The Politics of Dog Whistles

Arturo Dominguez
7 min readMar 15, 2019

“I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

KKK members parade in Virginia, 1922 (Via Wikimedia Commons)

A dog-whistle (not to be confused with an actual dog-whistle used in the training of dogs) is when coded language is used by the leader of a group that lets his most ardent supporters know what’s expected of them at a specific time or event. As someone who studies this kind of rhetoric, Donald Trump’s statement to Breitbart is what would be considered an activation message; a call to action, so to speak.

For context, Breitbart argues that Trump’s statement was specifically speaking to how the left plays politics in a more vicious manner than the right despite the tough people being on his side. It’s an explanation that changes nothing.

Breitbart’s argument further validates the ideology behind Trump’s statement. When he says “until they go to a certain point” is a clear message telling his supporters when to act against a specific group. In this context, anyone who doesn’t support him is the left. It’s a point I tried to make in a post titled, “To My Moderate Republican Friends” where I discussed how you’re either a Trump supporter or you’re a liberal; a leftist; an enemy of the state.

There is no moderation for Republicans. There is no middle ground for them anymore. You’re either in, or you’re one of the bad guys.

Conservatism, for all intents and purposes, is dead.

When viewed in totality with other comments he has continually made in his life, and even more so as the President of the United States, those who oppose him are Democrats, Mexicans, people of color seeking justice and equality; sons of bitches; nasty women; or come from shithole countries while white supremacists are very fine people.

It’s dangerous rhetoric that in many cases has led to violence in the past.

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Arturo Dominguez

Journalist covering Congress, Racial Justice, Human Rights, Cuba, Texas | Editor: The Antagonist Magazine |