I’ve been thinking persistently about the difference between politics and activism basically since Barack Obama was inaugurated. As the old saying goes, politics is the art of the possible. Activism is about fighting for principles regardless of their possibility. We run into problems when we expect politicians to be activists, or expect political campaigns to be activist movements. Likewise, activists oftentimes make poor politicians. That said, political change is contingent on effective activism. In short, activism creates the changes in public opinion that result in political change.
I have a lot more to say about this, but Ta-Nehisi Coates just posted a useful illustration of what I’m talking about.