The Confederate Identity Project launched on Aug. 3, 2017, less than two weeks before the violence in Charlottesville. What got it going was a Confederate Flag sticker on a local car, 2,900 miles from Richmond. But we didn’t know much about the Confederacy, the Civil War, Reconstruction, or really, the American South at all.
Here’s the supposed similarities between Trumpian politics and Confederate politics as outlined in that first blog post, and how they stack up after a year of cramming our precious spare minutes with American history up to 1877:
|Suspected similarity between Trump politics and Confederate politics||Does it line up with the record?|
The Confederacy didn’t have much immigration, and so wasn’t explicitly opposed to it.Truth be told, it was the abolitionists of the North who often expressed the most anti-immigrant views. The Civil War split the opposing American sources of cheap labor to exploit — the South had slavery, the North had poor immigrants. But — the South has never valued workers, whether of slaves, immigrants or poor whites (see more below).
The Confederate states long enjoyed political power in the United States. But as northern states outpaced them in population growth, industrialization and westward expansion, they became increasingly suspicious of the federal government, Yankee financiers and the high-minded liberals of the North. They sought refuge from these powers through the protection of state’s rights.
If the northern states were founded in English Puritanism, the southern states were founded in British aristocracy. Land-holding slave lords looked down upon mere workers of any race before the Civil War, and since the Civil Rights Movement, corporate titans have moved to the Confederacy to break the unions that flourished in what has become America’s “rust belt.”
The high profits to be reaped through crops like cotton limited industrialization in the South. Planters liked to set up along rivers, so they could ship their goods by water and avoid paying for public roads or supporting railroads. The Confederacy was woefully behind the Union in terms of transportation infrastructure and urban development before the war, and set back even further by losing it.
To be clear, the White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants of the Union fell far, far short of modern standards of racial enlightenment. But the North at least believed in some abstract form of equality. Confederate society was so deeply rooted in racial slavery that it warped every facet of life in the South. (see also, education)
The South strongly believed in a protestant Christian identity for the United States — and so did the North. What has changed is that Christianity has eroded in modern America, especially it’s cities and it’s upper crust, but less so in the South and definitely not in conservative politics.
|Protective of old industries||Yes.
Southern crop planters held outsized power locally and in Congress and the No. 1 protection they sought was the continuation of slavery. They lost out to Yankee tycoons of new industries like mass manufacturing, coal, steel and the like. Today it is those industries that need protection, and get it from the GOP.
|Suspicious of academics and universities||Yes.
The Confederacy had universities, and schools. But part of maintaining a slave economy is limiting freedom of thought among both slaves and the poorest classes that might join with them in a revolt. The first public school systems in the South were created after the war, through an alliance of freed blacks, white Republicans, and northern do-gooders.
|Nationalist, not internationalist||Meh.
The South’s plantation economy was dependent on free trade and, like the current administration, needed an international separation of business and moral interests to get it.
Both the North and South were nationalist, however, in that they were interested in expanding territory. The South hoped for recognition as a nation and an end to the trade blockade that strangled it. The Union wanted recognition as a nation too powerful to allow international meddling in its internal affairs.