by Brendan Beery
During the 1988 presidential campaign, an operative named Lee Atwater, one of the nastiest minions ever unleashed by the devil (or, as political hitmen go, maybe the devil himself), oversaw George HW Bush’s campaign against Michael Dukakis. Atwater was the godfather of what we now call “dog-whistle politics.” He mastered the use of code language to be spoken by racists and bigots to racists and bigots without anyone else around being able to say — at least with any certitude — that a racist or bigoted signal had just been sent.
Republicans still use this tactic: remember all the talk last election cycle about the “food-stamp president”? The ultimate evil in all this — its most wily and diabolical character — is that he who blows the dog whistle can then turn around, after being called out on it, and accuse the person who called it out of himself being a racist. “Well,” says the trumpeter of the code, “if you think food stamps and blacks somehow go together hand-in-hand, then you’re the racist.” Dia-BOLICAL.
Unfortunately for those on the right who deny to this day that there is such a thing as dog-whistle politics (and they are legion), Lee Atwater, aforementioned devil’s minion, had a death-bed conversion as he was dying young from brain cancer and fessed up. Atwater ultimately asked forgiveness for his part in perpetuating racism and ugliness. I’d say his confession was famous, but in reality, the best I can say is that it should be. But even before he repented, and in fact even before he ran the George HW Bush campaign, he had let the cat out of the bag. In a 1981 interview, he explained as follows:
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 — 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*****.”
Here is a recording of that quote if you have the stomach to hear it:
During the 1988 campaign, Atwater was instrumental in creating the “Willie Horton” issue. (Republicans even renamed Horton: he went by William, but Atwater’s crowd thought “Willie” sounded a little blacker.) Here is an ad that a pro-Bush-One PAC aired during that campaign:
And guess what’s come back to haunt the next generation of Bushes. Check it out HERE.
The Trump video, like the Horton ad, is 1) misleading to the point of being not just a lie, but an embarrassing lie; 2) a bald contextual mischaracterization; and 3) manifestly unfair.
Dynastic karma is hell.