Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dog Whistle: Anglo-Saxon Edition

New Romney Campaign Meme: My ancestors could beat up your ancestors.

Mitt Romney has decided that in order to win, he must dog whistle.  At least, that's the very strong impression he is giving in the past two weeks.  Romney has had a bad couple of weeks.  Stories about Bain and Romney's unwillingness to release tax returns have been ubiquitous.  I get it, rough times.

But the way that a candidate (or really any person) responds to rough weeks is telling about his/her character...

And Romney has responded by dog whistling Dixie.  That is to say, Romney and his surrogates have spent the last week or two calling Obama "foreign" at every opportunity.

And now there's this lovely piece of work:

As the Republican presidential challenger accused Barack Obama of appeasing America's enemies in his first foreign policy speech of the US general election campaign, advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards London. 
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa. 
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”... 
"If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your President," he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "You have that President today". Promising another "American century" in which the US acts as the global night watchman and does not hesitate to "wield our strength" when needed, he said: "I will not surrender America’s leadership in the world". 
Members of the former Massachusetts governor's foreign policy advisory team claimed that as president, he would reverse Mr Obama’s priority of repairing strained overseas relationships while not spending so much time maintaining traditional alliances such as Britain and Israel. 
“In contrast to President Obama, whose first instinct is to reach out to America’s adversaries, the Governor’s first impulse is to consult and co-ordinate and to move closer to our friends and allies overseas so they can rely on American constancy and strength,” one told the Telegraph. 
“Obama is a Left-winger," said another. "He doesn’t value the Nato alliance as much, he’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory'.” 
The two advisers said Mr Romney would seek to reinstate the Churchill bust displayed in the Oval Office by George W. Bush but returned to British diplomats by Mr Obama when he took office in 2009. One said Mr Romney viewed the move as “symbolically important” while the other said it was “just for starters”, adding: “He is naturally more Atlanticist”... 
The advisers spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr Romney’s campaign requested that they not criticise the President to foreign media. After another adviser criticised Mr Obama in a German magazine last month, the President sharply instructed them that “America's political differences end at the water's edge”.  [Emphasis mine.]

Yeah, so...  It's pretty hard for me not to see this as racist code.  And that makes me pretty darn angry.

 Why does this seemingly coy set of behaviors matter?

Well there are these Birthers and right-wingers, for one thing.  And there is this Republican narrative that the reason McCain lost is because he wasn't willing to do the dog whistling that might have driven people that mainstream Rs maybe don't agree with, but from whom they really want votes, to the polls.

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And btw, I'm not entirely sure Romney wants to open the argument about who has the best roots to his family tree, because according to at least Wikipedia (I know, but I got curious), Obama is a distant cousin of six presidents and Dick Cheney, where Romney's got a whole lot of Mormons (whom I'm guessing are pretty unpopular with Birthers and right-wingers, too).

P.S. I would honestly like to hear anyone's theory on anything else this could mean other than a dog whistle. I can't think of a single reason you'd say these things that is not based in racism.


  1. Romney is an Anglo-Norman name. Dunham (Obama's mother's maiden name) is actually Anglo-Saxon. Though with that dog whistle accomplished, Romney is in the process of walking it back already. I'm positive Romney does not want the press to start sifting through his family tree, as it also ties closely into his religion, which he would also like to be off limits. It seems a very short-sighted gambit, for limited gain.

  2. Yeah, do you think the "advisers" we're just trying to butter up the Telegraph and spectacularly failed?

  3. I have to believe so. I haven't really been impressed by his advisors yet. They seem to be flailing, without much direction. Perhaps they are waiting until after the Olympics are over to bring their A game?

  4. Well, so many of them are Bush advisers that they should have a clue about how to talk to the press and how to put forward policies. Which is why that article is so strange. It has the feel of the way someone talks when he thinks he is with a receptive audience on racism, and is holding forth on supposedly agreed-upon concepts. But the very fact that they printed everything lets you know that the reporter thought what was being said was both pretty bad and pretty newsworthy. Which means that the adviser really missed what was going on.