SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Dog whistle racism, or what the late President Bush used Willie Horton for.


I’ll give George Herbert Walker Bush full credit for his deft handling of international affairs during the fall of Communism. He also ran a Gulf War considerably better than his son.

However, the bad goes alongside the good, and I’ll also remind viewers about Bush hatchet man Lee Atwater’s marvelous contribution to American politicking.

First, a definition of “dog whistle.”

The phrase “dog whistle” has been around for years. It’s political shorthand for a phrase that may sound innocuous to some people, but which also communicates something more insidious either to a subset of the audience or outside of the audience’s conscious awareness — a covert appeal to some noxious set of views.

These days we have the Racism WatchDog to help with these dog whistles.

I’m satisfied to let it rest here, at this juncture, and allow posterity to be the judge.

George H.W. Bush’s “Willie Horton” ad will always be the reference point for dog whistle racism, by Rachel Withers (Vox)

How “Willie Horton” went from shorthand for black depravity to shorthand for political racism.

George H.W. Bush, the one-term president who died on Friday at age 94, is often overlooked by history, despite having presided over the last truly bipartisan “grand bargain” and the end of the Cold War. But if there’s one context in which his name, along with that of another man, is regularly invoked, it’s when political campaigns make coded racist appeals to white voters.

Even as President Donald Trump usurps him with increasingly transparent racist attacks, George Bush Sr.’s “Willie Horton” ad remains the key reference point for dog whistle politics.