The Political Economy of Race

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Modern conservatives never address their beginnings and the strategy they still recycle because it gave them their early success: hidden and direct appeals to social discord assigned to race. As civil rights increased personal freedoms and brought the nation expanded safety nets, conservatives crafted a winning message: progress was riddled with government failures that increased and drained the balance sheet.

They developed a political economy that tied race to specific social behaviors to deny progress by the balance sheet. The balance sheet was used to blame small and steal big.


Racial bias, in early conservatism, was leveraged into racism–a elaborate system of power centered in institutions and customs that limited advances, blamed victims, and hid its intent. The customs that supported its power system were amazingly fluid, easily taking inconsistent positions. In criminal justice, the fight was against “thugs.” In jobs, against the “lazy.” In discrimination, a zen switch pointed to individual progress!

The point: to end the use of public money to fight inequity. South Carolina’s right to work laws prevent workers from filing discrimination suits. Resort housekeepers are classified as seasonal and not paid overtime. In education, rural poverty created a “corridor of shame.” SC leads in deaths by heart disease, obesity. This reflects a quality of life tied to race whose inequities will only partly succumb to personal effort.

Twilight of the Apparatchiks – The New York Times

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