Friday, August 19, 2011

Bachmann Campaign Evangelical Dog Whistles: David Vs. Saul Edition

(For an explanation of the term "Evangelical dog whistles," please see my previous post.)

There was a reference that really caught my eye this morning that came from the Facebook page of a Bachmann staffer. The comment came from Peter Waldron, who works in faith outreach on the campaign.

At first glance, this may seem like an odd choice of metaphor to most people. When David is invoked as a political metaphor, it is usually in the context of David vs. Goliath, the well known Bible story about the underdog defeating his giant opponent thanks to his faith in and commitment to God. In fact, one may even expect such a metaphor to be used here. But it's not. And I believe the chosen metaphor is far more telling of the campaign's strategy.

Saul and David were both anointed Old Testament kings of Israel. David was Saul's successor. As Peter points out in his post, Saul had that anointing removed, but still wanted to be king. So he aggressively tried to hunt down David to ensure that he would not lose his position of prominence. But in the end, it was all in vain, as David was the Lord's newly chosen leader of Israel. (If you're interested in reading the whole story, you can find in in 1 Samuel  chapters 9-31.) But the importance of its use here lies not only in the story itself, but in what group of Americans often invokes that story.

The Evangelical Dog Whistles of 2012

Over the past few decades, election season has become a time when Conservative politicians start to court the Evangelical vote aggressively through public displays and declarations of faith. This is and of itself is nothing new. But I believe there is an aspect of this that the media isn't picking up on.

Dog Whistles. Have you ever heard one? Of course not. Dog whistles are made at a pitch out of the range of human hearing. Although dogs can hear it, to humans it sounds like nothing. As I've been watching the 2012 GOP race for the nomination unfold, there have been a lot of dog whistles, but of a different sort. These are what I refer to as "Evangelical dog whistles." In no way am I calling anyone a dog, I just mean that it is a similar phenomenon.

Evangelical dog whistles are those words, phrases, and metaphors candidates use that may mean nothing to most people but are instantly recognizable to certain aspects of American Evangelical Culture. There are especially a lot of them coming out of Rep. Bachmann's campaign, so I've decided to start documenting the more prominent ones.