The word “reactionary” has become synonymous with the Right entirely due to the Left applying it to anyone they hate. The Left does not use it much anymore, as new abracadabra phrases have taken its place. Read radical writings of the 60’s and the word turns up all over the place. The claim is that the opponents of the Left are not working from a basis of facts and reason. Instead, they are merely reacting from emotion and therefore they can be dismissed.
It is why I tend to think the people embracing the label, calling themselves neo-reactionaries, are making a critical mistake. They are dismissing their own thoughts as nothing more than a hysterical reaction to the prevailing liberal orthodoxy. That is not their intention. They are reaching back to an older definition, but that is not how anyone outside their movement is going to take it. Like it or not, the Left controls the language, or at least they have for a long time, so they get to define the terms.
It is just another example of the dominance of the Cult of Modern Liberalism in American life. Everything, even the thoughts of its adversaries, has been warped by it. Vast bits of history have either been lost or retconned to the point where they tell a story in direct contradiction to the facts. The reactionaries used to be the people in charge, facing down the rebels of the radical Left. Today, reactionary conjures an image of a thoughtless old man unwilling to change with the times.
Thinking of the Left as the establishment is hard because the narrative of the Left always features them as the plucky underdog, facing off against the reactionary philistine. The concept of the struggle is integral to the creation myths of liberalism, as well as to the ongoing narrative of the faith. Like all cults, Liberalism can function without a leader, but it must always have a devil. As a result, even the harshest of critics can be forgiven for failing to appreciate the Left’s hold on society.
This altered reality obscures the fact that as an intellectual construct, the Progressive project in America has collapsed. That is evident in the Democratic primary for President. Bernie Sanders ran on the old time theme of economic equality and sounded like a stock character from the 1950’s filmstrip on the Red Menace. It was not what he said, but how ridiculously out of place it sounded compared to modern Progressive rhetoric.
Clinton, in contrast, chants the slogans of identity politics, which are all just in-group signaling. Her campaign to run as a slightly-out-of-the-closet lesbian is what liberalism is today. Talk to a modern liberal and ask them why they are supporting Clinton. Most likely they will change the subject, saying something about Trump. Otherwise, you get a shrug because they do not know. It is just what they do. It is what they are supposed to do.
Something else that has been obscured by the howling from the Left is that it is an entirely reactionary movement now. With nothing to offer a modern technocratic society, other than a post-modern form of nostalgia for the glory days of the Cult, the Left is mostly focused on stamping out bogeymen, real and imaginary, past and present. Listen to a liberal today and what you hear is a litany of things they oppose and those things are more often than not fictional.
It is why the college campus is so weird now. They are dominated by liberal women and minorities, yet they are engaged in endless witch hunts for dangerous white males. The Rolling Stone rape hoax featured a guy named Haven Monahan, a name intended to conjure an image of a toothy, horse faced WASP brimming with entitlement. College has become live action role playing for paranoid Progressives, with the quests set as morality tales based on Progressive piety.
It is what critics of Obama miss when railing about his refusal to say, “radical Islam.” They assume it belies a hidden agenda or a naive ignorance. It is neither. Obama is a reactionary. Whatever his adversaries are for, he is against. His reactionary instincts are mostly just a moldy form of anti-colonialism that was popular with his parent’s generation, but still exists in Afrocentric circles. Obama is defined by what he hates, not what he loves.
It is why his first act as President was to have the bust of Churchill removed. African anti-colonials hated Churchill, seeing him as the symbol of British imperialism. Right out of the gate, Obama was showing us he was a man defined by his hatreds. He was for nothing and against just about everything. In this regard, he is the quintessential reactionary. His only interest is in maintaining the Progressive order. Whether or not it is good for the country is irrelevant.
The entirely of Obama’s presidency can be explained in the reactionary framework. Like most successful blacks in America, he is consumed with a hatred for whites so a lot of what he does is just spite against the honkies. The more substantive acts read like a laundry list of Progressive revenge fantasies. His rapprochement with Russia was styled to be a rebuke of Reaganism, not a diplomatic strategy. It is why it failed. After the point was made, he and his flunkies laughed and move onto other topics.
The big health care push was never about health care. Instead, it was about revisiting the liberal defeat in the early 90’s. That is why it quickly devolved into score settling over issues like abortion and religious liberty. The Left has not the foggiest idea how to reform health care and they are not interested in it. They just wanted to exact some revenge against Christians and the middle-class. The point of that is to remind everyone they are in charge and it is the natural order.
Obama’s refusal to take obvious steps to address the Muslim problem is just a form of trolling. He knows it pisses off the squares and that is why he does it. It is not that he is a secret Muslim or that he has a secret agenda of some sort. The truth is the opposite. He as no plans and not interest in forming a plan. What consumes him is poking a stick in the eye of the people he detests, which so happens to be normal Americans. In this regard, he is our first foreign President, but he mostly just a reactionary President.
Ultimately, reaction cannot exist as an intellectual force on its own, as a simple matter of logic. Just as Buckley Conservatism curdled into a weird Corporate Libertarianism without the menace of Soviet communism, the Left has evolved in reaction to the void where it is old enemy once existed. The radical project was always based on the assumption of scarcity, a zero sum game where some had extra and some went without. It is why communist states never try to arrest scarcity. They need to survive.
Today, no one goes without, as a practical matter. It may be an illusion build on credit money, but a whole generation has grown up with too much of everything. When the poor are suffering from obesity, scarcity is no longer a problem. Instead of promising a future where poverty and inequality are banished, the Left is now a paranoid power cult lashing out indiscriminately in a vain quest to hold power. They are like meth addicts fighting the imaginary spiders, except they wield real power and do real damage.
America, like the rest of the West is entering a crisis of legitimacy due largely to the fact the Left decimated the intellectual battlefield. In the zeal to pull down all competing social constructs, they forgot to build one of their own that can hold up in a modern technological society. What passes for mainstream moral philosophy today is a vast moonscape littered with the remnants of old ideas. The Left is reduced to settling old scores and lashing out at imaginary bogeymen. This is the age of Liberal Reaction.