Willie Horton

Dog-whistle politics.

The 1988 Willie Horton Ad is considered to be one of the most explosive political ads in modern times. The ad, created by a Political Action Committee in support of President George H.W. Bush against Michael Dukakis, shines the spotlight on the issue of crime. Dog-whistle politics is political messaging suggesting coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different, or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.  Watch the commercial below and and answer the questions that follow.

Questions for Completion

1.  This is a classic compare-and-contrast ad. Why do you think politicians and campaigns use this type of ad so frequently?

2.  To what extent does this ad fit the definition of dog-whistle politics? Why or why not?

3.   Liberals have accused this ad of exploiting, promoting, and encouraging racism as a way to win political office. Is this a fair portrayal of this ad? Why or why not?


Photo/Image:  George H.W. Bush, Photo by Atlas Al, licensed under CC PDM 1.0