Looking at the Indivisible Guide for Progressive Tea Party

Community Organizing National Politics Organizing
from the Indivisible Guide Facebook page

New Orleans   Some groups are forming in Congressional Districts as part of the resistance to President Trump’s agenda and are deliberately mimicking the Tea Party’s earlier playbook when they were opposing any and all Obama. Several groups are using Indivisible in their names having been inspired by the Indivisible Guide, which is described as having been written by former Congressional staffers. The Guide is a straightforward how-to piece on going after members of Congress, referred to throughout as MOC’s.

The authors are somewhat unlikely protestors. The names identified by their Twitter handles, which seems so “Age of Trump” it almost made me pause, call themselves the Indivisible Team. They include a 40-year veteran lawyer with his name on a corporate law firm in New York, a public interest lawyer based in San Francisco, an Arlington, Virginia DC beltway woman who seems to be working with and perhaps formerly worked for Tom Perriello, a one term Democratic Congressman who has announced as a candidate for Governor of Virginia, and was a cofounder of the online petitioning group, Avaaz, and finally a health and immigration policy analyst with experience with the National Immigration Law Center. In fact they probably are not really protestors so much as advocates with deep experience as lobbyists, who see this as a hammer that they have seen frighten the bejesus out of Congressional representatives in the past, and have a identified a moment where people are looking to strike a nail back home.

That said, read as a lobbying guide, rather than an organizing program, the Indivisible Guide has real value. It gets to the nuts and bolts including phone script role plays that are reality based. Their tactical descriptions and discussion of preparations for town hall meetings with the local representatives is about the best any organizer could hope to read if they were planning an action at such an event. Their advice on triggering the press for even small 10-person actions with social media and how to employ such tools in organizing their protests also is accurate and helpful. The short story is that for those of us who read – and write – manuals about organizing models and tools, they did a good job.

At the same time, these are not people looking to create big social change or drain the swamp. They totally believe in this system and how it works. They advise against getting caught up in discussions about policy or programs, saying progressives don’t have a chance. In their view this guide and the call of the moment is all about resistance.

I appreciated their transparency and the value of their guide, but resistance without a plan or program that takes the status quo as certain and bounded rigidly by the election cycle, is a stopgap at best and misses the moment and the opportunity, while risking seeming like nothing more than protest for protest sake. Right now protestors are in it for the win, not just to hear their own voices yell, and they need a guide for that strategy as well, not simply a well assembled how-to tactical manual on grassroots lobbying.