Donald Trump has built his presidency on top of racial dog whistles, xenophobic rhetoric, and anti-immigrant policies. A core belief among liberals was that this strategy would help Trump with whites but almost certainly hurt him with Latinos, and people of color more broadly. Then the opposite happened: In 2020, Trump gained considerable support among voters of color, particularly Latinos, relative to the 2016 election.
Ian Haney López is a legal scholar at UC Berkeley and the author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class. In 2017, he partnered with the leftist think tank Demos and various polling groups to better understand the effectiveness of racial dog whistles and how Democrats could combat them. The results were sobering, even to the experts who commissioned the polls. As Haney López documented in his 2019 book Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America, 60 percent of Latinos and 54 percent of African Americans have found Trumpian dog-whistle messages convincing, right in step with the 61 percent of whites who did.
This conversation is about the complicated reality of racial politics in America. It’s about the fact that the electorate isn’t divided into racists and non-racists — most voters, including Trump supporters, toggle back and forth between racially reactionary and racially egalitarian views — and a more robust theory of how race operates in American politics that follows. And it’s about the kinds of race- and class-conscious messages that Haney López’s research suggests work best with voters of all backgrounds.
Racial Realignment:The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932–1965 by Eric Schickler
The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Producer/Audio engineer - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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