‘Liberals high in racial resentment were less supportive of welfare after reading the implicit racial appeal…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Few have stopped to question the left-wing narrative that President Donald Trump’s appeals to nationalism and—in the minds of some—race are intended to shore up his base on the far-right.
In nearly every action Trump takes—from his calls for unity after deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va.; to his enforcement of border security; to his sparring with the far-left members of “The Squad“—liberals have been ready to interpret some hidden “dog whistles” hinting at white supremacy.
As it turns out, though, the dog whistles may be tuned to a frequency that only the Left can hear.
A new study by sociologists at Brown and Stanford universities suggested that subtle, allegedly racial cues in political messaging were most effective in garnering support among the biggest racists of all: white liberals.
“If anything, many people would think conservatives would be more responsive to racial appeals, given the historical centrality of racial appeals to much Republican political messaging,” researcher Rachel Wetts, an assistant sociology professor at Brown, told the Huffington Post.
But in fact, the study found that the “dog whistle” statements the researchers used—words such as “inner city” in reference to African–Americans—were more effective in activating the latent racial resentment on the Left.
Of course, that assumes one accepts the intrinsic biases and assumptions of the researchers as factual and not laden with anti-conservative dog whistles of their own.
Historically speaking, the Democratic Party was long associated with racism, and arguably continues to tacitly encourage racial division through its frequent appeals to race and identity politics rather than a unified national identity.
Moreover, many argue that the “social safety net” of entitlement benefits that is central to the Left’s platform and messaging fosters a paternalist “plantation” society in which wealthy, liberal elites are the magnanimous benefactors to a sub-stratum of dependent serfs.
Even the act of advocating for a colorblind, egalitarian society has, in a party driven by grievance, victimhood and ‘intersectionality,’ become a ‘privileged‘ form of ‘microaggression‘ that denies vulnerable, neglected and exploited minorities their due suffering.
“The result is a political environment where whites continue to harbor negative racial stereotypes and varying degrees of anti-minority sentiment, but strong norms of colorblindness and egalitarianism mean such attitudes are inappropriate bases of judgment or action,” wrote Wetts and her colleague, Stanford sociologist Robb Willer.
Nonetheless, the study’s findings came as a surprise by showing that the Left’s race-baiting efforts to instill liberal guilt may not have taken root in many of its self-identified party members—and, contrary to their frequent rhetoric, conservative opponents don’t have the monopoly on racial animus.
Less surprising is that many Democrats remain unwilling to acknowledge the prejudices they harbor, unless duped into doing so.
“[E]lite appeals can harness whites’ underlying racial dispositions and prejudice to influence their policy opinions, but only when the racial content of the message remains outside conscious awareness,” said the study.
While those who identified as being on the Right began from a lower point on the researcher’s scale of negative racial attitudes, the study found that being exposed to messages with so-called dog-whistle statements had a greater impact on left-wingers who already were inclined toward negative views on race.
One of the main areas of focus for the researchers was the welfare system, which they claimed included coded racial language “and a tendency to attribute racial inequality to individual failings of blacks.”
The study divided its research subjects into three groups: one that heard a “dog whistle” statement from former President Ronald Reagan; one that heard overtly racist statements from the American Freedom Party; and one that heard unrelated statements on global warming from Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.
In order to prevent political bias from seeping into responses, the researchers did not identify the speakers.
The results showed that “the dog-whistle effect was driven by liberal participants,” said the study. “Liberals high in racial resentment were less supportive of welfare after reading the implicit racial appeal compared to a message with no racial appeal.”
The researchers further tested their dog-whistle hypothesis using gun control instead of welfare, in case it was the prior associations of race and welfare that impacted the results.
While they asserted their belief that those harboring more racial animus were more likely to favor less restrictive gun rights, they aimed to see if coded messaging that linked race and crime would cause participants to support more restrictions.
“Because any chronic associations that may exist between whites’ racial attitudes and their gun control attitudes appear to run in the opposite direction, we expect little prior racialization of this kind,” the researchers said.
“Therefore, if liberals in Study 1 [the welfare experiment] were the only group whose underlying racial predispositions were harnessed by implicit racial appeals because they have relatively weak prior associations between race and welfare policy, we would expect implicit racial appeals to increase the effects of racial attitudes among all groups in this study,” it said.
But still, the results were the same: that liberals were more swayed toward the racial cues suggested by the coded language to change their positions.
“Liberals high in racial resentment were more likely to voice support for increased restrictions on gun ownership after reading the implicit racial appeal compared to a message with no racial appeal,” said the study.
The researchers claimed that “racially resentful liberals” comprised about 3 percent of the U.S. population, or 10 million voters, based on data from the American National Election Studies.
With many states closely split between blue and red—and a popular-vote margin of less than 3 million between the two leading candidates in the 2016 election—the findings certainly mean that these so-called dog-whistle appeals to racist liberals could make a difference in swaying the next election to one side or the other.
“They might be a small group, but they’re really important politically,” Betts told the Huffington Post.