Jaylen Cavil and Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz co-authored this commentary. Cavil is a Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 36. Murguia-Ortiz is an independent candidate in Iowa Senate district 17.
Dog whistles have been a feature of U.S. politics for decades. President Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens,” President Bill Clinton’s “law and order” campaign, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Barack Obama a “food stamps president” are all examples of racist talking points. Politicians use coded language when trying to garner support by triggering racial anxiety.
Today’s version of the “war on crime”—a reaction to nationwide calls to defund the police and fund communities instead—is no different from the racist wars on drugs and poverty that have led to the incarceration and deaths of millions.
With the introduction of the Invest to Protect Act, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (D, IA-03) and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley have joined forces to re-employ this dog whistle strategy.