Is Chicago the new ‘dog whistle’ code word for racism?

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The word “Chicago” has been spat with reckless abandon in the 2012 election cycle. Republicans and the right have been using it, well, liberally as an epithet to point to what they contend are politics as usual and the failed presidency of Chicago’s favorite son, Barack Obama.

It’s an attempt to smear the president with the slime that often does bubble up in Chicago and Illinois politics, no doubt rife with corruption and a history of underhanded practices. Though, as Mark Brown points out, the idea that Obama is a product of the Machine is about as flawed as it gets:

It’s an easy hit. Our city’s politics are dirty, undeniably so. Obama emerged from our political system, therefore, Obama must be dirty. May I just point out that you can’t even get elected mayor of Chicago any more on the basis of ward politics, not to mention U.S. senator, let alone president of the United States.

But get past the political connotations of the Chicago connection and the question of subtext has been brought up recently – does “Chicago” mean “black?” Is it a dog whistle, a way for some to talk about race without using the more overt terminology?

Conservative blog Hot Air calls hog wash on the notion, with extra wash aimed at MSNBC host Chris Matthews:

Just a few easy steps: Obama administration -> corruption -> Chicago -> black neighborhoods -> racism. Say this for Tingles: In a week packed with moronic media race-baiting, with his co-hosts at MSNBC locked in an endless game of dog-whistle oneupsmanship, he’s somehow managed to stand out. This is really his niche; the rest of the press will play racial code-word parlor games sporadically, when the GOP is on the offensive and the left needs a little extra help, but Matthews does it all year long.

Newsbusters’ Rusty Weiss wonders if this is just the new order of business – building racial overtones into every word to insulate the Obama administration from any criticism by making every word a potentially racist one:

In what is seemingly the natural progression of things these days with Matthews, the subject of the ‘otherization’ of the President was being discussed. Because, if you weren’t aware already, Barack Obama is black, and any time a Republican chooses to discuss the failure that is his administration, the media will be there to quickly remind you that they only feel that way because of his skin color.

This fight will surely go on as both sides of the aisle trade accusations of the other side injecting racism into the campaign. It would be great, though, if both sides laid off Chicago. We have enough problems to deal with.

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