On the same day California’s primary election produced decidedly mixed results last week — encouraging for Democrats, less so for progressives — progressive advocates gathered in Los Angeles learned about how politics in California (and nationwide) could be dramatically transformed by driving a stake through the heart of coded, dog-whistle racism, and by confronting it head-on with a call for cross-racial unity to create a better shared future.
The message — delivered in a two-hour presentation by communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio (author of “Don't Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense about the Economy,” my review here) — was the result of ayear-long research partnership between her, Ian Haney López (author of “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class”) and Demos, the public policy nonprofit. They produced a national study, as well as customized versions for California, Ohio and Minnesota, all with broadly similar results. [...]
Trump’s election motivated Demos as well, according to Tamara Draut, the organization's vice president. “The challenge to us was how we do two things: Really address the populist moment and continue to build momentum for it, and at the same time do it in a multiracial, inclusive way.” This pointed Demos toward López’s work as well. “What that said to us was that we needed to tell this story about how race was being used in our politics to undermine the kind of solidarity that we need for progressive change to happen.”