The Race Card: Campaign Strategy, Implicit Messages, and the Norm of Equality

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Princeton University Press, 2001 - Political Science - 307 pages
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Did George Bush's use of the Willie Horton story during the1988 presidential campaign communicate most effectively when no one noticed its racial meaning? Do politicians routinely evoke racial stereotypes, fears, and resentments without voters' awareness? This controversial, rigorously researched book argues that they do. Tali Mendelberg examines how and when politicians play the race card and then manage to plausibly deny doing so.

In the age of equality, politicians cannot prime race with impunity due to a norm of racial equality that prohibits racist speech. Yet incentives to appeal to white voters remain strong. As a result, politicians often resort to more subtle uses of race to win elections. Mendelberg documents the development of this implicit communication across time and measures its impact on society. Drawing on a wide variety of research--including simulated television news experiments, national surveys, a comprehensive content analysis of campaign coverage, and historical inquiry--she analyzes the causes, dynamics, and consequences of racially loaded political communication. She also identifies similarities and differences among communication about race, gender, and sexual orientation in the United States and between communication about race in the United States and ethnicity in Europe, thereby contributing to a more general theory of politics.

Mendelberg's conclusion is that politicians--including many current state governors--continue to play the race card, using terms like "welfare" and "crime" to manipulate white voters' sentiments without overtly violating egalitarian norms. But she offers some good news: implicitly racial messages lose their appeal, even among their target audience, when their content is exposed.

  

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Review: The Race Card: Campaign Strategy, Implicit Messages, and the Norm of Equality

User Review  - Simcha - Goodreads

This book was excellent; eye-opening and honest about a social situation many wish to ignore. Racism has not ended but has morphed like a retroactive virus into a new entity. I believe the plight of ... Read full review

Contents

A Theory of Racial Appeals
3
The Norm of Racial Inequality Electoral Strategy and Explicit Appeals
28
The Norm of Racial Equality Electoral Strategy and Implicit Appeals
67
THE IMPACT OF IMPLICIT RACIAL APPEALS
109
The Political Psychology of Implicit Communication
111
Crafting Conveying and Challenging Implicit Racial Appeals Campaign Strategy and News Coverage
134
The Impact of Implicit Messages
169
Implicit Explicit and CounterStereotypical Messages The Welfare Experiment
191
Psychological Mechanisms The Norms Experiment
209
IMPLICATIONS OF IMPLICIT RACIAL APPEALS
237
Implicit Communication beyond Race Gender Sexual Orientation and Ethnicity
239
Political Communication and Equality
268
References
277
Index
299
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About the author (2001)

Mendelberg is Assistant Professor of Politics at Princeton University.

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