Because There Is No Racism

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Fallows rightly flags Newt Gingrich continued labeling of Obama as  "the food stamp president" as a doq-whistle and gets this from a reader:


You cited as a "dog whistle" Newt Gingrich's comment that Obama is "the food stamp President". By calling that a dog whistle you are dog whistling to your own constituencies about how terrible and racist those evil Republicans are.

Fallows responds:

...Newt Gingrich knows exactly what he is doing when he calls Obama the "food stamp" president, just as Ronald Reagan knew exactly what he was doing when talking about "welfare Cadillacs." There are lots of other ways to make the point about economic hard times -- entirely apart from which person and which policies are to blame for today's mammoth joblessness, and apart from the fact that Congress sets food stamp policies. You could call him the "pink slip president," the "foreclosure president," the "Walmart president," the "Wall Street president," the "Citibank president," the "bailout president," or any of a dozen other images that convey distress. You decide to go with "the food stamp president," and you're doing it on purpose. 

 If Joe Lieberman had been elected, I would be wary of attacks on his economic policy that called him "the cunning, tight-fisted president." If Henry Cisneros had or Ken Salazar does, I would notice arguments about ineffectiveness phrased as "the mañana administration." If Gary Locke were in office, then "the Manchurian candidate" jokes that had been used on John Huntsman would have a different edge. And so on.

I think this is the point. There are a great many ways to attack Obama's economic policies and priorities. People as diverse as Mitt Romney and Tavis Smiley do it all the time. The notion that Gingrich is somehow unaware of that "food stamp president" has racial connotations, that he is being on the level when he says the black community should not be satisfied with food stamps, requires an extension of supernatural generosity. 

I mean, it certainly is true that somewhere in Obama's America, black kids are beating up little white kids. And I am sure a lot of black people really do have a high opinion of fried chicken. If you want to be right, there's always a way to get you there. But honesty is different.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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