Indivisible: A short guide for the resistance by former congressional staffers

January 2, 2017 at 12:23 am

If Trump’s cabinet appointments are any indication, the Republican agenda is going to be selling off the remainder of the country to private interests. Betsy DeVos at Education is a proponent of privatizing schools. Tom Price at Health and Human Services is an opponent of the ACA. Scott Pruitt at the EPA is an oil lobbyist. Rick Perry, the candidate for the Department of Energy, has proposed scrapping the Department of Energy. Corporate raider Carl Icahn is going to be advising the president on regulations. Paul Ryan has plans to privatize Medicare.

It seems pretty obvious what’s coming: Republicans and the Trump administration are going to try and realize the corporate special interest dream of selling off the country to the highest bidders.

I think the way to stop this is to oppose everything loudly. As the authors of “Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump Agenda” write:

The hard truth of the next four years is that we’re not going to set the agenda; Trump and congressional Republicans 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.

This is not what we’re used to. We’re used to talking about what we believe in. Unfortunately, Republicans are going to control all three branches of government so if we have any hope of keeping the country in the hands of “We, the people,” we’re going to have to resist. This guide is well worth sharing for its outstanding practical advice. What’s in the four sections of the guide:

  1. What we can learn from the tea party: How the tea party targeted individual representatives of Congress
  2. How members of Congress think (Hint: re-election, re-election, re-election)
  3. Identifying and organizing your local group for action
  4. Four tactics that work

I’m not going to go into the detail, but I thought I’d talk about some highlights.

Section 1: What we can learn from the tea party

The tea party focused on saying “no.” They didn’t focus on alternative policy development. This is critical as the objective is going to be privatization.

We need as loud a NO as possible to privatization.

What I hear from tea partiers is that it’s obvious that industry always does better than government. This is their rationale. This is their “why.”

Our why is that we need both democracy and industry. It shouldn’t be a steel cage match between the two; they do different things.

The private sector does some things well (commercial goods, for example) and the public sector does some things well (public services and the military, for example). Privatizing certain services such as education and health care create a conflict of interest between profit and delivering service. That is, the way to make the most profit is often to deliver the least amount of service. This is why we had the most expensive healthcare system in the world and some 35+ million uninsured before the Affordable Care Act.

We need government to set standards and places democratic checks and balances on industry to create an economy that works for everyone (not just a few). We know that industries don’t “regulate themselves.” This is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. The last time we did this we crashed the global economy. Unfortunately, this is the belief of those in the Trump administration.

Because of their beliefs, the tea party focused on saying NO and at a tactical level, they focused on demanding “that their representatives and senators be their voice of opposition on Capitol Hill.”

  1. They showed up at Members of Congress (MoCs) town hall meetings
  2. They showed up at MoCs offices and asked for meetings
  3. They coordinated blanket calling of congressional offices at key moments

In a nutshell, they formed a united opposition front.

Section 2: How members of Congress think

Basically, it’s all about re-election. You want MoCs to think: 1) if they don’t do what you want, you will oppose them, and 2) if they do what you want, you will support them.

It’s just as important to support those doing the right thing as to oppose those trying to sell off the country to corporate special interests.

When your MoC does the right thing:

  1. Praise them publicly for doing the right thing
  2. Consider donating to their re-election campaign

Conversely, when your MoC supports corporate special interests:

  1. Point this out publicly; let others know that they’re not working in the interests of people, but in the interests of special interests
  2. Let the MoC know you oppose these efforts. Make a stink by flapping your arms as much as you can. Write, call, show up in person.

If your MoC is in a safe district don’t let this stop you. As the authors say:

If your MoC is in a heavily Democratic or Republican district, you may assume that they have a safe seat and there’s nothing you can do to influence them. This is not true! The reality is that no MoC ever considers themselves to be safe from all threats. MoCs who have nothing to fear from a general election still worry about primary challenges.

More broadly, no one stays an MoC without being borderline compulsive about protecting their image. Even the safest MoC will be deeply alarmed by signs of organized opposition, because these actions create the impression that they’re not connected to their district and not listening to their constituents.

Section 3: Organize locally to fight and execute

Now is the time for action. Look for others who are interested in action. If there are already existing groups, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Join an existing group. If you can’t find an existing group, form one with a few friends.

The most important thing is finding people who are willing to commit a few hours every week to actions that involve targeting your local MoCs. The guide has a number of additional practical steps for forming groups and encouraging folks to take action.

There has never been a better time as folks are looking for ways to fight against what many see as appalling election results.

Post election meeting in Cincinnati of people concerned about Trump’s win.

Section 4: Four local advocacy tactics that work

The section on local advocacy tactics focuses on:

  1. Town halls and listening sessions
  2. Local public events
  3. In-office visits and sit-ins
  4. Mass calls

For each of these, it provides handy tips on what to do and what not to do. For example, it talks about recording town hall meetings and it gives examples of sample phone conversations to make it easy.

Every summer, I know that my representative, Steve Chabot (R OH 1), does a series of events and community sessions where he meets with people in the community. Because I’m on his mailing list, I often receive notice.

This past year, I went to talk with him solely because I wanted him to hear a different story than what I’m guessing he usually hears. I went as a small business owner. Chabot chairs the House Committee on Small Business.

I told him that I was most interested in investments in infrastructure (in particular, high-speed fiber Internet) and that taxes didn’t matter to me. This seemed to surprise him. “We all want low taxes, right?” he said. I told him that I saw taxes as reinvesting in our country and that I didn’t mind paying them if I thought the money was being used to benefit people.

He seemed a bit surprised by a couple things. One, I was a liberal small business owner; this didn’t fit his stereotype of small business owners. And two, that what I said interested me wasn’t what he was used to hearing.

I’m not going to fool myself and think that I had any great impact on him. What I believe though is that if he starts hearing this story from enough people, he might start thinking and/or voting differently. He simply has to hear it from enough people in his district.

I think this guide is a great free practical resource when it comes to how to wage the resistance. Share as appropriate and remember … there’s more of us than them.

David Akadjian is the author of The Little Book of Revolution: A Distributive Strategy for Democracy (ebook now available). Cross posted at Daily Kos