Reconstruction 2.0 and the Neo-Confederate Backlash

paulThe Federal Reconstruction effort that followed the Civil War is generally regarded as a failure, but over the past few decades a powerful combination of Federal intervention and global capitalism is transforming Southern life in ways that Yankee armies never could. Though resistance to this transformation is approaching a powerful climax, there is reason to expect that Reconstruction 2.0 might bring a brighter future for the South and the nation.

Northern states experienced a surge of immigration in the 19th century that ended the unchallenged cultural supremacy of the white Protestant majority there. Resistance to the change was fierce, but ineffective. Waves of racist and anti-Catholic paranoia tore apart the precursor to the GOP, the Whig Party, in the 1850’s. Despite the obstacles and turmoil, the North by the end of the century was a mosaic of cultures living together successfully.

The South missed the entire episode, smothered beneath a slave economy. Southern states received a tiny fraction of the immigration and industrial development that swept the north in the 19th century, preserving a relatively monolithic racial culture and insulating the region from the dislocating force of merit-based capitalism.

Losing the Civil War might have opened the region to development, but the first effort at Reconstruction accomplished little. Defeated Southern soldiers brought their weapons home and used them to re-establish the old order in a slightly modified form under weak Federal control.

Before the Federal occupation even ended, white paramilitaries successfully fought and won pitched battles from New Orleans (where former General Longstreet was captured by a white army) to North Carolina, stripping freed slaves in practice from rights still officially guaranteed in law. When US troops finally gave up and went home, most of the work was already done.

By the early 1890’s Jim Crow laws made official what the mob had already established. The Lost Cause survived the Civil War little worse for the wear.

The generation at the peak of their political influence today in the South spent their youth drinking from whites-only fountains. There was something special in that water.

When Rick Perry was a boy white workers faced no competition from African-Americans, immigrants, women or anyone else. The “n-word” was as ordinary as salt & pepper. The best jobs and housing were all set aside for white men. The best schools served them alone. White men mediated all access to the economy. Their power, authority, and God-ordained superiority was an unchallenged assumption.

Women were finally allowed to enroll in Perry’s beloved Texas A&M on a very limited basis just two years before he started there. Throughout his college years, each female applicant had to receive the direct approval of the university’s President. Women were not granted full admission rights at A&M until 1971.

Southern men in their fifties launched their lives in an atmosphere of near-total protection from competition. God had made them racially supreme, the benevolent protectors of the weaker sex and even weaker neighboring races. Law and culture made that supremacy feel like a reality until the Federal government and global economic competition began to strip it away.

The landmark Civil Rights Acts of 1964-5 broke the legal foundations of white supremacy in the South, but that was not the only force at work. The acceleration of global capitalism that came later eroded the cultural and economic power of Southern whites. Federal intervention and capitalism are a hammer and anvil pounding away at traditional Southern values.

With the frightening specter of Jim Crow out of the way, America for the past thirty years has been busily exploiting the developing nation within its borders. Southern states are America’s very own China, complete with loose worker protections, weak pollution controls, under-developed bureaucracies, low taxes, and developing infrastructure.

With that growth has come immigration, both internal and foreign. Texas, like the other Southern states, is politically under siege. The Perry Generation in the South is doing everything the Federal government will tolerate to shut down voter participation, cut off women’s terrifying sexual freedoms, and strip every pipe and wire from the public sphere before the brown people start running things.

Though not an exclusively Southern phenomenon, the end of a white America inspires a uniquely potent fear in the South. The Tea Party’s determination to “take our country back” is not just an empty slogan or a hyperbolic gripe about taxes or bureaucracy. For an aging generation it represents the last stand of Neo-Confederate politics, a desperate attempt to preserve a culture of white superiority that many outside the South have already forgotten.

For that formerly insulated generation, accelerating technological dynamism has undermined much of their economic value just at the moment when global capitalism has broadened the range of competition. They have lost privileges and protections they barely realized they had and the terror is palpable. Southern Republican politics in this moment is pure, distilled fear; rhetorical moonshine that rushes straight to the heart before dimming the eyes.

Ironically, Reconstruction 2.0 is bringing the South a more authentically diverse racial culture than the country experiences anywhere else. For the all opportunity they offered to immigrants and African-Americans for decades, northern cities like Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia remain intensely segregated down to a finely calibrated scheme of ethnic and cultural identities. Dallas and Atlanta today are among the country’s least segregated major cities.

Younger southerners with no memory of Jim Crow carry less and less of the racist coding that marked previous generations. For all the struggle and challenge, it is the South, not the North, offering America her greatest opportunity to make a post-racial society real.

Reconstruction 2.0 is a relentless juggernaut bringing a brighter, freer, more prosperous future to the South. The aging Neo-Confederates that have seized control of the GOP are tilting at windmills. Cooler heads might regain political control before the party goes the way of the Whigs, but the country at large is already moving on. When the dust settles and the dead-enders have given up, the Southern states may be positioned to breathe vibrant new life into the American Dream.


Ron Paul describes the central premise of his Neo-Confederate politics:

It was all Lincoln’s fault…

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Economics, Libertarian, Neo-Confederate, Political Theory, Race
One comment on “Reconstruction 2.0 and the Neo-Confederate Backlash
  1. […] it is unlikely that Stockman will do to Cornyn what Cruz did to David Dewhurst. Cruz may be a modern day Confederate, but he’s also a politically calculating Ivy Leaguer who knows which fork to […]

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