"Progress is a nice word," said Bobby Kennedy. "But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies." Over the decades, that sobering reality has confronted every group of Americans who've endeavored to advance our society's democratic ideals of fairness, justice and opportunities for all. From the revolutionaries of the 1770s to today's grassroots rebels engaged in multiple struggles for democratic rights, every inch of progress has been vehemently opposed by entrenched enemies of change. Invariably, the upstart activists of democracy movements find themselves trivialized as unworthy and uppity by elite protectors of the status quo -- "What is it those people want, anyway?" they ask with dismissive sneers.
In the early 1900s, that question was answered succinctly and eloquently by Samuel Gompers, the founding president of the American Federation of Labor. Union organizers were routinely being oppressed and literally brutalized by rapacious corporate barons, hired thugs and corrupt politicians and judges -- yet they kept organizing, protesting and challenging the power structure. Why? Not just for themselves, Gompers explained, but for the Common Good:
"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures."
A century later, we again find ourselves in want of essentially the same elements of progress sought by the nascent AFL. While Americans were able to make important advances on Gompers' enlightened agenda during the New Deal years and on into the 1980s, the light has steadily dimmed ever since under the relentlessly regressive public policies and miserly budgets of Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and even (though to a lesser degree) Obama.
And now comes The Donald, along with his slaphappy cabinet of Daffy, Sleepy, Sleazy, Creepy, Larry, Curly and Mo. They're "governing" by using such political tools as Trump's tweets, presidential name-calling, melodramatic firings, made-for-TV rallies, dog whistles, overt bigotry, Sean Hannity and a constant loop of lies. All of this is given 24/7 saturation coverage by a bedazzled news media that can't take its eyes off of Trump's round-the-clock freakshow, absurdly and erroneously branding each performance "populism."
The helter-skelter zaniness, however, is like a magician's smokescreen -- a distraction from the Trumpsters' sleight-of-hand manipulations being made daily out of public view. Such devious tricksters as Pruitt, Zinke, DeVos, Mnuchin, Mulvaney, Sessions and Pence do their real jobs behind closed doors. In collusion with K-Street's powerhouse lobbyists, Koch-allied front groups, and the GOP's congressional leadership, they are systematically supplanting true democratic populism with an omnishambles of new rules to enthrone corporate supremacy over all other interests.
While the mass media have largely failed to cover the scale and pernicious substance of Trumpism, the majority of Americans have figured it out on their own. After all, even though he is buoyed by a collection of totally enraptured, see-no-evil Trumpistas, it is glaringly obvious to everyone else that he has abandoned "the forgotten working class" he so loudly touted in his campaign. Virtually every action of his presidency has blatantly robbed poor and middle-class families in order to further enrich the already rich and powerful. That is why he is so staggeringly unpopular, earning historically low public approval ratings from the start of his bizarre tenure.
More than merely disproving his policies and behavior, people have spontaneously erupted in a fierce, grassroots resistance movement. Trump's recurring abuses of women, Dreamers, Muslims, immigrants, poor people, science, nature, Puerto Ricans, students, union members -- and whomever or whatever irks him next -- have been met with a rising level of open rebellion, ranging from a record number of nationwide mass mobilizations to hundreds of local pop-up protests.
This bold resistance has spooked a mess of congressional Republicans, who are now stuck not just having to defend both his psychotic outbursts of racism, misogyny, etc. and his embarrassing flip-flop from "populist champion" to a shameless puppet for corporate elites -- but also are forced to defend the shame of their own unquestioning embrace of all-things-Donald. They are the enablers of the senseless harm he is doing to our people and our nation. Already, 42 congress critters, including craven House Speaker Paul Ryan, have announced that rather than face the voters' fury, they're retiring.