During the past month it’s been easy to got locked into a demoralizing cycle of anger, frustration, and profound sadness about the future of our country. Breaking the cycle is difficult, given the daily deluge of Trump’s obscene cabinet picks and Congressional Republicans’ plans to reverse so many gains we’ve made during the past eight years. So it is enormously uplifting to read about some practical and concrete advice for how we can fight back.
The guidance is provided in a remarkable document, Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, written by a group of former staffers to progressive Congress members. From small steps that any of us can do, like contacting members of your Congressional delegation, to larger actions that require more planning and organization, this guide provides “insider” information to effectively push-back against the trump/GOP agenda.
In clear, confident prose, it lays out a well-reasoned, step-by-step strategy for building a grassroots movement to challenge Trump and his Republican allies in Congress.
Ezra Levin, former deputy policy director for Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who represents a district in central Texas, is the “unofficial spokesman” for the project. Here’s how he describes the group’s thinking.
We thought our value-add to this conversation is to demystify Congress for everybody else. The tea party had a lot of nasty tactics that were needlessly aggressive and petty and scary. But they proved it is indeed possible for a committed, relatively small number of folks across the country to make Congress listen to them and to slow and stop an agenda.
The way we see it, there is a much larger group of people around the country now that feel that way than there was in 2009 and 2010. Progressives are the majority; we won the popular vote by a long shot and Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans representing mainly rich old white men are a minority. If we stand up together and use the effective strategies and tactics the tea party used, we believe we can stop them.
That’s right: they have taken many of the successful strategies of the tea party— minus the disgusting parts— and analyzed what made them successful. For clarity, they include this handy table:
To fully appreciate the amazing work they’ve done, you really need to peruse the guide itself. But to give you some idea, here is their one-page summary (which, as stated in the guide, they explicitly want to be shared):
Here’s the quick and dirty summary of this document. While this page summarizes top-level takeaways, the full document describes how to actually carry out these activities.
Ch. 1: How grassroots advocacy worked to stop Obama. We examine lessons from the Tea Party’s rise and recommend two key strategic components:
1. A local strategy targeting individual Members of Congress (MoCs).
2. A defensive approach purely focused on stopping Trump from implementing an agenda built on racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.
Ch. 2: How your MoC thinks, and how to use that to save democracy. Reelection, reelection, reelection. MoCs want their constituents to think well of them and they want good, local press. They hate surprises, wasted time, and most of all, bad press that makes them look weak, unlikable, and vulnerable. You will use these interests to make them listen and act.
Ch. 3: Identify or organize your local group. Is there an existing local group or network you can join? Or do you need to start your own? We suggest steps to help mobilize your fellow constituents locally and start organizing for action.
Ch. 4: Four local advocacy tactics that actually work. Most of you have 3 MoCs–two Senators and one Representative. Whether you like it or not, they are your voice in Washington. Your job is to make sure they are, in fact, speaking for you. We’ve identified four key opportunity areas to pressure MoCs that just a handful of local constituents can use to great effect. For each of these always record encounters on video, prepare questions ahead of time, coordinate with your group, and report back to local media:
1. Townhalls: MoCs regularly hold public in-district events to show that they are listening to constituents. Make them listen to you, and report out when they don’t.
2. Non-townhall events. MoCs love cutting ribbons and kissing babies back home. Don’t let them get photo-ops without questions about racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.
3. District office sit-ins/meetings. Every MoC has one or several district offices. Go there. Demand a meeting with the MoC. Report to the world if they refuse to listen.
4. Coordinated calls. Calls are a light lift but can have impact. Organize your local group to barrage your MoCs at an opportune moment and on a specific issue.
Furthermore, this is not just an itemized list of “dos and “don’ts”. Beyond being a guide for action, it is a fascinating window into to how things work, and why. For example, here’s a bit more discussion about the importance of a unified, defensive strategy…
This focus on defense rather than policy development allowed the movement to avoid fracturing. Tea Party members may have not agreed on the policy reforms, but they could agree that Obama, Democrats, and moderate Republicans had to be stopped.
Tea Partiers primarily applied this defensive strategy by pressuring their own local Members of Congress (MoCs). This meant demanding that that their own personal Representatives and Senators be their voice of opposition on Capitol Hill.
… and how it can be used to achieve our objectives:
Using these lessons to fight the Trump agenda
For the next two years, Donald Trump and congressional Republicans will control the federal government. But they will depend on just about every member of Congress to actually get laws passed. And those members of Congress care much more about getting reelected than they care about any specific issue. By adopting a defensive strategy that pressures MoCs, we can achieve the following goals:
Stall the Trump agenda by forcing them to redirect energy away from their priorities. Congressional offices have limited time and limited people. A day that they spend worrying about you is a day that they’re not spending on ending Medicare, privatizing public schools, or preparing a Muslim registry.
Sap Representatives’ will to support or drive reactionary change. If you do this right, you will have an outsized impact. Every time your member of Congress signs on to a bill, takes a position, or makes a statement, a little part of his or her mind will be thinking, “How am I going to explain this to the angry constituents who keep showing up at my events and demanding answers?”
Reaffirm the illegitimacy of the Trump agenda. The hard truth is that Trump, McConnell, and Ryan will have the votes to cause some damage. But by objecting as loudly and powerfully as possible, and by centering the voices of those who are most affected by their agenda, you can ensure that people understand exactly how bad these laws are from the very start – priming the ground for the 2018 midterms and their repeal when Democrats retake power.
Yes, they acknowledge that we need to maintain our positive progressive vision, and to promote what we are for, not just what we are against. But right now, defending against Trump and the GOP must be the primary focus:
You may not like the idea of being purely defensive; we certainly don’t. As progressives, our natural inclination is to talk about the things we’re for – a clean climate, economic justice, health care for all, racial equality, gender and sexual equality, and peace and human rights. These are the things that move us. But the hard truth of the next four years is that we’re not going to set the agenda; Trump and congressional Republican will, and we’ll have to respond. The best way to stand up for the progressive values and policies we cherish is to stand together, indivisible — to treat an attack on one as an attack on all.
There’s so much more in the guide that I haven’t touched on here. It contains detailed, practical strategies for anyone who wants to do more than just sign online petitions— whether you live in a “safe” Democratic district or a Republican stronghold.
I’ll close with this statement from the document itself (also excerpted in a New Yorker article about the document):
“Our goal is to provide practical understanding of how your MoCs think, and how you can demonstrate to them the depth and power of the opposition to Donald Trump and Republican congressional overreach. This is not a panacea, nor is it intended to stand alone. We strongly urge you to marry the strategy in this guide with a broader commitment to creating a more just society, building local power, and addressing systemic injustice and racism.”
To the authors of this incredible resource: Thank you .
There is a new site for the Guide, along with this statement by the authors:
NOTE FROM THE INDIVISIBLE TEAM Since this guide went live as a Google Doc, we’ve received an overwhelming flood of messages from people all over the country working to resist the Trump agenda. We’re thrilled and humbled by the energy and passion of this growing movement.
We’ll be updating the guide based on your feedback and making it interactive ASAP. You can sign up for updates at http://www.IndivisibleGuide.com.
Every single person who worked on this guide and website is a volunteer. We’re doing this in our free time without coordination or support from our employers. Our only goal is help the real leaders on the ground who are resisting Trump’s agenda on their home turf.
We hope you will take this document and use it however you see fit. We want to hear your stories, questions, comments, edits, etc., so please feel free to ping some of us on Twitter: @IndivisibleTeam, @ezralevin, @angelrafpadilla, @texpat, @Leahgreenb. Or email IndivisibleAgainstTrump@gmail.com.
And please please please spread the word! Only folks who know this exists will use it. Good luck — we will win.
Many thanks to commenters who have brought this to my attention.