CHS sat down with Ezra Levin, co-author of “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” ahead of his talk at Town Hall Seattle earlier this week.
The free, creative commons guide was born from Levin and his wife Leah Greenberg’s desire to have a positive impact following the election of President Donald Trump.
About 30 something 30-somethings, many of whom have worked for members of Congress, contributed to the first release of the guide on Google Docs. It has since seen a staggering amount of success with more than 150 Indivisible organizations in Washington state and 6,000 across the country. The guide has been downloaded more than 1 million times and viewed more than 17 million times since its release in December 2016, according to stats from Indivisible Washington, which helped to organized the event Tuesday.
“Every day we think this is going to plateau and every day more groups are registering,” Levin said. “There’s more interest. People are taking action.”
Indivisible draws ideas from actions the Tea Party used to block and slow former President Barack Obama’s agenda. It doesn’t suggest to recreate the group’s “often horrible” behavior but instead calls for using defensive tactics as Democrats lack control at the federal level to move progressive plans forward.
The agenda also explains how congressional offices work, how to connect with like-minded individuals, and breaks down how to implement advocacy tactics.
“This is civics 101. … It’s going to congressional district offices. It’s going to public events. It’s making calls. This is not something we invented, but it’s impactful,” Levin told CHS.
Levin, 31, shared key ideas from the guide, chatted about the Indivisible movement, and discussed next steps with CHS.
Seattle is obviously a very progressive city and you mention (in the guide) if you have representatives who are doing a good job, be sure to tell them that. If you have a representative who is like-minded, is there more that you can do other than just saying, “Hey, thanks for working on this?”
EL: I’d say three things. One is positive reinforcement is very rare. Most people when they’re communicating with their members of Congress, they’re communicating because they’re angry about something. In order for this movement to be successful, what you need in addition to beating back the bad proposals or the lackeys who would support Trump’s agenda in Congress is having progressives who are doing everything they can do. And that means providing that positive reinforcement when they do it.
The second thing I would say, though, is even in Washington you have members of Congress who you should be focusing on. Indivisible is not an arm of the Democratic party. We think there is value in having pressure that is external to that party making sure that the progressives are doing everything that the progressives can do. So we saw this over congressional recess where there were thousands of actions in the form of town halls and other actions by tens of thousands … up to 100,000 people participating across the country during congressional recess focusing on, yes, Republicans. But also Democrats to say, “We want you to resist the Trump agenda and do everything you can do.” And that has an impact. So we know that, for instance, Sen. Maria Cantwell, she is a Democrat, had not signed onto the letter saying “We want to see Trump’s tax returns.” … She had not signed on up until recess, but there was a lot of action and she heard from a lot of constituents and in March … she signed onto the letter, which is great. … Providing the political pressure, even for your friends, is an essential role to play because there are a lot of things members of Congress can do from making speeches to actually using every tool in the toolbox and we need progressives to use every tool in the toolbox.
The third thing I would say is one of the reasons why we’re building up the organization that we’re building up now, is to support groups across the country. That means supporting groups within Washington to communicate amongst themselves and share best practices and also share best practices between states. So if you’ve organized, if you’ve contacted your members of Congress, if you’ve done everything you can and you’ve organized again, then I would say consider looking at how you can support the broader movement.
Washington has been called the “epicenter of the resistance.” Why do you think that is?
EL: I would push back on the idea that there is an epicenter of the resistance. … There are at least two groups in every single congressional district in the country. This is not an East Coast and a West Coast phenomenon. This is not a city center versus rural district phenomenon. There’s an East Tennessee Indivisible. There’s an Auburn, Alabama Indivisible, an Indivisible Roanoke, Virginia, Indivisible Austin, Texas, Indivisible Utah and Oklahoma, I can name every state because it’s in every state. … Resistance to the Trump agenda, it is strong in Seattle — that’s great. It’s strong in Washington — that’s great. That’s not the only place that it’s strong. There are people everywhere who are organizing to resist the agenda. I think that what’s so great about this is there is no epicenter. It’s certainly not with us, it’s not in D.C. It’s being lead at the local level in really inspiring ways. … What’s required is a nationwide movement and the great thing is there is one.
In the guide, you say that it’s a work in progress. What are some changes that have been made since it first came out?
EL: We’ve made some tweaks to the guide. More of what we’ve done is produced derivative products from the guide. We get questions like, “What do I do if my member of Congress is hiding from me?” Which I think (Congressman Dave) Reichert (R-Auburn) is hiding from his constituents, which is ridiculous. So how do you hold a town hall yourself and build up pressure on members of Congress? … That doesn’t take away your power. You have the ability to still continue your pressure. We’re also producing tons of scripts and briefs and other materials to inform people about what is Congress operating on right now. The other thing we’re trying to do is make it as accessible as possible. We created a Spanish-language version of the guide. We created an audiobook version. There’s actually a Spanish audiobook version coming out. I think that people can take in information in different ways and one of the key values at Indivisible is modeling progressive values and forming inclusive groups and so that means being cognisant of how people can take in the information and put it to use.
With all the people that have viewed the guide and that are mobilizing, what are next steps for Indivisible?
EL: The goal of the movement is to resist the Trump agenda. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. We think that there are a lot of battles that we had and won right now. … It’s not lost on us that there are several ways to resist and one of those ways is electorally. So you can resist through congressional engagement, you can also resist by changing the types of people in power if they’re not actually resisting. … There are elections for House and Senate next year, and we’re not engaging in that right now. But one of the things the Tea Party did really well in early 2010 was pivot from a congressional advocacy strategy to something that was actually very electoral in focus, and 2010 was a big year for them. It shouldn’t have been. 2010 was supposed to be a bad year for Republicans. … We’ll see what happens next year.
You can learn more at indivisiblewa.com.