Nell Irvin Painter on Plutocracy

The rank and file of Black Republicans and many white Republicans strenuously opposed “Redemption”, as the Democratic takeovers were called. But Democratic candidates with Confederate backgrounds profited from two beliefs that have undergirded American politics since the end of the Civil War. The first was that while government in the interest of poor people is government for special interests, government that serves the wealthier segments of society – in the South, planters and merchants – is good for everyone. This convention is grounded on assumptions that all members of society have an identity of interest, according to which no segment of American or Southern Society can prosper without the others doing well also, but only from the top down. By this reasoning, if planters harvested big crops, farm laborers would also do well, and if business were good, workers would make good wages. But this logic did not work the other way around. If workers received good wages, it did not follow that the fortunes of businessmen would grow; quite the opposite. The second assumption was that men who were seen as “the wealth and intelligence of the South” knew better how to govern than did the uneducated, who relied on common sense. By this assumption, the prosperous were the polity’s natural rulers.

  • P. XIV, Exodusters – Nell Irvin Painter, ISBN 0-393-00951-3

Nell Irvin Painter


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