On a late summer day on August 14, 2012, while at a campaign event in Danville, Virginia, then-Vice President Joe Biden said the following:
[Romney] said in the first 100 days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules – unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put y’all back in chains. He’s said he’s going to do nothing about stopping the practice of outsourcing.
The Romney/Ryan campaign jumped on Biden’s gaffe, with spokeswoman Andrea Saul saying such comments were “not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama campaign will say and do anything to win this election.”
The Obama campaign clarified that the comments were a response to “comments Republicans have made about unshackling the private sector, and his own frequent references to the need to unshackle the middle class,” reports CBS News.
Fast-forward to Monday, and the “back in chains” line was resurrected. During a discussion about Trump’s recent racial controversy, Commentary Magazine editor and New York Post columnist John Podhoretz had the following exchange with Zerlina Maxwell, director of progressive programming for SiriusXM:
PODHORETZ: For twenty or thirty years, conservatives like me reared in anger and upset when I think irresponsible liberals and Leftists and Democrats would hurl charges of racism when we had disagreements on policy, disagreements on affirmative action, disagreements on certain types of schooling, things like that that we believed…it was important for those policies to change because they would be helpful to everybody, and would be more helpful to African Americans and minorities than the current status quo, or the wishes to change policy in ways that were too race conscious.
Now, it’s very hard for me to argue. I can’t sit here and say this is totally unfair to Donald Trump. I could certainly say that Joe Biden was insanely unfair to Mitt Romney when he said Mitt Romney wants to put you all in chains. That was disgusting and uncalled for and untoward.
MAXWELL: But the black people that he said it in front of at the NAACP – because I remember him saying that – clapped. And there’s a specific reason why. It’s because we’re under no illusions. The Republican Party that you’re talking about essentially spoke in dog whistles. That’s what’s changed.
Here’s a short history lesson for those of you who are new to the political scene. In the days before noisy allegations of racism, liberals would use the phrase “racial dog whistles.”
Anytime someone on the right said anything even tangentially related to race-based political policy with which progressives opposed, the progressives would claim that a code was being used, that the words and phrases being spoken by conservatives were secret racist communications. This, of course, could never be proven or disproven, which is why it was such a successful tactic.
In today’s climate, the phrase “racist dog whistles” is rarely used; it’s simply been replaced with direct charges of racism.
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