Student Question

How did George W. Bush change Republican strategies during his 2000 campaign according to chapters 5-9 of Ian Haney López's Dog Whistle Politics?

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In his 2000 election, George W. Bush toned down the racist messages and dog whistle politics that had long been used by Republicans. He had experience governing in Texas, a state with large numbers of whites, African-Americans, and Latinos, and as the author writes, "the advantages of using dog whistle racism seemed to be waning" (page 115). For example, Clinton, a Democrat, had used dog whistle politics to his advantage in the 1990s, and it was no longer just a Republican tactic. In addition, Bush's campaign strategist, Karl Rove, urged Bush to pursue a strategy of "compassionate conservatism" to win the votes of moderate voters as well as some Latino voters.

In Bush's very close 2000 election against Gore, which was ultimately decided by conservative justices in the Supreme Court, 21% of nonwhites voted for Bush (page 115). At the outset of his administration, Bush supported overturning or revising policies that had been deemed racist, such as stop-and-frisk tactics. However, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush began to use dog whistle politics and coded racist attacks against Muslims, Arabs, and eventually Latinos, in the wake of the national security fears Americans felt following those attacks. 

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