Campaign Legal Center’s (CLC) new Race in Politics Catalog is a collection of political communications, campaign materials and comments that make racial appeals to voters. Compiled over the 2017-2018 election cycle, the Catalog gathers – in one place for the first time – many different types of race-based appeals from political campaigns across the country.
After Barack Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008, some suggested that it was the beginning of a new, post-racial age of American politics. The racism and bias that had characterized so much of the nation’s political discourse, they argued, was now in the past. But a look into the political campaigns of recent years makes abundantly clear the pernicious and continuing role of racism in the United States.
Campaigns across the country have consistently made appeals – both explicitly and implicitly – to voters on the basis of race. Many campaigns continue to employ racist stereotypes or exclusionary rhetoric to attack their opponents and generate support for themselves. These tactics are startlingly common, and their impact immense.
These messages sow division, cultivate harmful stereotypes, and disempower marginalized communities, and often, messages like these are closely linked to efforts at voter suppression.
Individual racist ads or comments are often dismissed as fringe outliers. By compiling these ads, CLC hopes to stimulate and foster a discussion about the ways political candidates or their surrogates continue to use race to sow division, cultivate harmful stereotypes, and disempower minority communities. We hope this catalog will inform our ongoing and necessary debate about race in our politics.