To: Progressives

Progressives: Call out racist dog whistle politics


I commit to fighting for racial equality as a key part of the fight for economic equality. And I will call out dog whistle politics that seek to divide us.

Why is this important?

In a recent op-ed for the Nation, Demos Senior Fellow Ian Haney López, author of Dog Whistle Politics, and I made the case that our pursuit of economic equality has been strategically undermined by racist dog whistles. For the past forty years, the right wing has had a winning strategy: sell the economic agenda of the 1% to working- and middle-class white voters through a hidden formula:

Fear People of Color --> Hate Government --> Trust the Market and the 1%

Tax cuts for the very rich, slashed social spending, corporations writing their own rules, unions on the ropes: All sold to the American people through a narrative of racial resentment.

We can’t win against economic inequality without addressing the right’s best weapon against a unified 99%. Everything progressives want—debt-free college, universal health care, campaign finance rules, climate change solutions, workers’ rights—requires a belief in government and trust in each other.

My pledge:

Name and shame. I’ll call out coded racial terms that paint our fellow Americans as undeserving and that lower our aspirations for government: “illegal alien,” “makers and takers,” “people who want free stuff,” “welfare queen,” “entitlement mentality,” “the Food Stamp President”... and whatever they think of next.

Racially integrate our movement. Today’s economic populist movement has to include all of us if it’s going to succeed. I’ll work to ensure that our rallies and meetings are racially & ethnically diverse, and knock on doors in neighborhoods that are different than mine. I’ll take solidarity actions with the Muslims, Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans who are currently experiencing waves of hate and derision. By doing so, I commit to creating a multiracial progressive movement that will fight simultaneously for racial and economic justice.

For more information, read the Nation article I wrote with my colleague Ian Haney López, UC Berkeley Law Professor, Demos Senior Fellow and director of the Racial Politics Project at the Haas Institute. Ian literally wrote the book on Dog Whistle Politics (

Find the Nation article here: