A comment on my first post, Polarity in Politics, from my friend, Jim Bob Crowley, inspires further clarification.
During our monthly Saturday morning meeting today he explained that my reply to his comment did not clarify all the issues. And, since this blog was established for the purpose of political clarification, with extended comments and debates, it seemed proper to address my friend’s questions in a new post rather than adding to the comment section of the previous one.
In the article I attempted to state the obvious, that a polarity exists in today’s political landscape within the US, one that I described as a widening tension between progressivism and reactionism. I stated that political activism is a characteristic of the progressive movement.
Conversely, I described reactionism as a reaction to progressive achievement in the interest of preserving the status quo, its institutions and stakeholders. Rather than simply preserving it, however, I mentioned that reactionism seeks to revert back to previous forms of the status quo, or even a misrepresentation of it, that fit within the parameters of their desired society.
Jim Bob explained that to pursue a reactionary path of political change also requires political activism, one that cannot be successfully accomplished without going on the offensive. This, of course, is correct and is a point worth clarifying as we move forward in defining the terms of political debate here.
While we discussed this confusion over breakfast this morning, I was wondering about an historical episode that would illustrate that reactionism is more than a defensive position, one that does more than just “hold on” to the status quo. Recent history in the US is actually filled with examples, perhaps none more prominent than the movement of the “Christian Right” in the late 1970s under the tutelage of the Rev Jerry Falwell.
Falwell awakened fundamentalist Christians in the US to their cultural “losses”, emphasizing the removal of prayer in public schools, the rights of the so-called “unborn”, and the boogeyman that was known as the “homosexual agenda.” Falwell’s call, along with that of the future presidential candidate, Pat Robertson, energized fundamentalists and has since become, perhaps, the most energizing force in right-wing politics, though much more could be said about these forces.
This birth of right-wing engagement is no less political activism than are the fights of progressives for immigrant rights and the reversal of climate change.
The distinguishing factor between the two poles is not the direction each pole represents; rather, it is the perception of the present and what it represents on the timeline of history, and, of course, what each polar opposite represents in terms of desirability for humankind. To overcome the inertia of the status quo, the polarity is extended through the political activities on each side.
The clarification is important, primarily because reactionism must be understood properly as an advancing political energy that is hellbent on defeating progressive initiatives that would eliminate nondemocratic structures of power such as class, race, gender, and other pieces of political structure that are built on inequality. To miss the point of reactionism’s intent is to lose ground to it and to yield to its eventual victory and further devolution of democracy.