Ed Driscoll

'Dog-Whistling Past the Graveyard'

Noel Sheppard of Newsbusters quotes this marvelous exchange on this morning’s edition of ABC’s This Week* between panelists George Will and Donna Brazile, an advisor to Al Gore in 2000 and currently vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee:

GEORGE WILL: A subtext of all this is that we’re all racists. Can I ask you a question? What is the largest city in Illinois?

DONNA BRAZILE: Chicago.

WILL: You’re a racist. The guys over at MSNBC have said that when Republicans talk about Chicago, it’s a subtext for racism.

Also on this morning’s shows, multiple Democrat talking heads are responding with “no, but…” answers on today’s Sunday shows to the question originally asked by Ronald Reagan in 1980 — “Are you better off now than you were four years ago” and quoted by Mitt Romney in his acceptance speech this past Thursday night. All the more reason why Mark Steyn believes he’s watching the left “Dog-Whistling Past the Graveyard” in his weekly column:

It’s only the beginning of September. So we’ve got two more months of this. I don’t know how it will play in the negrohoods of Chicago — whoops, sorry, I apologize for saying “Chicago” — but let me make a modest observation from having spent much of the last few months traveling round foreign parts. When you don’t have frighteningly white upscale liberals obsessing about the racist subtext of golf, it’s amazing how much time it frees up to talk about other stuff. For example, as dysfunctional as Greece undoubtedly is, if you criticize the government’s plans for public-pensions provision, there are no Chris Matthews types with such a highly evolved state of racial consciousness that they reflexively hear “watermelon” instead of the word “pensions.” So instead everyone discusses the actual text rather than the imaginary subtext. Which may be why political discourse in the euro zone is marginally less unreal than ours right now: At least they’re talking about “austerity”; over here we’re still spending, and more than ever.

Time’s Mark Halperin wrote this week that “Obama can’t win if he can’t swing the conversation away from the economy.” That’s a pretty amazing admission. The economy is the No. 1 issue on the minds of voters, and, beyond that, the central reality of Obama’s America. But to win the president has to steer clear. That doesn’t leave a lot else. Hence, the racism of golf, the war on women, the carcinogenic properties of Mitt Romney. Democrat strategy 1992: It’s the economy, stupid. Democrat strategy 2012: It’s the stupidity, economists.

We’ll return to George Will in a moment, but first, some background. Yesterday, I linked to Michael Ledeen’s post here at PJM, in which Michael explored how liberalism is a dog-whistle word for an ideology that’s running in place:

There aren’t working-class parties any more, since there aren’t enough voters who think of themselves that way.  And honest politicians like my Italian friend gave it up, updated their thinking, and tried to cope with today’s problems.

In this process, there are plenty of people who can’t update their thinking.  They’re easy to recognize, because they write and talk about a world that no longer exists.  The easiest places to find them in contemporary America are Hollywood, college campuses, and the Obama administration with its attendant satellites, the dead tree media and the Democrat Party.  Their common bond is anger and frustration;  frustration because they can’t understand what’s going on, and anger because their remedies for contemporary problems do not come to grips with the essence of the problems.

In his weekly column, Will amplifies that theme:

In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton’s campaign ran an ad that began: “For so long government has failed us, and one of its worst features has been welfare. I have a plan to end welfare as we know it.” This was before progressives defined progress as preventing changes even to rickety, half-century-old programs: Republicans “would end Medicare as we know it.”

When did peculiarly named progressives decide they must hunker down in a defensive crouch to fend off an unfamiliar future? Hoover Dam ended the lower Colorado River as we knew it. Rockefeller Center ended midtown Manhattan as we knew it. Desegregation ended the South as we knew it. The Internet ended . . . you get the point. In their baleful resistance to any policy not “as we know it,” progressives resemble a crotchety 19th-century vicar in a remote English village banging his cane on the floor to express irritation about rumors of a newfangled, noisy and smoky something called a railroad.

When Mr. Obama declares “GOP Convention Was from Era of Black-and-White TV” as the National Journal helpfully paraphrases for him, he’s too clueless to realize that it’s his own ideology that wishes to keep mid-20th century America frozen in amber, and has to rely upon Alinsky-ite personal attacks, and as Michael wrote on Friday, the politics of personal destruction to do so. It’s all Mr. Obama has left to maintain his toehold on power.

Oh, and speaking of dog-whistling past the graveyard:

* Hosted by former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos who swears there’s no media bias — yet another cliche from America’s mid-century past.

Related: “For liberals like Maureen Dowd it is always 1936,” John Steele Gordon writes at Commentary. “The problems of 1936 are the problems today. The solutions for 1936 are the solutions for today. And the Republicans are a few people in mink coats and dinner jackets going down to the long-vanished Trans-Lux theater to hiss Roosevelt.”

Whom, oddly enough, Ross Douthat of the Times compared Romney to yesterday. That’s good enough for Time magazine, right?