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“The Radical Racist Socialism Of The Deep South”: Denials That The Civil War Was About Slavery Are Revisionist And False

With the American South so radically conservative and politically divergent from most of the rest of the country, it’s easy to forget that it was not always so. The American South used to be much more politically nuanced and politically complicated.

Obviously, the legacy of racism and slavery dominates everything. Southern denials that the Civil War was about slavery are revisionist and false, as Ta-Nehisi Coates conclusively demonstrated at The Atlantic.

But if we compartmentalize and set aside the grotesque and horrific injustice of race-based slavery, we can see that the 19th century South was also a hotbed of anti-capitalist economic egalitarian sentiment–with the caveat that only whites were allowed to receive its benefits. Consider these snippets excerpted by Coates: first, the Muscogee Herald in 1856:

Free Society! we sicken at the name. What is it but a conglomeration of greasy mechanics, filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers, and moon-struck theorists? All the Northern men and especially the New England States are devoid of society fitted for well-bred gentlemen. The prevailing class one meet with is that of mechanics struggling to be genteel, and small farmers who do their own drudgery, and yet are hardly fit for association with a Southern gentleman’s body servant. This is your free society which Northern hordes are trying to extend into Kansas.

Talk about a hatred of freedom and small business. Or consider this bit of socialism-for-whites-only from traitor-in-chief Jefferson Davis himself:

You too know, that among us, white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste, which cannot exist where white men fill the position here occupied by the servile race. The mechanic who comes among us, employing the less intellectual labor of the African, takes the position which only a master-workman occupies where all the mechanics are white, and therefore it is that our mechanics hold their position of absolute equality among us.

And finally, this remarkable indictment of Yankee capitalism from Hammond’s legendary “Cotton Is King” speech:

The difference between us is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment among our people, and not too much employment either. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South…Your [slaves] are white, of your own race; you are brothers of one blood. They are your equals in natural endowment of intellect, and they feel galled by their degradation.

There are many more examples of this sort of thing in Coates’ piece as well.

It’s easy to focus on the abhorrent racism here. But it’s also instructive to see the anti-capitalist critique of the North, whose laissez-faire robber baronism was admittedly Dickensian in its brutality–not remotely comparable to the evils of slavery, obviously, but it’s easy to see how a twisted racist mind that didn’t see black people as human would see itself as comparatively morally superior to the North by virtue of its white egalitarianism.

This is why the Confederate South was ultimately such a strong base of support for FDR. As long as FDR didn’t prevent lynching and the other modes of de facto enslavement of African-Americans in the post-Reconstruction South–and he shamefully and deliberately avoided doing so–most Southern whites were more than happy to take the benefits of Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the New Deal in general. The benefits of these programs were generally not shared with blacks, so Southern whites found an easy continuation of their economic ideology in sticking it to the Northern capitalists with economic redistribution.

The transformation that occurred in the 1960s was much greater than a simple political realignment in which the vast majority of Southern whites switched from Democrats to Republicans after LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act. They also experienced a far more profound shift in their economic politics.

Forced to choose between their virulent racism and their embrace of progressive economic politics, most former Confederate whites chose to keep their racism. Redistributed benefits were all well and good when that egalitarianism extended only to themselves–but extend those same benefits to the hated underclass, and taxation becomes theft and tyranny. FDR socialists became Ayn Rand libertarians essentially overnight.

It’s important to remember that fact when we talk about the legacy of institutional racism in the United States. We’re talking about a hatred so profound that an entire demographic didn’t just switch political parties on a dime: it switched generations of populist economic ideology as well.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 27, 2015

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Civil War, Conservatives, Deep South, Slavery | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rick Perry, Job Poacher”: Southern Grand Larceny With A Very Old Pedigree

Poaching on the labor of others is an ancient and honored Southern tradition, whose antebellum antecedents Texas Governor Rick Perry has recently brought up-to-date with a $1 million advertising campaign to encourage businesses to pack up and come on down to the Lone Star State where the taxes are lower than a worker’s wages.

Called “Texas is calling, your opportunity awaits,” the 30-second TV spots feature business leaders and celebrities like Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith calling Texas the “land of opportunity” and home of “creative renegades.”

On Fox News, Perry boasted, “Texas has the best business climate in the world. Over the last 10 years, 30% of all the new jobs created in America were in Texas.”

Wooing business from other states is all part of “healthy competition,” says Perry. “It’s the 50 laboratories of innovation that are out competing for the jobs to keep America at the front of the race,” the Governor insists.

Yet, when mayors and governors elsewhere talk about “growing” their economy they mean that literally – as in, creating new jobs where none existed before, from the ground up, nurtured by public-private partnerships, public investments in R&D and good schools, and other initiatives that create real value.

In Boston where I work, the South Boston Seaport District is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country right now, says Moody’s Investor Services, thanks in part to steps that Mayor Tom Menino has taken to make the area a magnet for entrepreneurs — an “Innovation District” — where start-up companies with bright ideas but not much cash can get reasonable financing and available space to help their businesses grow.

Just last week, the Boston Herald reported that the Small Business Administration called Menino’s Innovation District a model for other cities to follow who are interested in creating a cutting-edge start-up culture — “a Mecca for people from all over the world to launch out and build the next big company.”

He credited the city’s Innovation District initiative for creating a “community of entrepreneurship and creativity.”

Winslow Sargeant, chief counsel for the federal agency’s Office of Advocacy, said: “This ecosystem of innovation brings together entrepreneurs to share ideas and bring their vision to the marketplace. It presents a successful model and an ideal avenue for the public and private sectors to partner together for economic success,” he said.

In just three years, Boston’s Innovation District initiative has brought more than 4,000 jobs to the waterfront area.

Boston has become a great place to start a business, said Sargeant, who grew up in the city. “If someone wants to start a company or if someone wants to explore what it takes to, there are people that they can talk to and places they can go to network with others.”

Among the biggest benefits of the district, the Herald says, are the start-up incubators and accelerators that offer shared work spaces. “Magic things happen” when entrepreneurs get together and share work space and ideas, said Ben Einstein, founder of Bolt, one of the companies now operating in the district.

There is another economic development model, however, one favored by Governor Perry and governors throughout the South: Don’t make money the old fashioned way by earning it or actually “creating” anything. Let the Yankees do that with their fancy schools and business incubators. Then, when companies are off the ground and up and running, steal them away like cattle-rustlers in cross-border raids by luring owners with promises of lower taxes, fewer environmental regulations and protections against uppity workers who want a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s labor.

That is what Perry really means when he says that 30% of all the “new” jobs “created” in America were in Texas – proof of which is the $1 million Texas is now spending to steal other state’s jobs away from them.

There is political as well as economic method to Governor Perry’s madness since his desperado tactics are never aimed against other Republican governors, but only blue state Democratic ones in target-rich “enemy” territory.

Perry recently traveled to New York and Connecticut on a four-day trip to lure businesses away from those states. The trip comes on the spurred-heels of earlier raids into California and Illinois where Perry showed ads depicting an emergency exit door under the headline:  “Get out while you still can.”

Both Perry’s trips and the ad campaign are being paid for by a group called TexasOne, which is a coalition of corporations and local chambers of commerce.

This sort of Southern grand larceny has a very old pedigree.  A cold and forbidding climate like New England’s grows a population that must be skilled at living by its wits and the “Yankee Ingenuity” that cemented New England’s reputation as home to world-class education, the textile mills of Lawrence and Lowell that gave birth to America’s industrial revolution, and the Yankee traders who invented, then sailed, world-famous clipper ships like the Flying Cloud and Sovereign of the Seas.

A hot and humid climate like the South, rich in natural resources, on the other hand, tends to spawn a class of indolent, parasitic oligarchs whose labor saving inventions consist almost entirely of exploiting the labor of others.

In short, what we have in New England is called “entrepreneurial capitalism,” which means using the state as partner to nurture good ideas and develop them into profitable companies, perhaps whole new industries.

What Governor Perry exports from Texas, on the other hand, is “crony capitalism,” using the power of the state to enrich and reward powerful insiders, not by creating new opportunities but by lowering the rewards workers get from those opportunities that already exist.

And now that the GOP has become a Southern Party, Republicans have inherited the most disreputable features of what author Michael Lind calls this “Southernomics” as well.

It was not always thus.  Between the 1930s and 1970s, so-called “modern Republicans” like Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon tried to level the playing field among the states — not through regressive tax and labor policies — but through revenue sharing and other public investments in infrastructure, writes Lind in Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics.

Ironically, then, modern Republicans and New Deal modernists built an infrastructure for the South and West that traditional conservatives inherited and were able to use for their own “illiberal purposes,” says Lind.

It is no coincidence, says Lind, that the two biggest companies to fail during the Bush administration – Enron and WorldCom – were both Southern.

Entrepreneurial or “bourgeois” capitalism is alien to Texas and other Southern states, he says, because “crony capitalism is the only kind familiar to the Southern oligarchs, decedents of planters who could not balance their books and knights who despised mere trade.”

The lesson from these scandals, says Lind, as well as Governor Rick Perry’s politically-motivated raids against Democratic economies, is not that capitalism is unworkable, but that “capitalism only works where there are real capitalists.”


By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, July 4, 2013

July 6, 2013 Posted by | Economy, Jobs | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Willingness To Say Things That Aren’t True”: The Facts Kelly Ayotte Doesn’t Want Her Constituents To Know

When the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks died two weeks ago at the hands of a Republican filibuster, only one senator from New England voted to kill the bill: New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte (R).

This week, as Ayotte returns to the Granite State, many of her constituents are expressing their dissatisfaction. Take this town-hall meeting today, for example.

When another man rose to ask Ayotte to explain why she voted against expanding background checks, several people in the audience of more than 250 people applauded.

“I know people have strong feelings about this issue,” Ayotte began. She said she voted against the bipartisan compromise on background checks last month because she believed gun owners would face an undue burden and she feared it could lead to a federal gun registry.

What bothers me about the senator’s response is how wrong it is. The “undue burden” Ayotte is worried about adds a few minutes to gun purchases, and it already applies to existing firearm sales in gun stores. If it helps prevents gun violence, why is it “undue”?

More importantly, the fears of a possible federal gun registry are ridiculous. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, there is no federal registry. The proposed measure explicitly prohibits a federal registry. Under the bill, anyone even trying to create a federal registry would be a felon, subject to 15 years behind bars. No one has even proposed the possibility of a federal registry.

The irony is, if Ayotte was worried about a possible registry, she should have loved the compromise plan — it strengthened the prohibition on the very registry she’s so worried about.

And best of all, Ayotte surely knows this. The U.S. senator has had two weeks to think of an excuse and the best she can come up with are talking points she knows aren’t true.

Have I mentioned lately how difficult it is to have a serious policy debate when those engaged in the discussion are willing to say things that aren’t true?

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2013

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Saying What Everyone Felt”: Uncle Ruslan And Big Papi Remind Us That We’re All In This Together

From California to the New York Island

From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters

This land was made for you and me.

–Woody Guthrie, 1944

For what it’s worth, almost everybody in Arkansas who can find Massachusetts on a road map was appalled by state Rep. Nate Bell’s grotesquely inappropriate Twitter post. (Of course not everybody can, but that’s a different issue.) At the height of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, the Mena Republican informed the world, “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”

Reaction from New England was swift, often witty and rarely polite. “Go put on a pair of shoes and fry me up some squirrel, Gomer,” my pal Charles Pierce wrote on his Esquire blog. In a post entitled “Bite Me,” he urged readers to remind Bell “that God loves him as he loves all mouthy hicks.” Joe Koehane, the Boston-bred columnist, was less circumspect: “Might want to take a flight up north and try saying that in person, you waterheaded, little-d**k hillbilly a**hole.”

Note to Nate: Anybody who thinks Boston’s a city of Perrier-sipping pantywaists has clearly spent no time there. It didn’t help that in photos, Bell looks less like a Navy Seal than a guy who’s never personally assaulted anything more lethal than the buffet table down at the Squat n’ Gobble Barbecue Shack. Many Bostonians speculated that his fondness for big guns originated in less-than-robust manliness. Southerners are sometimes surprised to learn that when provoked, New Englanders remember the Civil War too—particularly the Irish.

Back home, Arkansans long sensitive to being caricatured as ignorant hayseeds urged Bell to resign. My sainted wife, a lifelong Arkansan (apart from our three long-ago years in Massachusetts), summed things up wearily. “Oh my God,” she said. “He’s just pathetic.”

It’s merely ironic that “redneck” remains the last socially-acceptable ethnic slur in American life. Fools like Rep. Bell help make it so. It’s a wonder the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce or the Parks & Tourism people didn’t have him kidnapped and transported to Mississippi.

Then after the big dope said he was sorry for the unfortunate “timing” of his remarks, Davy Carter, the Speaker of the Arkansas House, and also a Republican, had the decency to post a proper apology:

“On behalf of the Arkansas House of Representatives and the state of Arkansas, I want to extend my deepest apologies to the people of the City of Boston and the state of Massachusetts for the inappropriate and insensitive comment made this morning by an Arkansas House member. I can assure the people of Boston and the people of Massachusetts that Arkansans have them in their thoughts and prayers during this tragic time.”

Of course they do.

Indeed, if there’s any good to come from evil acts like the Boston Marathon bombing, it’s to remind Americans that the things binding us together as a people far outweigh our differences. In all the rage and sorrow, the words that rang truest to me came from the bombers’ immigrant uncle Ruslan Tsarni and a baseball player from the Dominican Republic.

Uncle Ruslan spoke with rare passion. He urged his surviving nephew Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to turn himself in and beg forgiveness. Maybe he needn’t have said that his brother’s sons had shamed and embarrassed all Chechen immigrants, because we don’t do—or we’re not supposed to do—collective racial and ethnic guilt here in America. But anybody who grew up with first- and second-generation immigrant families knows exactly where he was coming from. Better to hear it raw than listen to mealy-mouthed apologetics on MSNBC.

Uncle Ruslan allowed his nephews no excuses. He found their alleged religious motives fraudulent and contemptible. More than that, he spoke in terms of bedrock Americanism common to Boston, Little Rock and his Maryland home. He said he teaches his own children that the United States is the best country in the world. “I love this country which gives (everybody) a chance to be treated as a human being.”

And then came Big Papi, David Ortiz, a beloved bear of a man who briefly addressed a Fenway Park crowd after a pregame memorial service. Gesturing to his chest, Ortiz pointed out in Spanish-accented English that on that day his uniform shirt didn’t say Red Sox.

“It says Boston,” he said. ““This is our f***ing city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

Expletive and all, he said what everybody felt. The crowd erupted in a spontaneous roar.

Sitting halfway across the country in front of a TV set at my home on a gravel road in darkest Arkansas, I have to tell you, I damn near cried.


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, April 24, 2013

April 25, 2013 Posted by | Boston Marathon Bombings | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nothing But Contempt”: One Man’s Disaster Relief Is Another Man’s Pork

In all the attention paid to the drama over the fiscal cliff, most people momentarily forgot that there were a few other important things the 112th Congress was supposed to take care of before its ignominious term came to an end. But yesterday, thanks to a couple of prominent politicians criticizing their own party—something always guaranteed to garner plenty of media attention—everybody remembered that states in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey, are still waiting on federal disaster aid. First New Jersey governor Chris Christie came out and gave a blistering press conference in which he blasted House Republicans for not taking up the relief bill, saying, “There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.” Christie also said he called Boehner multiple times, but Boehner wouldn’t return his calls. Then Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, delivered a rather extraordinary statement on Fox News, not only urging people in New York and New Jersey not to donate to members of his party, but referring to them as “these Republicans,” as though they were from a group of which he was not a part. “These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars,” King said. “I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their minds. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.” Yow!

Obviously, it’s good politics to plead on behalf of the folks back home, but King seemed genuinely pissed off (it’s harder to tell with Christie, since pissed off is pretty much his default mood). And the GOP is about as popular as syphilis right now, so criticizing them is also good politics. That will always be true for Christie, which could complicate his potential 2016 presidential run—he can’t look too close to the national party or his popularity at home will suffer, but he can’t be too antagonistic if he’s going to win over Republican primary voters. (King won his last election without too much trouble, but his district has plenty of Democrats). But this is a good reminder that one man’s absolutely necessary emergency government expenditure is another man’s pork.

This mini-revolt also reminds us just how far south the center of gravity within the Republican party has moved. New Jersey, which has an independent commission draw its congressional districts, will have a 6-6 split in its delegation in the new Congress. But head north, and it’s tough to find a Republican. Only six of New York’s 27 members are Republicans, and there are a grand total of zero Republican representatives from the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Christie and King are criticizing a party in which they as Northeasterners are a vanishing breed.

The fact that Sandy hit a couple of states that many members of the House GOP caucus would just as soon see go straight to hell anyway went a long way to mitigate their enthusiasm for disaster relief. This problem is both regional and ideological. The time is gone when most or all members of Congress saw Americans suffering from a natural disaster, no matter what part of the country it occurred in, and said, “Of course the federal government will help.” After all, the fact that people are looking for help from the federal government just shows that they’re 47-percenters who deserve nothing but contempt.

All that being said, there’s only so much pressure an embattled Speaker can take. After emerging battered and bruised from the fiscal cliff debacle, by the end of the day yesterday Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor basically sued Christie for peace, declaring that the new Congress will take up a Sandy relief bill on the first day of its session.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 3, 2012

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Disasters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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