Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Reactionary Temptation

We are living in an era of populism and demagoguery.  And yes, there's racism and xenophobia mixed into it.  But what we are also seeing, it seems to me, is the manifest return of a distinctive political and intellectual tendency with deep roots: reactionism.

Reactionism is not the same thing as conservatism.  It's far more potent a brew.  Reactionary thought begins, usually, with acute despair at the present moment and a memory of a previous golden age.  It then posits a moment in the past when everything went to hell and proposes to turn things back to what they once were.  It is not simply a conservative preference for things as they are, with a few nudges back, but a passionate loathing of the status quo and a desire to return to the past in one emotionally cathartic revolt.  Though it took some time to reveal itself, today's Republican Party ... is not a conservative party.  It is a reactionary party that is now at the peak of its political power.

-- Andrew Michael Sullivan (1963 -), libertarian conservative author and political commentator, "The Reactionary Temptation" in New York magazine (30 April 2017)

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