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Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  424 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Campaigning for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan told stories of Cadillac-driving "welfare queens" and "strapping young bucks" buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. In trumpeting these tales of welfare run amok, Reagan never needed to mention race, because he was blowing a dog whistle: sending a message about racial minorities inaudible on one level, but clearly heard on ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 13th 2014 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2013)
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Feb 25, 2014 Randy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've taken some heated feedback on Amazon for my review (which follows). I stand by the review, and note that many/most of the negative reactions are paddling in the same river.

So here's the review:

The opening sentence of this screed betrays its bias: "Let's start with an open secret: Republicans rely on racial entreaties to help win elections."

If you are a Democrat who believes this is the unvarnished and complete truth, by all means buy it and reinforce your beliefs.
Feb 07, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating, incredible. Brilliantly articulated. I do not say this lightly, but this is a book EVERY undergraduate in this country should read. Not for the politics of it, but because I've never come across any other piece of writing that so cogently explains the way in which racism has transmogrified over the last half-century, how it is still so pervasive - perhaps even more so in some ways - and how it affects ALL of us.
T.L. Cooper
Jun 01, 2014 T.L. Cooper rated it really liked it
I seriously underestimated how much Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class Ian Haney Lopez would affect me. As I started reading, I expected a rehashing of contents I already knew. While there was some of that, there was also information about the history of racism in the United States that I never fully knew. I expected to read the book quickly without the need to pause and think about what I read. Instead, the book took me quite a w ...more
Robert Owen

“Dog Whistle Politics” is a book that’s too smart by half……which still makes it twice as smart as most books on race, earning it my rating of four stars.

First, the good.

López does a masterful job of articulating the nuances of modern racism and the arc of its history over the last half century. By “dog whistle politics” López is referring to conscious political strategies whereby latent white fears and insecurities about race are channeled into self-destructive anti-minority activism.

While I have known about the history of coded racial appeals particularly in the political arena for quite some time, it is important that López provides fresh analysis on this issue and how it should be addressed. The conservative right will continue to use race and other cultural wedge issues to push their agenda. With the ever-increasing class divide in this country, the conservative right has no interest in closing the gap when it comes to the economic inequality of politically marginalized ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Adam rated it really liked it
Recommended to Adam by: Han Flamm
What a nice coda in some ways to my law school experience.

I recall seeing Professor Haney Lopez give the Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society as a first year law student at NYU. Shockingly, Haney Lopez, now a foremost critical race theorist, described how he stormed out to Professor Bell's class as a student, disturb by Bell's insistence on the permanence of racism in American society. Dog Whistle Politics starts off with this very same story, both the author's initial reaction to Pr
Nov 29, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bill Moyers
Much like The New Jim Crow and Miner’s Canary, this book eviscerates the idea that modern “colorblindness” is really about racial equality, both in intent and in its fruits. It firmly asserts that most people who have embraced colorblindness aren’t bad people, just ignorant of history and its consequences. Lucid and well cited. Could have used more concrete advice on how to frame the conversation with these not-bad people about how they are on the wrong side of history.
Roger Leonhardt
Dec 18, 2015 Roger Leonhardt rated it did not like it
A book about racism from a person who is himself a racist. He believes all white people are racist and that every problem in society is because of that white racism. His answer to racism is even more racism. He sees everything as a zero sum game. The only way to bring someone up is to tear someone else down. That is ludicrous. We are all created equal and should all be treated that way, no matter what color we are. My mom always said two wrongs don't make a right.

We do have a problem of racism.
May 09, 2014 Louis rated it it was ok
Ian Haney López’s Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked The Middle Class analyzes the history of political rhetoric since the civil rights era. In essence, Lopez argues that despite claims of living in a post-racial society, appeals to racism are alive and well.

López presents an intriguing assessment on racism, suggesting that there is more to racism than mere bigotry: i.e. many racists are decent people who have come to accept racial disparities an
Jul 31, 2014 Spencer rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
I'm familiar with the concept of Dog Whistle" messaging. An idea is communicated with carefully crafted words and phrases, and for some the terminology is couched in emotional meaning. And to others it may simply be so many words. The intended message is only heard by some, just as a dog whistle is heard by dogs, but not humans. Lopez has concentrated on how race has been used for 50 years to further the political goals of many politicians, especially but not exclusively in the Republican Party. ...more
Jan 21, 2015 Gary rated it it was amazing
I actually wanted to give this book four and a half stars. My half-star "demerit" is for two minor quibbles: one, that he has a tendency to repeat himself, and two, his seemingly arbitrary enlargement of the middle-class to encompass not just the working class or "working poor", but the very poor as well.

However, those minor complaints notwithstanding, I think everyone should read this book - blacks, whites, liberals and conservatives. Besides the usual suspects of Wallace, Nixon and Lee Atwater
Randy Cauthen
Nov 16, 2014 Randy Cauthen rated it it was amazing
Not an awful lot new here if you've been paying attention, but Lopez is a good compendium how the right has used race baiting tactics to undermine the middle class in this country and advance the interests of the very rich, and how the Democrats have failed to effectively fight their demagoguery, largely through a mistaken policy of color blindness.
George Slade
Jan 06, 2015 George Slade rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015
Instead of rehashing what I've been posting about this book, for the review, I'll merely paste the letter I sent to the author.

Mr. Lopez,

I just finished reading "Dog Whistle Politics" today. I was deeply disturbed at what I read. I am disturbed that young, impressionable women and men will read this book and take it seriously. You're obviously intelligent and studious; however, you used your time and skills to generate a book that is
Dec 26, 2014 Rachel rated it it was amazing
I found Dog Whistle Politics utterly fascinating, horrifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. Lopez defines dog whistling as "inaudible and easily denied in one range, yet stimulating strong reactions in another." Lopez dissects how dogwhistling started in the 1960s and let to the Republican party becoming the white man's party. He is even handed though and takes Democrats to take as well.

His explanation and analysis of why being "color-blind" is actually harmful is one of the best I've e
Nov 13, 2014 Bookworm rated it really liked it
Made me think. Most people who have followed electoral politics in recent years knows about the "birthers" who believe President Obama is not a US citizen and therefore is not the legitimate President of the United States. Lopez takes the reader through this and much more, looking at how campaigns use "coded" language to demean people of different skin colors and classes than perhaps the audience that the campaigns are speaking to.

The book is a mostly chronological look at campaigns and presiden
Feb 08, 2015 Naomi rated it really liked it
Lopez uncloaks covert racist language in contemporary American politics. Tough reading, because of the painful realities of racism still active and hurting so many and betraying the great American promise of equality and justice for all. Particularly important for those who may be skeptical about Lopez' thesis, and for all of us needing to engage these issues and make sure every one's lives matter.
Ryn McAtee
I sincerely hope that Lopez began rewriting this book in the middle of last year, and we'll see an updated version on the shelves by 2017 or the year after. After five decades of dog whistle politics, it's culminated in Donald Trump, who uses not a dog whistle, but a bullhorn. Reading this book three years after its publication isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things, but politically, it's been an eternity and things have mutated quite drastically. I'd really love to see Lopez's explanat ...more
Mar 10, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing
I found this book by turns fascinating, illuminating, and infuriating. I find it’s conclusions so dispiriting that I am having trouble even writing about it, and yet if what it asserts is true it is far better it sees the light of day than if we continue to sweep it under the rug. In a nutshell this is a history of racism in politics. It’s thesis is simple; racism isn’t disappearing, it’s adapting. The author traces racism as a political tool from the period after reconstruction when the South w ...more
May 08, 2014 Dancingfoolvb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my top five books all time.

Easy to read, yet comprehensive and detailed. Dog Whistle Politics shows how politicians on both sides use coded messages, mostly racial, to trigger habitual fear reactions, convincing the poor and middle class to give up their power to the manipulative rich in exchange for economic and political slavery.

I found the information both fascinating and embarrassing. We need more truth in the world, and books like this are an essential start in that direction.
John G.
Mar 21, 2014 John G. rated it it was amazing
I found out about this book from watching a Bill Moyer's interview with the author. That interview was pretty tame compared to what's in this book. You're either going to hate or love this book based on your current political philosophy. I would say the author is indeed biased and is writing in support of the liberal conception of government and that's where I see myself as well. This book really opened my eyes to race, the mindset and practices of conservative political demagogues and their bas ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Adam rated it liked it
Earlier this year, Richard Sherman, a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, taped a post-game interview in which he called out a player from the opposing team and pronounced himself "the best corner in the game," adding, "Don't open your mouth about the best, or I'm going to shut it for you real quick!" The video went viral, and in the days that followed it seemed as though people could focus on little else. Unfortunately, much of the public discourse made liberal use of the term "thug," an insin ...more
Greg Brozeit
Mar 09, 2014 Greg Brozeit rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-policy
An uneven but ultimately informative account and call to action to address the racism that provides the foundation for much of today's American political scene. I think this book could be considered the third volume of a trilogy that includes Douglas Blackmon's Slavery By Another Name and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow.

Lopez's definition of three core components that form dog whistle politics--hate, structural racism and implicit bias--is helpful and insightful. He predictably recounts Re
This book looks into the use of coded racial appeals in politics. These coded appeals are known as dog whistles. The basic idea behind it is that politicians criticize minorities for political gain without actually mentioning race. The author claims that these appeals work at a subconscious level, which allows people to maintain that they are not racist.

There are two points that I thought were valuable in this book. The first is that both Republicans and Democrats use dog whistle politics. This
Don S.
Mar 27, 2016 Don S. rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I'm very torn on this book. On one hand, I believe in the premise that the author puts forward - that racism is alive and well today, promoted by politics (whether through outright promotion for political gain or by ignoring its existence for political gain.) On the other hand, I don't feel like Mr. López makes nearly strong enough a case to convince the people who need to be convinced. I feel like every peron who reads this book will react one of two ways. Either they will say something along t ...more
Sep 15, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a grim but worthwhile overview of how the GOP's Southern Strategy. Given that Trump has massive support when under his tax plan middle-income taxpayers would see a savings of just two-tenths of 1 percent and the wealthiest would receive a 5 percent cut, Ian Haney Lopez's arguments are sadly on target.
Jan 05, 2016 David added it
A book worth reading, but somewhat tedious. The author does a very good job clarifying what "dog whistling". is. Both liberals and conservatives do it to an extent, one more than the other. When a politician disparages "Welfare Queens driving around in Cadillacs", very few of us have a mental image the 38% of the women on welfare who happen to be white. Nor do we envision those "Strapping Young Bucks buying T-bone steaks" as one of the 40.2 of those welfare recipients who as racist happen to be ...more
Jeffrey W.
Jun 17, 2014 Jeffrey W. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star
Highly recommended. This ought to be included as part of any university's campuswide reading program--perhaps presented as one of a trio of books also including Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Together, these three books powerfully examine the foundations of contemporary racial oppression, from its roots in Jim Crow establishment racism, to its more ...more
Jul 17, 2015 Kk rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating and important book. It took me a long time to finish, as there was hardly a sentence that I did not want to commit to memory. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in understanding and addressing the racial injustices in the US.
Aug 14, 2016 Kirk rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An in depth accounting of what Lopez calls 'strategic racism'. This is the use of racial appeals, not necessarily out of animosity or hatred towards specific groups, but to elicit an emotional response from the audience for strategic political ends. This has migrated from the overt racism of the Jim Crow era and Goldwater campaign to implied coded language of today against blacks, gays and Muslims to rally a white base on 'social issues'. These white audiences tend to abhor traditional racism, a ...more
Matt Fitz
Jan 25, 2015 Matt Fitz rated it really liked it
Compelling and provocative reading. Trust me, whatever biases you come to this book will reaffirm it. No one is shocked that there is DWPs going on today, but it provides a great assessment of how we got here and how tactics are used to gain electoral advantage. For those unfamiliar with it, it's a great primer. For those who know it is going on, it is incisive as to the evolution of its practice in contemporary politics, especially in light of the shifting demographics regarding Hispa ...more
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“We have learned to see racism in the spittle-laced epithets of the angry bigot. We must also learn to see racism in the coded racial entreaties promoted by calculating demagogues.” 3 likes
“In accord with the stories spun by dog whistle politicians, many whites have come to believe that they prosper because they possess the values, orientations, and work ethic needed by the self-making individual in a capitalist society. In contrast, they have come to suppose that nonwhites, lacking these attributes, slip to the bottom, handicapped by their inferior cultures and pushed down by the market’s invisible hand, where they remain, beyond the responsibility, or even ability, of government to help.” 2 likes
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