John McCain's Racist Dogwhistle in Meridian, Mississippi

by: Matt Stoller

Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 17:07


Oh, this is some dogwhistling.  John McCain is kicking off his 'Service to America Tour' in Meridian, Mississippi on Monday, the tour designed to introduce America to his biography.

Meridian, MS, is 40 miles from Philadelphia, MS, the place where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964 and the city where Ronald Reagan kicked off his Presidential campaign in 1980 with a speech on states' rights largely seen as the political springboard for the emerging civil rights backlash.  Meridian itself is significant because one of the civil rights workers was actually from the town.  McCain also has some military history in the town, but there's a reason this is the first stop on the tour, and I don't think it's just because he was stationed there.

Now, McCain of course won't distance himself from Reagan's famous racist kick-off speech, and this clearly looks like a dogwhistle to racists within the Republican Party.  I'm just wondering whether the press is going to cover the fact that McCain is kicking off his bio tour in the town where a famous civil right martyr was born and the place where the racist civil rights backlash kicked into high gear.

Michael Scherer, I'm waiting.

UPDATE:  McCain's speech is here.  I was probably wrong on this incident, it doesn't look like a dogwhistle.

Matt Stoller :: John McCain's Racist Dogwhistle in Meridian, Mississippi

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The GOP coalition grows ever more stale (0.00 / 0)
Let the racists come out strong for McCain.  Let them be as visible as they want.  It's only going to turn the actual American majority further against the GOP.

Your point about the media is well-received, however.


Not sure if I'd go that far (4.00 / 2)
I mean, come on Matt, by your logic ANY campaign event in Mississippi would be a dog whistle to the racist crowd.  After all, Mississippi is the site of the worst abuses against civil right protesters in the 50s/60s, right?

If this were in Philadelphia, MS, and if McCain had no connection to the town, then maybe I'd buy it.

But since McCain has "military history" in the town, he is justified in making a speech about his background there.  The fact that a slain civil rights activist was born there doesn't mean a whole lot -- Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were born in New York, so is a speech in New York a "dogwhistle"?

Now maybe some campaign strategist in the McCain team thought this would be a great subversive ploy to wink at the racist demographic who know that Chaney was born in Meridian, but I doubt it.


It's the comparisons it draws (0.00 / 0)
Reagan started a campaign in Mississippi with his state's rights speech, and everybody knew what it meant.  McCain is drawing a parallel between that moment and this one.

Because, really, why begin a campaign in Mississippi, the most intractably Republican voting state in all of Presidential politics?  It's not like it's a swing state.


[ Parent ]
I agree (0.00 / 0)
I think this is really a stretch. McCain has history there. There is perfectly good reason for him to start his campaign there, especially if he's afraid of losing his base. If he has to increase his support among the Republican faithful, why not start in Mississippi? Does anyone criticize Obama for starting his campaign in a deep blue state like Illinois, for example?

[ Parent ]
Haven't been there (0.00 / 0)
[delurking]

...but a handful of times since my mom died the week of GWB's inauguration, but I'm originally from Meridian and also think that this is reaching.  Not because it's not a racist place-- of course it is, although there's a decent-sized AA population too-- but because most people there don't think that much about the Philadelphia (a place better known for its Choctaw casino nowadays) murders nearly half a century ago.  The naval air station up Hwy 39 is second only to healthcare as a source of jobs in an economically moribund region, and it is perennially on the chopping block.  There are lots of retirees, obviously a big demographic for McCain.  And back when I lived there, one of the two bookstores in town was a religious one, which should tell you more than a bit about the GOP base that McCain is working.  He's got plenty of reasons to be there, IOW.


[ Parent ]
Haven't been there (0.00 / 0)
[delurking]

...but a handful of times since my mom died the week of GWB's inauguration, but I'm originally from Meridian and also think that this is reaching.  Not because it's not a racist place-- of course it is, although there's a decent-sized AA population too-- but because most people there don't think that much about the Philadelphia (a place better known for its Choctaw casino nowadays) murders nearly half a century ago.  The naval air station up Hwy 39 is second only to healthcare as a source of jobs in an economically moribund region, and it is perennially on the chopping block.  There are lots of retirees, obviously a big demographic for McCain.  And back when I lived there, one of the two bookstores in town was a religious one, which should tell you more than a bit about the GOP base that McCain is working.  He's got plenty of reasons to be there, IOW.


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Grrr... sorry about the double post. nt (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
Grrr... sorry about the double post. nt (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
changing mouse speed settings now... nt (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
Of Course John McCain is racist (0.00 / 0)
Every Republican, and everyone who's ever considered voting for a Republican, is racist.

Every white or asian person is racist.  Any person of mixed race who doesn't specifically reject his non-black relatives is racists.

McCain and his mother could dye their hair - but they leave it white!  Racists!

They could hold their campaign events at night, when the sky is Black.  They hold them during the day.  Racists!

They could drink only accept campaign donations by black people.  But they accept white contributions!   Racists!

The problem, of course, is that if we call everyone we don't like Racists for any reason at all, eventually no one will care.  See: the boy who cried wolf.

Wouldn't you rather be believed when you find someone who really IS racist, really doing something racially based?

Like.... Bill Clinton comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson in S. Carolina?


[ Parent ]
The establishment media won't touch it (4.00 / 1)
As far as they're concerned, the only people who are still unhappy with the state of race relations in America are people whom they effectively characterize as dead-enders at both ends of the spectrum, i.e. unreconstructed nutjob racists, and unreconstructed nutjob black leaders. Everyone else, in their mind--i.e. that wonderful moderate levelheaded center than never gets angry and just wants everybody to get along--agrees that we've won the war against racism, and it's just time to move on. Something to do with St. Ronnie empowering welfare queens to get off their duff and stop whining and become self-reliant.

Meridian will be covered like St. John's "Mission Accomplished" moment. What a hero!

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton


This dogwhistle fits in with my comment on the dogwhistle bio ad (0.00 / 0)
http://www.openleft.com/showCo...

Except unlike in the primary....where the media willingly followed wherever and whenever the Obama campaign shouted race (if you're a Clinton supporter that's what it was) or justly decried race baiting ( as an Obama supporter would see it)...this is about 1. Republican who are in general allowed to get away with a lot by the media and 2.  a Republican politician most of them genuinely love and admire.

They will not point it out or bring it up,  and they will tell you to stop smearing an honorable man.  

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"
Stoller


McCain Field? (0.00 / 0)
McCain is beginning his campaign in Meridian because it's the home of McCain Field. Named after his grandfather (commander of the aircraft carrier where the Japanese surrendered). McCain is obviously running a national security campaign so it makes a lot of sense that he would begin by drawing attention to his military roots. It has nothing at all to do with "dog whistles."

As a commenter above said, by your logic Matt, even stepping foot in Mississippi is tantamount to a call to arms by racist rednecks.

How bizarre.


race plus security? (0.00 / 0)
Seems to me that Matt's right to bring up the parallel with Reagan's nasty 1980 "states' rights" dog whistle.  And for those of you who argue that there's a security angle, why can't it be both reasons at once?
After all, the post-civil rights GOP was built on both racial fears and foreign policy fears...

Are you insaine? (0.00 / 0)
First off, Bill Clinton was in Meridian a couple of weeks ago campaigning for Hilary. Does that make the Clinton's racist? Do a little researching and you will find that not only is McCain Field named after John's grandfather, but John was stationed at one time in Meridian. Also, his grandfather was from Mississippi. He has a lot of ties to this area.

I am from Philadelphia, MS and I can assure you that contrary to popular belief the Klan no longer walks our streets.

What are you drinking or smoking fella?


yeah, you're right (0.00 / 0)
I retract my earlier comments, having read this:

"A weeklong "Service to America" tour for McCain began on Monday in Mississippi, where generations of McCains were born and raised on land that had been in the family since 1848."


[ Parent ]
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