tough all over.)

It’s tempting to respond to Murray’s piece by saying, as Dave Weigel does: “Murray treats whites as the logic-based control group, and asks why non-whites don’t approach the vote quite as logically.” Indeed, it’s tempting to go further. Asians are, as Murray says, “conspicuously entrepreneurial, industrious, family-oriented, and self-reliant.” So now we can see the degree to which all that leads to Republicanism, when it is separated off from white ethnocentrism. Conclusion: not so much. “If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define ‘natural.’” Ergo, Republicanism does not have a natural constituency – except insofar as it is a regional ethnocentric party. But, to be fair, it’s reasonable to suppose that if there were a party exactly like the Republican Party, but without all the race baggage – if it were just the party of ‘let’s cut this’ – it would win more minority votes. But how many white votes would it have to lose, to do that?

What would it take for minorities to stop hearing Republican talking points as ethnocentric dog-whistles? Obviously plausible deniability isn’t going to cut it. You can’t just dog-whistle more loudly and hope to drown out the dog-whistling. This is what makes Goldberg and Murray’s lines so manifestly hopeless. Stage a national apology tour, in which Republicans beat their breasts about their bad behavior in the past, beg forgiveness, let bygones be bygones. If Republicans did all that it would probably actually work with minorities. They could wipe the slate clean with tears of regret about all that stuff Lee Atwater talks about.

But obviously nothing of the sort is actually going to happen. The Republican Party would lose the South for a generation. Then gradually the party would grow back into a kind of moderate, New England-style Rockefeller Republicanism, minus the New England flintiness. More of an Asian-Latino fusion thing, maybe. For most Republicans that probably sounds like injury added to the insult of having to say ‘I’m sorry’. But what’s the alternative?

{ 87 comments }

1

Dollared 12.02.12 at 5:33 am

No, please don’t let them figure it out.

Sincerely, I hope they follow the bible, literally. I figure that if they can just continue wandering in the wilderness for about 36 more years we can get a decent start on repairing the damage they’ve done. And just maybe, if they stay clueless two more election cycles, fewer people will die from lack of health care an nutrition.

But I’m betting against it. On current course and speed, Chris Christie will be appointing Supreme Court justices in about 51 months…..

2

rootless (@root_e) 12.02.12 at 7:05 am

Charles Murray – the spokesman of the Meritocracy of Dunces.

3

m0nty 12.02.12 at 9:13 am

There are too many parallels between the existential crises of commercial journalism and the Republican Party to be a coincidence. Old, white men discovering they aren’t allowed to rule indefinitely. And no answer in sight that would satisfy them, only repeated decimation.

4

bad Jim 12.02.12 at 9:31 am

I just happened to be browsing through the Pew Forum reading about Asian American demographics and noticed this: “On the question of whether they think of themselves as “a typical American or very different from a typical American,” U.S. Asians overall are more likely to see themselves as very different (53%) rather than as typical (39%)”, which suggests an awkward fit with the party of older, rural, and mainly Southern whites.

5

ponce 12.02.12 at 9:46 am

I think in the short run, blatant appeals by the Republicans to minorities would cost them more votes than they’d gain.

6

Watson Ladd 12.02.12 at 1:09 pm

Here in Chicago the democrats have a lock on power, assisted by the voting of many, many blacks. What do the voters get in return? Crumbling roads, failing schools, corrupt judges, and cops who contribute to the murder rate rather then reduce it. The absence of a credible opposition, even on a local level, is a real problem.

7

Anderson 12.02.12 at 1:30 pm

6: surely that has more to do with the Democratic “machine,” which on your account must have a bad effect on Dem primaries, than with Democratic rule per se?

Chicago is, well, Chicago.

8

Anderson 12.02.12 at 1:31 pm

“6” in the special sense where it equals 5.

9

bmz 12.02.12 at 1:50 pm

Being a Southern white male, let me offer you a perspective you do not often get: Southern whites do not need dog whistles. When the federal government forced integration of all public facilities, Southern whites simply went private. Now, Southern whites equate government with blacks. They do not need dog whistles–as long as they remain racist, they will be antigovernment; which means Republican. Hence, the Republican Party may engage in all the multicultural outreach they deem necessary; so long as they remain the antigovernment party, Southern whites will remain loyal.

10

Belle Waring 12.02.12 at 1:55 pm

“6″ in the special sense where it equals 5.
Chicago thug machine math!

11

Cahokia 12.02.12 at 2:20 pm

The republicans could stage an alternative party in the blue and purple (dem. and swing) states.
They should have a new Whig party. But use the homonym for branding and become the party for wig and hair extensions. Essentially the party of hyper-femininity; redefining that as the budget conscious familial matriarch. Continuing the conservative ideological line of budget cutting and pure pocket book issues like taxes. This might allow republicans to make inroads into deep blue (dem.) districts mainly composed of different mixes of minorities. Allowing those minorities to publicly support and vote in technically conservative candidates without the shame, which is put up for debate in this post . Of course this might cause Republicans to lose the majority in the house, but it would allow them to build a majority coalition for the longer term. Also the Whig party would hold the banner of being an “original”, “authentic” and “real” political party since they were formed near the birth of the nation (oops…looked it up and they started 1833).

12

R. Porrofatto 12.02.12 at 2:26 pm

What would it take for minorities to stop hearing Republican talking points as ethnocentric dog-whistles?

It’s going to take a lot more than a change in talking points, that’s for sure. If the Republicans want to gain minority support (especially if we also include gays and women in that catch-all “minority”) they are going to have to address the structural divisiveness of their actual policies, which engender the dog-whistle talking points. Take the 2012 GOP Platform (if you can stomach all the bullshit bloviation — I prefer the more succinct Texas GOP version) and all the welfare reform, culture of dependency, repeal of entitlements, etc. language therein. The phrase “civil rights” or “minorities” is only mentioned in regard to foreign policy and the right of Republicans to be guaranteed a seat on the D.C. City Council, or, in the Texas version, when decrying any form of affirmative action. But to me, the GOP problem is more than the dog-whistles of mainstream GOP language, but the trombones of their policies: reverse class warfare in the extreme, the elimination of progressive taxation of any kind, the attack on labor law and rights (Texas GOP even wants to repeal the minimum wage), opposition to anti-discrimination remedies of almost any kind, the massive redistribution of wealth upwards, the undermining of public education, ad nauseam. Throw in their virulent anti-gay, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion policies and you don’t need dog-whistles to hear the problem. Pardon my non-cynicism, but with the exception of Limbaugh fans most people aren’t that stupid, and I’m not really sure they’d gain that many minority votes even if the GOP were just the party of ‘let’s cut this’.

13

Mao Cheng Ji 12.02.12 at 3:18 pm

Is it your assumption here that cutting taxes and social services is, for the Republican party, just a means of hurting the blacks? Or is it, on the contrary, that party’s raison d’être, regardless of statistical distribution of the race marker among the beneficiaries and sufferers? In any case, to believe that the black vote for the Republicans, whose actual policies cut, statistically, very much against black constituency’s economic interests, will significantly grow once the Republican party say ‘sorry’, seems kind of condescending.

14

aspergum 12.02.12 at 4:06 pm

11.

I don’t quite think “cutting taxes and social services is, for the Republican party. . . that party’s raison d’être,” but it’s close. I think it’s more broadly the preservation and increase of wealth in the hands of a few. Finding whatever it takes to bamboozle the hoi polloi into voting against their own economic interest is what they’re already no doubt working on.

At a central level they’re mostly focused, organized, and well-funded, and they also dominate the corporate-media microphones, so I trust that fairly soon they’ll come up new and effective ways of perfuming the stench of money lust. In the meantime, watching their pained contortions as they fumble about in this early awakening stage calls for popcorn.

15

marcel 12.02.12 at 4:21 pm

MCJ wrote: Is it your assumption here that cutting taxes and social services is, for the Republican party, just a means of hurting the blacks? Or is it, on the contrary, that party’s raison d’être, regardless of statistical distribution of the race marker among the beneficiaries and sufferers?

(@ 11 as I type, but given the special sense numbers take on in this blog due to its predilection for Chicago thug machine math, who knows where it will end up?)

I suspect it makes even less sense to talk of a unitary Republican party than it does a unitary executive. There is certainly a part of the GOP for which cutting taxes and social services is the party’s raison d’etre: let’s call this the plutocratic wing. There is also a part of the GOP for which cutting taxes and social services is just a means of hurting the blacks (and other non-whites): let’s call this the dixiecrat wing. And because the modern GOP is a resplendent, many winged bird, this is not an exhaustive description of the party.

16

John Holbo 12.02.12 at 4:29 pm

“will significantly grow once the Republican party say ‘sorry’, seems kind of condescending.”

When you are only polling 1-2% among blacks, it actually isn’t that hard to significantly grow your support there. It’s really more of an amazing accomplishment not to. Putting it a different way, it isn’t that hard to imagine a different world in which poor blacks and middle class blacks and rich blacks tend to vote differently, based on economic interests, and in which rich blacks regard themselves as having more in common with rich whites. In the interview, that’s the political landscape Lee Atwater says he sees coming up – a world of color-blind economic self-interest; but it isn’t the world we’ve got.

As to the ‘saying sorry’ is good enough suggestion – well, obviously, what I’m getting at is that if Republicans really truly, sincerely wanted to win over blacks, and said all sorts of honest, true things about what went before, and just kind of made a libertarian, low-taxes-are-good argument, then, eventually, they would win over some of the black middle and upper class, at least. They would have to do a lot to convince blacks that the party had changed it’s bad old ways. It could be done, with the right sort of will, and enough time. This is sort of academic, because that’s obviously not going to happen soon.

I didn’t mean to suggest that the whole thing could be over in 10 seconds, on tv – with every Republican in congress sayng ‘we’re sorry, blacks, we screwed up. We’ll do better. We approve this message.’ (Then again, come to think of it, if such an incredible thing happened, it probably would make a difference. Obviously that’s not how things go.)

17

John Holbo 12.02.12 at 4:41 pm

Actually, there’s a simpler way to put it. You are making the ‘talk is cheap’ objection. But in fact just the right sort of talk from Republicans would be quite expensive to those Republicans. If someone is willing to risk committing suicide, with a heretofore essential element of their base, that’s not nothing. So if Republicans did that, I think it would be reasonable for some blacks to think they were serious about change. (Again, an academic point.)

18

Main Street Muse 12.02.12 at 4:44 pm

“It might seem unfair that you can’t just be taken at your word, that you get accused of tokenism when you hope appointments of prominent blacks will betoken your good intentions.”

The GOP just came off a campaign where their man Romney was shown to be writing off half the nation as moochers and takers.

And he talked at a debate about how he supported women in the workplace by putting them into binders and offering them “flexibility” to be home to cook dinner.

Post-election data shows GOP lost support among minorities and women.

The House Republicans have named only men to head committees. http://bit.ly/Yqfqyp

And now a guy from AEI says: “If the GOP wants to win more black votes, it will need to get a lot more ‘racist.'”

Well… have at that, GOP. Good luck increasing the “racism” coming from the party. Especially if they’re clueless about how racist they already are.

19

JazzBumpa 12.02.12 at 4:45 pm

@10

But to me, the GOP problem is more than the dog-whistles of mainstream GOP language, but the trombones of their policies:

As an actual trombone player, I find this highly offensive.

20

PJW 12.02.12 at 4:53 pm

The “dog whistle” makes me think of Leo Strauss and the esoteric/exoteric message distinction. Interesting post.

21

JazzBumpa 12.02.12 at 4:59 pm

Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that Rice’s handling of Benghazi was plausibly incompetent

Let’s not. Let’s consider instead that the OTHER Rice, in her capacity of national security adviser was blazingly incompetent, but still received unanimous Rethug support to be Secretary of State. IOKIYAR! Always, and everywhere, plus the inverse is also true.

The attacks on S. Rice are less about her being black and female and more about her being a Dem, and even worse a potential BHO appointee.

I think the Rethugs who control that party from the top are more or less color blind. To them, it is economic elitism that matters, not skin color. C. Rice was an oil Co. exec – a member of the in-crowd.

But it’s very easy and convenient to dog whistle to their red-neck base, for whom racism is both real and really important.

22

Mao Cheng Ji 12.02.12 at 5:12 pm

“…and in which rich blacks regard themselves as having more in common with rich whites”

But is there enough of them to make a blip on the radar screen? Maybe they already do. Clarence Thomas and the recent 9-9-9 guy certainly do; Bill Cosby sounds like he might too.

23

Hogan 12.02.12 at 5:26 pm

@18: this. And Colin Powell would not have been in a position to be appointed Sec of State if Truman hadn’t ordered the military to be desegregated. (So it is true that the Democrats have a lot to answer for.)

24

CJColucci 12.02.12 at 5:51 pm

Here in Chicago the democrats have a lock on power, assisted by the voting of many, many blacks. What do the voters get in return? Crumbling roads, failing schools, corrupt judges, and cops who contribute to the murder rate rather then reduce it. The absence of a credible opposition, even on a local level, is a real problem.

Indeed, it is. And black voters know it better than we do. But given the choice of a party that takes their support for granted and rarely delivers on its promises, and a party that actively runs against their interests, and all-too-often delivers on its promises, what else are they to do?

.

25

Ben Alpers 12.02.12 at 5:55 pm

The GOP’s basic problem, it seems to me, is that the dog-whistle aspect of these economic policies was the best way to build an electoral constituency for them, given who actually benefits from them…and that electoral constituency is slowly becoming too small to win national elections. Though, it should be noted, it’s at this point only just too small, and only when turnout is fairly high. And that in many states (such as Oklahoma where I live) the constituency for it is enough to absolutely dominate the state’s politics for the foreseeable future. At any rate, the problem is not simply that one cannot easily turn off the dog-whistle from the point of view of minority voters. The problem is also that if one could somehow turn off the dog-whistle, one would likely infuriate many of the voters who currently vote for the GOP.

26

MikeJake 12.02.12 at 6:15 pm

Mostly the stuff I’m talking about – the Lee Atwater stuff – is more like impolite fictions. ‘I know what I mean by ‘let’s cut this’, and you know what I mean, and I know that you know what I mean,’ and so forth. Unstated but mutually recognized in-group/out-group stuff. It actually wouldn’t work if it wasn’t recognized by both sides, because it’s no fun keeping the out-group down if they don’t know you are keeping them down.

No, dogwhistle is still the proper term. If there were enough unapologetically racist white voters that the GOP could win elections by targeting just the white vote, then there wouldn’t be a need for coded language, they could just come right out and be racist. But there isn’t enough votes. The dog whistles may signal the candidate’s intent to the unapologetically racist and members of the “out-group,” but the reason they’re employed is to attract those who don’t perceive the hidden message, who might not vote for you if they did perceive it. You’re saying something vaguely sensible and Serious to attract the votes of an indifferent voting public who won’t scrutinize your message too hard. It’s not meant to be plainly understood by everyone.

I tend to think the GOP is relying less on the racist dog whistles so much as their completely undeserved reputation for fiscal rectitude. Now the public is picking up on how full of it they are. Maybe they need to associate their coded racism with some other vaguely sensible message. Or maybe they need to put more thought into improving their other dog whistle, the one where they signal to the public that they’re not a bunch of decadent, tax-and-spend hippies.

27

bianca steele 12.02.12 at 6:40 pm

Let’s try this: If the GOP wants to win more women’s votes, it will need to get a lot more sexist.” Doesn’t seem like a good parallel.

28

Gareth Wilson 12.02.12 at 8:16 pm

I’m willing to accept that say, “this welfare program wastes money and needs to be cut” is a racist dog whistle in the US. You could probably prove it to me with an extensive history of all the racist motives behind welfare cuts and anti-welfare rhetoric in American history. But that would be true regardless of the merits of the actual welfare program, right? If it actually did waste money and actually did need to be cut, you’d still be able to make exactly the same argument. So being anti-racist requires you to support any and all welfare programs regardless of their effectiveness. Can’t help thinking there’s a problem with that.

29

Ben Alpers 12.02.12 at 8:18 pm

@27:

Let’s try this: If the GOP wants to win more women’s votes, it will need to get a lot more sexist.” Doesn’t seem like a good parallel.

Actually that’s not a good parallel. The GOP’s stated position is that it believes in something it calls “color blindness,” which essentially means denying the existence of racism (at least in the present) and, more particularly, white privilege.

The GOP never claims to be gender blind. Indeed, the specter of same-sex bathrooms played a key role in the conservative defeat of ERA.

30

Ben Alpers 12.02.12 at 8:24 pm

@28 Gareth Wilson:

I’m willing to accept that say, “this welfare program wastes money and needs to be cut” is a racist dog whistle in the US. You could probably prove it to me with an extensive history of all the racist motives behind welfare cuts and anti-welfare rhetoric in American history

Though the connection grows out of such a history, the way you prove that welfare is a racist dog-whistle is by looking at tons of polling data that shows that white Americans dislike welfare precisely to the extent that they see it as a program for African Americans (which, in fact, is not an accurate perception). See, for example, Martin Gilens’s book Why Americans Hate Welfare). It’s seen as a waste of money because it’s seen as benefiting racial minorities.

31

Gareth Wilson 12.02.12 at 9:22 pm

OK, so it’s also racist because it appeals to a large number of voters who have ignorant, racist ideas about welfare. But that still doesn’t say anything about the merits of that particular policy. You can be racist and still support a good policy for the wrong reasons.

32

Ben Alpers 12.02.12 at 10:06 pm

Ooops…that’s “shared-sex bathrooms” (of course) @29!

33

bianca steele 12.02.12 at 10:06 pm

@29
Also, though not all women are feminists–even if you redefine “feminist” to mean “wanting what most women want, not what ‘elitist’ women say they want”–most blacks don’t think black people should be excluded from some of the social roles white people are allowed to play. They’re not all Thomas Sowell (in other words).

34

Hidden Heart 12.02.12 at 10:07 pm

In the US that actually exists, it’s very likely that there is no good policy for cutting any program that delivers goods, money, or services (other than incarceration) to the poor and destitute.

35

Gareth Wilson 12.02.12 at 10:42 pm

Fair enough, but that’s a political opinion. Do you really think everyone who disagrees with it is racist? Can’t they just be right-wing lunatics without any racial component?

36

Hogan 12.02.12 at 10:55 pm

@31: So what conclusions do you draw from this, other than the fact that racists and their enablers make it really hard to enact good policy?

37

Hidden Heart 12.02.12 at 11:05 pm

Gareth, it’s certainly possible. If I ever found a significant number of non-racist right-wingers, I’d be on the lookout for more. Instead, the ones opposing good policy out of classist resentment, religious bigotry, basic innumeracy, and a propensity to listen to and reward lying grifters keep turning out to be racists too. Whoda thunk?

38

John Holbo 12.02.12 at 11:34 pm

“You can be racist and still support a good policy for the wrong reasons.”

Gareth, if you really think that’s going to work on a bumpersticker, as part of the GOP’s minority outreach program, feel free to propose it.

More seriously: it won’t. Which is to say: your points are irrelevant to my mine. Going back to your first point: “So being anti-racist requires you to support any and all welfare programs regardless of their effectiveness. Can’t help thinking there’s a problem with that.”

The point isn’t to argue that all welfare programs are necessarily good, policy-wise. The point is we are in a situation in which the 1) the GOP is the part of welfare cuts; and 2) it is reasonable to regard GOP efforts to cut welfare as motivated by ethnocentrism. There isn’t really a way for a GOP’er to toe the party line and convince people he/she isn’t racist. If you like, this is ‘a problem’. But you seem to be hinting that there must be something irrational about my analysis, or about the behavior or minorities, because of this result that no one who is likely to propose cutting welfare can do so, credibly, i.e. without looking like a racist. But that’s a bit like saying there must be ‘a problem’ with the people not believing the Boy Who Cried Wolf, since there could actually be a wolf. Yes, of course, but it’s still natural and understandable for the people to ignore the boy if he cries ‘wolf!’

39

Mayson 12.02.12 at 11:37 pm

Another thing which Republicans could do, which would lessen minority animus toward them, is to stop trying to disenfranchise minority voters.

40

Ebenezer Scrooge 12.03.12 at 1:07 am

Two words: Jack Kemp.

Kemp could get about a quarter of the black vote. And why not? Black voters tend to be socially conservative, and many of them are quite responsive to a self-empowerment theme. Many black voters are sick of the Democratic Party.

It wouldn’t be hard for the Republicans to get the Jack Kemp voters back. But that requires good faith, which is more than protestations of good faith.

41

Barry 12.03.12 at 2:35 am

Ebenezer, could you provide some backing for those claims?

42

Julian 12.03.12 at 3:43 am

“Two words: Jack Kemp”

That’s even more convincing in its three-word form, “and why not?”

43

Gareth Wilson 12.03.12 at 4:36 am

At the end of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the wolf comes and kills all the sheep, destroying the wealth of the farmers. Perhaps it’s not the best example for your side of the argument. I hope you don’t think I have any sympathy for anyone who’s turned policy arguments into racial slurs. They really are boys crying wolf. But there are still wolves out there.

44

Meredith 12.03.12 at 5:17 am

What MikeJake @26 said. A lot of white voters don’t perceive the hidden message — at least, not consciously or clearly. If they did, they would be at least put off and, in many cases, appalled. That’s the disgusting beauty of the Atwater approach. It not only plays well to outright racists; it seduces those whites who are trying to overcome what they recognize to be their baser inclinations, and often leads them to sink back into older ways of thinking that, a good forty years ago, were truly beginning to change. The opposite of appealing to our “better angels.”

But even Atwater and his heirs haven’t stopped the tide of change, only slowed it. In the last year, they overplayed their hand. The Republican primaries, the doubling down of people like Limbaugh, and, during the final election campaign, the “outing” of Republicans like Akin (cf. Romney’s 47% comments) all meant that even people for whom various Repub rhetorical tactics had previously operated effectively as “dog-whistles” began to hear what was really being said, about non-whites, about women.

What’s really outrageous, and depressing, about the whole “Southern strategy” is the way it has slowed the next stage of progress that we hoped to make after the 1960’s legislative stage of civil rights progress. In the US the plutocrats need race for their wedge, as they did after the Civil War. Gender politics a close second. They just can’t imagine any other gambits.

45

John Holbo 12.03.12 at 7:05 am

“At the end of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the wolf comes and kills all the sheep, destroying the wealth of the farmers.”

You are forgetting your Aesop! The wolf only ate the boy’s flock. The wealth of the other farmers very slightly increased, I presume, in that they were no longer wasting their time, paying attention to an idiot.

So, on reflection: I approve this message – moral of the story, that is. The cost of being idiots will be largely born by the GOP, if they refuse to change. The GOP are not, at the present time, acting as a brake on the extreme impulses of the Democrats, which are presently non-existent. Everyone else will manage fine without the GOP, should it fade away into the wilderness for a time. The Democrats are a bunch of moderates.

46

Gareth Wilson 12.03.12 at 7:28 am

OK, I stand corrected. I’d always remembered that as the boy warning about a threat to his whole community, but you’re right.

47

John Holbo 12.03.12 at 7:44 am

To be fair, you shouldn’t believe everything you read in Aesop, and a version in which the boy basically screws everything up for everyone else would be as plausible. But Aesop doesn’t usually go in for: the moral is that you might be screwed.

48

Gareth Wilson 12.03.12 at 9:11 am

Getting back to the original question, I think you recognise the problem. Even if it makes sense that “this welfare program should be cut” or “this (black) diplomat is incompetent” are heard as racial attacks, it’s still a problem if they’re shut out of the debate. Of course you could argue that they’re not shut out at all, the Republicans couldn’t care less about these issues and just say want they want. The Republicans, who are in a demographic death spiral, and we’re back to the original problem. Beats me what the solution is, though.

49

Niall McAuley 12.03.12 at 9:27 am

I don’t think it is true that cutting bad welfare programs is impossible because racism.

Cutting bad welfare programs is impossible for Republicans without making them look racist. Democrats can do it.

50

rootless (@root_e) 12.03.12 at 1:05 pm

During the 2000 campaign, GW Bush often made references to Evangelical code words, as you note -and the Press cooperated by either being too ignorant or too complicit to explain. Two good examples: he referred to “the gag rule” explicitly in a discussion of health care, in an awkward and out of place interjection, and this passed unnoticed although it was an explicit pledge for harsh anti-choice policies. Similarly he made several mentions of the Dredd-Scott decision – which Evangelicals had considered equivalent to Rowe-v-Wade.

The racist content of GOP campaigns, which was unusual this year only in that Chris Matthews actually called it out, is, as you say, not really a dog whistle. It’s more of a euphemism. Again, it is a rhetorical device that relies on media complicity.

51

Coulter 12.03.12 at 2:03 pm

“the way it has slowed the next stage of progress that we hoped to make after the 1960′s legislative stage of civil rights progress”

Yes, when busing came to Boston, a 100% democratic town in a 90% democratic state, republican policies of division split Massachusetts liberals and turned Boston public schools from a segregated mix of students in line with the demographic into a 85% non-white, integrated school district. Lee Atwater could have never imagined his impact…

52

Josh G. 12.03.12 at 2:27 pm

Coulter @ 51: The real folly of busing in Boston was that the whole case took place after Milliken v. Bradley was decided by the Supreme Court. Garrity should have been wise enough to realize that Milliken was basically the death knell for busing, as it allowed affluent whites to simply move to the suburbs and leave its jurisdiction. Instead, he went ahead with what was rightly described as “a Harvard plan for the working-class man”, and essentially pitted working-class blacks and whites against one another in a situation that satisfied no one. Charles Glenn’s proposal for extensive cross-busing between South Boston and Roxbury served no legitimate educational aims – from an academic perspective, both schools were undistinguished at best. But it was deliberately intended to be punitive to South Boston, which Glenn described as “an ugly institution”. It may indeed have been, but why anyone expected this inflammatory plan to work out well was a mystery. Had Milliken been decided the other way, and had both white and African-American Bostonians been incorporated into a busing plan that included the nearby wealthy suburbs, then both integration and quality education might have received a boost. As it was, the opposition to busing was indeed driven by a great deal of illegitimate racism, but also by a significant amount of legitimate class anger.

53

Glen Tomkins 12.03.12 at 2:34 pm

@26 and 44,

Absolutely correct, the whole point of using a dog whistle is that parts of your coalition aren’t racist. They’re the ones you don’t want hearing the racism.

Your side has already given up on getting the votes of the objects of the racism, so you don’t mind if they understand perfectly well that you are appealing to racists. It’s the collateral damage of forfeiting the votes of the non-racists in your coalition that you’re trying to avoid when you phrase your racism in ways the non-racists have trouble decoding.

Where we are today with racism and dog whistle in politics can be best understood in terms of coalition politics. For generations after Reconstruction was abandoned by the Rs, the Ds held the segregationist electoral franchise, while the Rs got the paltry black vote. Then, by passing civil rights legislation in the early ’60s, the Ds forfeited the segregationist vote to the Rs. They got the black vote in exchange. While the black vote was somewhat larger than before because of the civil rights movement, it still was nowhere large enough to begin to compensate, and the Rs started to be able to win without having to run RINOs like Eisenhower or Nixon.

During the exchange, both parties tried to hold onto the parts of their old coalition alienated by the new members. The Ds were much less successful in the short term, in that ending Jim Crow was a definite and highly public choice that the party made (for all his many faults, statues should be erected to LBJ, because without him, that choice would not have been made, at least not successfully), and that choice came about in an ideological climate that vilified Bubba (correctly, of course) as the cause of segregation. Bubba therefore had less trouble abandoning the Ds promptly, than moderate and liberal Rs had staying with their party after it had embraced Bubba. They could be dog-whistled by the Rs much more easily than Bubba could be by the Ds. It is true, however, that many individual Ds held onto office in Bubbaland for decades, due to the power of incumbency, plus the effect of their own dog-whistle, speaking and often voting like harmless good ‘ol boys. The wider party has, sadly, tended to help these southern Ds out by soft-pedalling its committment to ending racism, and especially by holding back from vilifying Bubba.

By now, however, both parties have pretty much completed the process of shedding the components of their old coalitions that don’t fit in with the new alignment. The Rs bother less with avoiding outright racism, because there are no liberals, and not really any moderates, left on their side. They actively purge these people lately. The Ds are less ideological about it, but most of their southern incumbents long since died off, and their Blue Dog descendents are a sickly and dwindling breed, though still treated far too solicitously.

The clearing away of cant has coincided with a demographic tide that will finally, a half century later, make the choice the Ds made in 1964 a smart move in terms of power politics. The other party’s idea of a big tent is to welcome in the Hispanophobes, and not limit themselves to just racism against blacks. They went all in to get Bubba to vote for them, and now Bubba calls the shots in their party, and Bubba hates him some brown and Asian, as well as black. Bubba is ideologically consistent, and he hates dog whistles and all forms of downplaying Bubba racism, for which Bubba sees no need to apologize. And this is happening just as Hispanics are poised to tip the balance in states like AZ and TX.

LBJ’s revenge. Maybe we’ll finally put up those statues to him.

54

Katherine 12.03.12 at 2:48 pm

if Republicans really truly, sincerely wanted to win over blacks, … They would have to do a lot to convince blacks that the party had changed it’s bad old ways.

One of the things required to convince black people that the Republican Party had changed its racist ways would be to actually change its racist ways. Since that seems unlikely, I’m thinking a brading exercise is going to come to naught.

55

James 12.03.12 at 3:33 pm

It is clear that black people should never vote for Republicans if Republicans are racist against black people. That is basic self-preservation. It is also clear that the Republican model for government does not cover the breadth and depth of public services desired by the current African-American constituency. If the Republican Party ever became non-Racist, the definition for racist would be expanded to include political parties that fail to support a model of government that includes the breadth and depth of public services desired by the African-American constituency. Similar derogatory descriptions have been used to describe Republicans due to their lack of support for public funded healthcare.

56

Josh R. 12.03.12 at 5:56 pm

“Be it noted: dog-whistle isn’t a good term for it, although this is the term people tend to use in these cases. “

How about “implicit prime”?
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7090.html

57

John Holbo 12.04.12 at 1:13 am

“Absolutely correct, the whole point of using a dog whistle is that parts of your coalition aren’t racist. They’re the ones you don’t want hearing the racism.

Your side has already given up on getting the votes of the objects of the racism, so you don’t mind if they understand perfectly well that you are appealing to racists. It’s the collateral damage of forfeiting the votes of the non-racists in your coalition that you’re trying to avoid when you phrase your racism in ways the non-racists have trouble decoding. “

This does seem right.

58

ponce 12.04.12 at 2:25 am

“It is clear that black people should never vote for Republicans if Republicans are racist against black people.”

Black voters understand they should never vote for Republicans.

Poor voters don’t.

59

Noah Kay 12.04.12 at 2:33 am

Tokenism is all they have. They can’t appeal to minority populations as a whole because that might mean actually engaging with them, which would alienate their crackpot elderly white base.

60

chris 12.04.12 at 3:03 am

Putting it a different way, it isn’t that hard to imagine a different world in which poor blacks and middle class blacks and rich blacks tend to vote differently, based on economic interests, and in which rich blacks regard themselves as having more in common with rich whites.

Yeah, but then it might also happen that poor whites start regarding themselves as having more in common with poor nonwhites, and if *that* happens, the Republican Party gets steamrolled. A lot.

Poor whites vastly outnumber rich blacks (the latter is the intersection of two groups, each a minority, *that are also negatively correlated*), so the Republican Party really really can’t afford to give up any of the poor whites they have now (even if they have them on race grounds) to reach for the few blacks that might be receptive to a “you don’t need anything from government” argument.

Not only that, but any rich black that gets arrested trying to enter his own home *or hears about the guy that did* is unlikely to see his position vis-a-vis government as the same as a rich white’s. Even if the Republicans aren’t really responsible for that incident, it still has the effect of reminding rich blacks that in many people’s eyes, including a lot of cops, they’re still black first and rich afterwards.

In theory, Republicans could come out for taking the yoke of government off the neck of black people unfairly targeted by law enforcement. It would fit in quite well with a genuinely more libertarian party, if there was one. It would probably work better if they had never tried the Southern Strategy in the first place than coming only after they’ve staked the party on it and driven it into the ground, but suppose for the sake of argument they could sell it anyway.

In practice, they can’t afford to do that even if it works; it would alienate their much larger authoritarian base that wants the blacks kept in their place with as much violence as necessary, or maybe a bit more, just because it’s so fun to watch.

61

Rich B. 12.04.12 at 3:19 am

The point isn’t to argue that all welfare programs are necessarily good, policy-wise. The point is we are in a situation in which the 1) the GOP is the part of welfare cuts; and 2) it is reasonable to regard GOP efforts to cut welfare as motivated by ethnocentrism.

Current old people are disproportionate White. Current old people benefit from welfare programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

I good way to determine which of your major parties is the more racist party is to determine which party attacks “entitlements,” but has no problem increasing Medicare for current old people (by, say, promoting an expensive prescription drug plan).

The problem is not “entitlements,” but rather entitlements that disproportionately favor non-white people. And non-white people see that.

62

John Holbo 12.04.12 at 3:45 am

“Yeah, but then it might also happen that poor whites start regarding themselves as having more in common with poor nonwhites, and if *that* happens, the Republican Party gets steamrolled. A lot.”

I agree. Clearly the plan has to be: be the party of the middle-class as well as the party of the rich. The Republicans are never going to be the party of the poor. Then you hope that enough traditionally Democratic minorities are at least middle-class, and you peel them off. But there are a ton of problems with trying to be both the party of the middle-class and the party of the rich. Republicans don’t have a plan to help the middle-class. Tax cuts for the rich!

63

Watson Ladd 12.04.12 at 4:00 am

Sorry Josh, but suburbs do take kids from Boston as part of the remnants of that plan. Really what was needed was equalizing resources within in the district, as well as redrawing lines and possibly some tricks to try to make schools draw from across districts. Today the Republicans by demanding vouchers would end segregation, the Democrats reinforce it by restricting school choice to those with money.

But it’s also more complicated in that for a lot of black communities, a teacher is the closest thing to a black professional they know. Closing schools means unmaking a community in a way it doesn’t elsewhere. And so a lot of the opposition to school reform grows out of extra-educational things.

Anyway, this is a bit off-topic. But as for the middle class, there won’t be one after another four years of Obama and recession. Romney could hardly be worse, and keeping Obama accountable would mean voting for Romney.

64

Charles Peterson 12.04.12 at 5:14 am

The gerrymandering that has been going on in Red states (like Texas, where I live) is oriented to establishing a racial identity to each district. The next obvious step is to run people of the required race who happen to be Republicans. That is exactly what happened in my current district (which has changed 5 times in last 10 years) in which a long incumbent white male progressive Democrat (whose Austin district was gerrymandered into a 200 mile strip to the Mexican border) faced a Latina Republican challenger. Such cross identity contests are not always won by the ideological imposter, and in my district the Democrat won with a large majority, but if information is suitably controlled, they could be, and over time perhaps they could all be flipped like this. Ultimately if the electorate can be reduced to mere racial identities, “representatives” can do as they wish, which means they will sell out to the highest bidder.

65

GiT 12.04.12 at 6:30 am

On prison reforming conservatives, this was an intereting read (@59, I guess).

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/novemberdecember_2012/features/the_conservative_war_on_prison041104.php

66

Barry 12.04.12 at 1:47 pm

Rich B.: “I good way to determine which of your major parties is the more racist party is to determine which party attacks “entitlements,” but has no problem increasing Medicare for current old people (by, say, promoting an expensive prescription drug plan). “

While simultaneously trying to cut every other spending program (except those benefitting the rich or key niche groups) while screaming ‘we can’t afford it!!!!!!’.

67

Cahokia 12.04.12 at 3:25 pm

What I feel is missing from this thread is the fact of conservative party’s existence in South American, African, and Southeast Asian countries. It would appear that most Republican policy prescriptions can be embraced by these races. Wether they can be embraced with the added distinction of minority status is the valid variable.

68

Consumatopia 12.04.12 at 3:54 pm

The grievance is deeper. It was not just a matter of dog-whistling rhetoric–even if your interest in “totally economic things” is sincere, if the result is “blacks get hurt worse than whites”, then the only moral option is to put those economics aside. If Atwater was correct, then it is not just racists and dog-whistlers who are guilty, but everyone who supported those policies.

69

mud man 12.04.12 at 4:41 pm

But there are a ton of problems with trying to be both the party of the middle-class and the party of the rich.

Don’t get that. A change of direction, relocating the center to be sure, but the middle class is deeply conservative … young families, urban professionals, people with equity. Domestic “Law and Order”, international isolationism, job-generating infrastructure, higher education, and Give up on social anti-liberalism. Eh?

Surely somebody is going to salvage all that political structure and repurpose it as smaller and smaller groups of weird rich people keep locking the doors behind them. Or else what? One-party system, I don’t think so. Democrats split, new party emerges? I don’t think so either but Hoo knows.

70

Dogen 12.04.12 at 7:48 pm

@67, and addressing the lack of Asian voter support for Republican candidates, there is a quite interesting post (in a very interesting blog) that addresses this very question. It turns out that most Asian-Americans live in blue states. Surprise, surprise, they vote much like other folks in blue states.

http://andrewgelman.com/2012/11/why-arent-asians-republicans-for-one-thing-more-than-half-of-them-live-in-california-new-york-new-jersey-and-hawaii/

Of course, this begs all sorts of follow-up questions. For example, does the presence of Asian-Americans (and more diverse populations in general) cause states to become more blue? Or did immigrants collect in states that were more friendly to diversity (however marginal that “friendliness” might have been)? And of course many, many other correlation/causation questions.

Nonetheless, my personal take is that racism is only one of the important negatives the Republicans have going against them amongst smart non-whites. Others include the all-out embrace of ignorance; from Creationism to Climate-change-denialism to Zombie-economics to anti-intellectualism in general the Republican party goes out of its way to be the party of doofuses.

71

Rich B. 12.04.12 at 8:09 pm

What I feel is missing from this thread is the fact of conservative party’s existence in South American, African, and Southeast Asian countries.

But I don’t think there are. Of course, every country with free elections generally has a “left” and a “right” party, but that’s in comparison to each other, not to any objective measuring stick. Do “Conservative” parties outside of Europe and North America campaign on eliminating health insurance for the poor and arresting immigrants? Probably not. Do they campaign on cutting taxes for the rich? Maybe, if the “left” party was really, really socialist and tax rates are twice as high as in the West. Otherwise, no.

Think about it this way. A Liberal in America says, “If McCain/Romney/Whoever wins, I’m moving to Canada/France/Australia!” A Conservative says, “If Obama wins, I’m moving to ???” What free, Democratic country is more rightwing than America? None, because no “Conservative” party is more rightwing than the Americans.

Anywhere else in the world, “Conservative” maps most objectively onto the Democrats, and “Liberal” maps onto some party to the left of the Democrats that doesn’t exist in America. Run a general election where the Conservative candidate is Obama and the Liberal candidate is Bernie Sanders, and you’ll probably get a whole lot of minority voters voting “Conservative.”

72

ponce 12.04.12 at 10:06 pm

@71

America is the only only country that has a major political party run by and for the rich?

73

Watson Ladd 12.05.12 at 1:06 am

Rich B, have you seen the fascists in Greece? Have you heard of Jobbik? Does the expulsion of the Roma from France mean nothing to you? Everywhere is right-wing.

74

Barry 12.05.12 at 2:20 am

Noooooooooooooooooo. America is the only developed country which has a party as right-wing as the GOP (which was the clear thesis of that comment).

75

Watson Ladd 12.05.12 at 2:40 am

Sorry Barry, but the GOP is not walking around beating up immigrants, or calling for the investigation of Jews as security risks. That’s happening right now in Europe. Jobbik and the Golden Dawn are far more right wing then all but the craziest fringes of the Republican party. Unless Hungary and Greece aren’t OCED countries anymore, that comment was just wrong.

76

rootless (@root_e) 12.05.12 at 2:42 am

” Do “Conservative” parties outside of Europe and North America campaign on eliminating health insurance for the poor and arresting immigrants?”

Of course not. Outside of Europe and North America all nations belong to an Esperanto speaking federation dedicated to human rights and bagpipe music (when those do not conflict).

77

js. 12.05.12 at 3:31 am

Am finding both Cahokia @67 and Rich B. @71 to be a bit strange. First:

It would appear that most Republican policy prescriptions can be embraced by these races.

How about: rich brown people in brown-majority countries have been known to support to parties with explicit neo-liberal agendas (e.g.). This is certainly true, undeniably so, but note that we’re almost certainly going to be talking about states with very high levels of quite entrenched socio-economic inequalities. So it’s not exactly “these races” that the parties in question are being embraced by. Or perhaps you have in mind something like: large majorities in Catholic-dominated brown-majority countries can and do support parties with anti-reproductive rights agendas. Undeniably true once again. But, and this leads me to my next point:

There’s really no obvious way to map the left-right axis (or maybe the centrist-Teh Crazy axis) as it exists in the contemporary US onto most of the developing world or Global South, etc. Obviously, you can pick isolated bits of the Republican platform and show them to be popular in particular developing countries or within particular segments of the population within such countries. Actually finding a party that maps on to the Republican party as a whole might turn out to be a taller order.

This though is not because, as Rich B. seems to think, right-wing parties in the developing world map on to the Democratic party. Right-wing parties in the developing world come in all sorts of stripes. (At least in part because there’re often so many to choose from, even within one country!) So, e.g., they can be hard-line nationalist, or getting into quasi-fascist territory, with economic policy a secondary concern at best. They might be regionalist, proto-separatist party with a set of concerns that doesn’t generalize in any obvious way (not that all such parties are right-wing obviously, but they can be). Or of course they might be a center-right neoliberal party. Etc.

(Sorry if this is a bit off topic. Also wanted to say I quite enjoyed the Aesop interlude above.)

78

Mao Cheng Ji 12.05.12 at 8:34 am

64, “Ultimately if the electorate can be reduced to mere racial identities, “representatives” can do as they wish, which means they will sell out to the highest bidder.”

Here’s a post about Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of LA: http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003644.html

79

Cahokia 12.05.12 at 11:45 am

Thanks js. for the valid push back. I shouldn’t have been so broad brushed.

80

Nemo 12.05.12 at 12:32 pm

Rich B. at 71 asks:

“Think about it this way. A Liberal in America says, “If McCain/Romney/Whoever wins, I’m moving to Canada/France/Australia!” A Conservative says, “If Obama wins, I’m moving to ???” What free, Democratic country is more rightwing than America? None, because no “Conservative” party is more rightwing than the Americans.”

Just before the election I saw a commenter on a conservative/libertarian blog say that if Obama won he was going to move to Costa Rica or Australia. The Costa Rica part I can sort of understand, but Australia? What do these people think other countries are like?

81

Barry 12.05.12 at 1:37 pm

Watson Ladd 12.05.12 at 2:40 am

” Sorry Barry, but the GOP is not walking around beating up immigrants, or calling for the investigation of Jews as security risks. That’s happening right now in Europe. Jobbik and the Golden Dawn are far more right wing then all but the craziest fringes of the Republican party. Unless Hungary and Greece aren’t OCED countries anymore, that comment was just wrong.”

And the EU is leaning hard on Hungary for just those reasons. Greece, of course, is a country being crushed by outside forces, which is in extreme crisis.

82

Glen Tomkins 12.05.12 at 1:40 pm

@80,

I wouldn’t be too sure about Costa Rica being some sort of libertarian paradise either.

I had a patient at the free clinic recently whose diabetes got out of control because he developed an inguinal hernia and couldn’t work any more. Since he was a landscaper and his work involved continuous exertion, that had kept his diabetes under control. After the hernia sprung up — no work, no control of diabetes.

I tried to get him to surgery in the US, but no dice. No way could he afford insurance on what he made, no way his employer was going to provide it, and no way could he wait 3 years without working for Medicare to kick in. Here in the US, we’re not smart enough to just give people the relatively cheap surgery they need to go back to work and become productive again, while they control their diabetes so they won’t end up on horrendously expensive dialysis some time after they reach Medicare age. But it turned out that El Salvador is that smart, and my patient just hopped on a plane back home and had his government-paid-for surgery within a week.

The libertarian paradises are an endangered species. When even El Salvador has gone Communist, can we count on Costa Rica to stand firm against sense and reason? I wouldn’t trust even Somalia. Sure, they don’t have a nanny state now — but that’s because they don’t have any state now. The second domestic peace breaks out there, the second any sort of government takes hold, I bet we’ll start seeing publicly funded hernia surgeries within days. That’s how socialist things have gotten outside the US.

Fortunately, we do stand firm here in the US. I would expect any day now to see attempts by socialist foreign countries to send relief teams to the US to give our poor people free hernia surgeries, were I not able to rely on our political system to fight off that threat. For now, our poor still have to board planes to fly back to El Salvador, should they be fortunate enough to be from there, to get basic care, because we have a Senate fully aware of the creeping threat posed by treaties on the care of the disabled, and ready to stand up and be counted on the side of our inalienable right to mistreat the sick, dammit.

Oh, I know, some people point to the examples of Golden Dawn and what’s going on in Hungary, looking for hopeful signs that some countries, after years of wandering in the wastelands of socialism, are returning to the common heritage of stupidity that we never lost here in the US. But I will never trust the likes of Jobbik or the Golden Dawn people, folks who had to struggle to overturn sense and reason in their countries, to remain half so immovably loyal to stupid as someone like DeMint. The revolutionary types have had to cultivate a certain rational oversight of at least means, if not ends. But the two tend to bleed into each other, to the point that we can only securely trust stupidity when it has always remained a cloistered virtue. DeMint I trust to remain always where he is, firmly fixed in the stupid, because he has never had to deal with anything else. It’s people like DeMint who get the job done day in and day out for stupid, and we shouldn’t deny them their due to go off admiring the flashy, but unreliable, work of folks like Golden Dawn. No one does stupid like the US, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

83

Uncle Kvetch 12.05.12 at 2:40 pm

The Costa Rica part I can sort of understand, but Australia? What do these people think other countries are like?

I don’t have a link at hand, but apparently there were some bloggers on the right who, in the wake of Obama’s reelection, thought that Israel would be the best place to escape the inexorable rise of decadent Kenyan-style socialist sharia. Obviously they had to know virtually nothing about Israeli domestic policies like universal health care — they just liked the idea of living in what they saw as a Spartan, hyper-militarized garrison state surrounded by scary Arabs.

Also, as Roy Edroso has amply documented in posts like this one, the right-wing version of “I’m moving to Canada” generally tends to involve some variant of “going Galt” or “going off the grid” within the US, rather than outside of it.

84

David Aronson 12.05.12 at 8:05 pm

Right-wing BS needs refuting, to be sure, especially when it comes smelling of racism and sexism. But what of the criticisms of Susan Rice emanating from the Africanist and human rights communities? (See here for a round-up.: http://www.congoresources.org/2012/12/ghosts-of-congolese-dead-may-yet-haunt.html) Are we so reactively opposed to the right that we refuse to critically examine Rice’s record on its own merits, and by our own standards?

85

js. 12.06.12 at 4:39 am

Cahokia @79:

No worries. Seeing as I come from the, umm, Global South myself, figured I could offer a bit of insight.

86

Katherine 12.07.12 at 9:46 am

A Liberal in America says, “If McCain/Romney/Whoever wins, I’m moving to Canada/France/Australia!” A Conservative says, “If Obama wins, I’m moving to ???” What free, Democratic country is more rightwing than America? None, because no “Conservative” party is more rightwing than the Americans.

As someone else said above, there was briefly a conservative “let’s move to Australia” meme. Or more accurately, there was a comic meme based on mocking some unfortunate conservative who had posted on Twitter or Facebook somewhere that she want to move to Australia because their President was a good, god fearing family man.
The mockery was based on the facts that (a) Australia doesn’t have a President, (b) the Prime Minister is a woman who is (b) living with a partner whilst unmarried, (c) doesn’t have children and (d) is an atheist.

87

Glen Tomkins 12.07.12 at 2:24 pm

Katherine,

You make Australia sound like the sort of place I would like to move to, even though our side won the last election. Of course, Australia might not want people from that right-wing haven, the US. But I figure they owe us big time for taking Rupert Murdoch off their hands. Australia could admit 10,000 like me, and still be in the red to the US in the tired refuse acceptance category.

Comments on this entry are closed.