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The New York Times reporter Jazmine Ulloa published an article Sunday about how the term “American dream” has become distorted by minority Republicans.
“A touchstone of political and social discourse, the nearly 100-year-old phrase “the American dream,” is being repurposed — critics say distorted — particularly by Republicans of color,” read the subtitle of Ulloa's piece.
“For decades, politicians have used the phrase ‘the American dream' to describe a promise of economic opportunity and upward mobility, of prosperity through hard work,” she wrote.
“Now, a new crop of Republican candidates and elected officials are using the phrase in a different way, invoking the same promise but arguing in speeches, ads and mailings that the American dream is dying or in danger, threatened by what they see as rampant crime, unchecked illegal immigration, burdensome government regulations and liberal social policies,” Ulloa continued.
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Ulloa wrote, “Many of these Republicans are people of color — including immigrants and the children of immigrants, for whom the phrase first popularized in 1931 has a deep resonance.”
“To politicians of old, ‘the American dream' was a supremely optimistic rhetorical device, albeit one that often obscured the economic and racial barriers that made achieving it impossible for many,” she continued.
Now, however, Ulloa argued, “To the Republican candidates embracing it today, the phrase has taken on an ominous and more pessimistic tone.” She compared the Republican congressional candidates' message to former President Donald Trump, who announced that “the American dream is dead” during his first campaign launch in 2015.
“In the same way that many Trump supporters have tried to turn the American flag into an emblem of the right, so too have these Republicans sought to claim the phrase as their own, repurposing it as a spinoff of the Make America Great Again slogan,” Ulloa wrote.
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The writer admitted that former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton also campaigned on the American dream being in jeopardy, but argued that “what has changed is that some Republicans now cast the situation more starkly, using the dream-is-in-danger rhetoric as a widespread line of attack, arguing that Democrats have turned patriotism itself into something contentious.”
“Television ads for more than a dozen Republican candidates in statewide, House and Senate campaigns — more than half of whom are people of color — cite the phrase, according to AdImpact, the ad-tracking firm,” Ulloa wrote.
“The Republicans relying on the phrase show the extent to which the party is diversifying its ranks and recruiting candidates with powerful come-from-behind stories,” she acknowledged.
However, she cited some who accuse these Republicans of color of “distorting” the American dream.
“But historians and other scholars warn that some Republicans are distorting a defining American idea and turning it into an exclusionary political message,” she wrote before quoting associate professor of political science at Fordham University Christina Greer who claimed, “The Republican Party is using it as a dog whistle. They are saying here is the potential of what you can have, if we can exclude others from ‘stealing it’ from you.”
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In the final paragraphs, Ulloa revealed, “Yet even Democrats find themselves speaking of the dream as pessimistically as Republicans. Just as Republicans blame Democrats for destroying the American dream, Democrats believe the fault lies with Republicans.”
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