The Oligarch's Revenge

The average person may be forgiven for thinking that the South actually won the Civil War. Despite a brief experiment in interracial democracy during the Reconstruction years, for much of its history the region has upheld a regime of brutal racial subordination. In the late 19th century, after the overthrow of Reconstruction, many of its state governments disenfranchised Black men, instituted racial segregation, condoned racial terrorism and violence, and kept a majority of Black and white Southerners economically bound through sharecropping, debt peonage, convict lease labor, and tenancy. By the 20th century, Franklin Roosevelt called the South the nation’s No. 1 economic problem, resistant to unionization and social policies. Even today it leads in indices for poverty and weak educational systems. The Jim Crow South was upended by the civil rights revolution. Yet even in defeat, its language of oligarchy and its opposition to progressive political and economic policies through an appeal to racism has been adopted by the modern Republican Party.

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