The term carpetbagger was a pejorative term referring to the carpet bags (a fashionable form of luggage at the time) which many of these newcomers carried. The term came to be associated with opportunism and exploitation by outsiders. The term is still used today to refer to an outsider
Together with Republicans, carpetbaggers were said to have politically manipulated and controlled former Confederate states for varying periods for their own financial and power gains. In sum, carpetbaggers were seen as insidious Northern outsiders with questionable objectives meddling in local politics, buying up plantations at fire-sale prices and taking advantage of Southern whites.
The term carpetbaggers was also used to describe the Republican political appointees who came South, arriving with their travel carpet bags. Southerners considered them ready to loot and plunder the defeated South.
In modern usage in the U.S., the term is sometimes used derisively to refer to a politician who runs for public office in an area where he or she does not have deep community ties, or has lived only for a short time. In the United Kingdom, the term was adopted to refer informally to those who join a mutual organization, such as a building society, in order to force it to demutualize, that is, to convert into a joint stock company, solely for personal financial gain.