Political activism should not be reactionary

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Editor-in-Chief

So much of the political discourse in this country is reactionary. That is a really bad thing.


Most times that I am discussing politics with someone, they are typically brought up for one reason – someone is doing something that we disagree with. Very rarely do political discussions get sparked out of positivity and in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, the conversation is almost always discarded for some other person doing something that we disagree with.


That’s not to say that I, or people I know, or people with opposing viewpoints to me, do not have values that we stand for all of the time. What it really means is that, for most people, politics is nothing more than a conversation, or an argument. 


In 2020, there were mass movements to change the way policing is practiced in this country. I know numerous people who attend protests for nothing more than an Instagram picture and to feel good about themselves.


It is not enough to have conversations about policing only after they kill someone, or another controversy unfolds. We must continue conversations long after these things happen, or else change will never happen.

Right now, our country is in a constant cycle of bad things happening, people getting mad about them, and then giving up whenever nothing is changed. Political institutions will not just change in a day. Likewise, people in power are not just going to roll over when you tweet angrily about them.


One huge example of reactionary politics, and one that I believe is largely responsible for our current situation, is the advent of the political reply guy. When Donald Trump was still active on Twitter, there were dozens of accounts gaining a widespread following for replying to him with criticisms.


Almost all of the time, these criticisms were incredibly valid, but making your entire ideology specifically about going against the grain of someone is a bad way to live your life. If Donald Trump tweeted “I love drinking water” I genuinely believe that some people online would stop drinking water.


Or, more accurately, social media influencers with exorbitant amounts of money would tell their followers to stop drinking water and to buy their books, Substack and or Patreon subscriptions, or whatever product they are trying to sell. Meanwhile, they would continue drinking water.


The point that I am trying to make is, by behaving as reactionaries, we can never achieve actual progress. Because reactionary politics require an initial action, political discourse can never truly accomplish anything.


This is exemplified by the state that the American right is currently in. Take a look at media companies like The Daily Wire or Fox News. Almost everything that you see on Fox News is people reacting to something. The M&Ms will make their spokespeople the female M&Ms and Tucker Carlson will complain that they are “less sexy” (actual quote).


Ben Shapiro’s reactions to pretty much everything is mind-numbingly predictable, to the point that I know one former conservative who became a progressive because they realized that all he does is repeat talking points. 

That being said, even in this very article, I’m still behaving as a reactionary. I am complaining about other people’s reactions to things that happened. This begs the question, can we even have a political discourse in this country that isn’t reactionary? In the age of social media, have we lost the ability to have unique perspectives? I really don’t know, but I hope we can.


I think that social media is a major culprit in the degradation of our political discourse, and we as a society need to acknowledge that. In the same vein, we should all use social media a little less, and all use real-life socialization a little more. By conversing with people directly and sharing our ideas and learning from each other, we can make progress.