From Dog Whistling To Howling at the Moon

One of the great refined arts of contemporary American politics is the Cultural Right “dog-whistle”–the ability of candidates to pose as just normal, standard-brand conservatives mainly concerned with creating jobs and balancing the federal budget–even as they deploy veiled appeals to voters mainly interested in criminalizing abortion and same-sex relationships, putting racial, ethnic and religious minorities back in their place, and generally restoring the mores and folkways of an idealized American past.

But when campaigns get down to the lick-log, and defeat seems imminent, sometimes there’s no time for “dog whistles,” or for confining the unvarnished cultural message to quiet, unobserved places where hints and code-words can be discarded (you know, like Ave Maria University). Sometimes you just have to let it all hang out. I supposed that’s how Rick Santorum found himself yesterday being introduced in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in this manner (h/t Right Wing Watch):

As it happens, this rather interesting tirade was delivered at the home church of one of Santorum’s most prominent supporters and fundraisers, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, by its pastor, Dennis Terry. Indeed, Perkins invited 100 pastors (presumably his kind of pastors) from across Louisiana for a private meeting with Rick before Terry blew the doors off with his primal rage at liberals and baby-killers and sodomites and other infidels.

Some people call this sort of thing “energizing the base.” I’d call it pretty terrifying.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.