How to listen for racism on the campaign trail

Kennedy offers the theory that this campaign’s dog- whistling may be prompted by a realization by right-leaning provocateurs that voters have become inured to charges of racism. I suspect another phenomenon has hastened this realization: A handful of black Republicans have abetted dog-whistling by making their own bombastic statements about the degraded moral health of the black community, the putative foreignness of the Obamas and the Democratic Party’s plantation-like qualities.

The former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who last week endorsed Gingrich, told me in an interview last year that Obama was more “international” than American. He also said that, unlike Obama, he rejects the label “African-American” because he feels “more of an affinity for America than I do for Africa.”

Representative Allen West of Florida, one of two black Republican House members, recently called the Democratic Party a “21st-century plantation” and compared himself to Harriet Tubman. In August, he said, “Today in the black community, we see individuals who are either wedded to a subsistence check or an employment check. Democrat physical enslavement has now become liberal economic enslavement, which is just as horrible.”