Dog whistle politics means using language that appeals to one group of people but may have coded meanings to another. For example, one reason Ronald Reagan did so well with white voters was because he told stories of the “welfare queen” – a woman with “eighty names, thirty addresses, [and] twelve Social Security cards [who] is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”
Without saying the exact words, he put forward an image of a black woman cheating society and portrayed whites as the hard workers struggling to make ends meet.
UC Berkeley law professor Ian Haney López argues that hidden racial appeals are still used in politics today. López is the author of “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class.” He spoke at Town Hall on January 20, 2014.