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‘Indivisible’ Guide Teaches Progressives How to Play Defense Against Trump

Posted on Jan 21, 2017

By KiMi Robinson

  Protesters at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., show their support for the “Indivisible” Trump resistance movement. (via Indivisible)        

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Now that Donald Trump has been inaugurated, resistance is unavoidable. Just look at the reports of riots and protests filling your news feeds.

But preventing Congress from carrying out Trump’s agenda takes more than vocalized disapproval and demonstrations. To explain what works, a group of progressives—including former Democratic congressional staff members and those who have worked on Capitol Hill—created “Indivisible,” a guide to effective resistance that has been downloaded by more than half a million people in one month.

How would they know how to slow down federal policymaking? They’ve seen it all firsthand: In the early days of the Obama administration, these two dozen staffers could barely carry out daily tasks in their congressional offices as tea party adherents brought any action to a crawl by, in their words, “scaring congressional Democrats and keeping Republicans honest.”

“The tea party’s success was a disaster for President Obama’s agenda and for our country, but that success should give us hope today,” three former staffers wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece. “It proved the power that local, defensive organizing can have.”

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Seven years later, these now-former staffers are arguing that progressives should look to replicate the ultraconservative movement’s defensive strategy. By organizing small grass-roots groups that pledge to hold their local districts’ representatives accountable to their constituents—as the tea party did, they note—progressives have a chance to prevent Congress from passing agendas that undermine democracy.

Last month, the staffers compiled their collective knowledge of how congressional representatives’ offices work into a publicly accessible Google document that suggests actions aimed at effectively “stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.”

Not long afterward, the page crashed as secret progressive Facebook groups such as Pantsuit Nation and verified Twitter accounts shared the document across the web. Responding to the high demand, the authors then created an official website for the 25-page guide, now called “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.”

The document, which can be read, downloaded and printed in English and Spanish on the Indivisible website, states: “Our goal is to provide practical understanding of how your [members of Congress] think, and how you can demonstrate to them the depth and power of the opposition to Donald Trump and Republican congressional overreach.”

It goes on to advise progressives on the most effective forms of resistance. This includes taking advantage of the fact that their members of Congress (MoC) are first and foremost beholden to their constituents.

“Every single member of Congress is very focused on that goal of convincing their constituents that they are representing them in Congress, which is why relatively small numbers of constituents can really change the behavior of members of Congress,” said Ezra Levin, a co-author of the guide and former policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.

Conversely, the guide warns, reaching out to MoCs who don’t represent you is a waste of time. Rep. Paul Ryan, for example, is not likely to respond to anyone outside his congressional district in Wisconsin.

Resistance on the local level can and will make an impact on a national level, the authors argue, and this isn’t the time to rely on congressional members like U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., to hold Trump accountable. All it takes is convincing your representative that it is not in his or her best interest to allow the GOP-led Congress to get away with following through on Republican promises that include ending Medicare, creating a Muslim registry and privatizing public schools. If representatives go against their most passionate constituents’ interests, their re-election is in jeopardy, the authors write.

“Federal policy change in the next four years doesn’t depend on Mr. Trump but on whether our representatives support or oppose him,” the guide says. “And through local pressure, we have the power to shape what they consider possible.”

Resistance should be easier with “a petty tyrant named Trump” than with the “popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress” that the tea party faced, according to the guide’s authors. They write: “Unlike President Obama … Trump has no mandate, a slim congressional majority and a slew of brewing scandals. Our incoming president is a weak president, and he can be beat.”

However, as they draw inspiration from the tea party, the authors make sure to differentiate themselves from “petty scare tactics.”

“Their [the Trump campaign’s] ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism—and they won,” they write. Resistance to Trump would be “built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness.”

In an interview with Truthdig, “Indivisible” co-author Angel Padilla, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., emphasized that nothing in the guide is groundbreaking. It simply tapped into an already existing network of people who want to resist Trump but don’t know how.

“Indivisible” is “kind of the secret sauce that explains what is bubbling up as what may be the start of the anti-Trump movement,” MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow explained in a segment on her eponymous show.

She continued: “This has not really been cooking openly, in the Beltway media and on cable TV news, and in places we usually look for news about politics. It really has been cooking online, where it has taken off.”

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