Earlier today, The End Of Dog Whistles? posited that the Net Roots are forcing a level of increased transparency on the political world that, while deterring the most egregious smears, will not make remove them all ... that's up to us, the voters:
Like any other transparency measure, however, this process only enhances the potential for accountability. It does not automatically halt any conduct. It does not ensure, as Schmidt may imagine, that "Rovian" attacks are now futile--or that voters will always recoil from them. Instead, it simply means that candidates will increasingly have to answer for their code words and targeted appeals.
Michael Lind goes on to prove the point in discussing what McCain's "socialist" smear is really about:
Without exception, all of the policies supported by Obama belong to broad categories of public policies that have been supported, in one form or another, by conservative-libertarian thinkers like Friedman and von Hayek and conservative politicians like Reagan, George W. Bush and McCain himself. The differences between them and Obama are differences of degree, not of kind.
But while this is true it may not matter, if McCain's last-minute clarion call is really a racial "dog whistle." The McCain campaign may appear to be debating public philosophy, when in fact it is making a disguised appeal to white racism. If that is the case, then "redistributionist" and "socialist" may be intended to be understood by white swing voters as code words that function the way that "welfare queen" did for the Reagan campaign. A "socialist" or "redistributionist" is a politician who taxes white people like Joe the Plumber and gives money to ... you know who.
If this is the tactic, then it might be working. The polls are tightening in the final days of the campaign. Should McCain surprise the pundits and pull off a victory, historians may judge that it was because of his desperate insinuation that white people would be taxed to pay for welfare for Latinos and blacks. And if he should lose, conservative operatives planning for the next cycle may decide that this was the right tactic, pursued too late. Whether he wins or loses, by using "socialist" and "redistributionist" in an environment in which they were likely to be interpreted as racially-charged smears, John McCain may have damaged not only his reputation but our society.