“Indivisible,” the Fast Growing Protest Movement You’ve Probably Never Heard About
“For the past three weeks, Democratic protesters have swarmed Republican town hall events across the country, booing, shouting down and trying to embarrass GOP lawmakers seeking to gut ObamaCare.”
“Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.”
You may have heard of the mounting protests as Congressmen host events around their districts in the past few weeks. The media has reported as follows:
“Town Hall Protests – Democrats Echo 2009 Tea Party Protests” – National Review
“GOP reps face town hall protests over Obamacare repeal efforts” – ABC News
“Angry voters flood town halls of GOP lawmakers” – Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Trump Protesters Borrow From Tea Party to Put Pressure on Lawmakers” – New York Times
What you’ll rarely find mentioned?
The protests and Tea Party mimicking actions are the brainchild of the newly formed Trump-resistance movement, Indivisible.
Indivisible is the creation of several dozen former Democratic Congressional staffers, formed to, as one member modestly put it, ‘save democracy‘. The staffers, having worked in Congress, utilize their unique perspective as to what methods work, what methods do not, and advise accordingly. With that insight, the group looks to the Tea Party’s disruption of national politics in 2009 and 2010 to focus their efforts in duplicating, with the Indivisible movement.
Indivisible’s creators were inspired by the Tea Party’s spontaneous creation in 2009, where town halls turned into raucous events, and news media feasted on the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress. The Tea Party’s awareness only heightened in 2010, as a Republican wave swept through Congress in both chambers, knocking out Senators and Congressmen alike and handing the Republican Party a legislative majority to resist the Obama agenda.
Indivisible encourages their members to form pockets of small, localized resistance. Members are told to demand town halls, the idea being a representative could be forced into a public display, where ready-to-pounce protesters will create a made for media event that goes viral. This in turn theoretically will spill over into actual discord, creating real resistance to the Republican Party and President Donald Trump.
As you can imagine, Indivisible does focus its efforts on national politics. Their promotion videos specifically limit their targets as ‘your two Senators, and your Congressman’. This had led to a number of facebook astroturfing efforts against Virginia Congressmen, specifically newly elected Tom Garrett in the 5th Congressional District, and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte in the 6th Congressional District. Perusing local chapters Facebook groups and pages and you’ll find hundreds of posts relating to stopping Trump’s appointment of Sessions, DeVos, Tillerson, etc, posts on protests against Trump’s travel ban, attempts to repeal the Obamacare, as well as efforts to contact and harass Congressmen throughout Virginia.
The Indivisible Guide, a 27-page manifesto with step-by-step instructions to disrupting and protesting elected officials, has been downloaded more than 500,000 times in just under two months. More than 3,000 recognized chapters have been created, in all 435 Congressional Districts throughout the country. With chapters titled ‘Media: Preparing to Make News’ and ‘Warning: Watch Out for Right-Wing Tricks’, despite their claims to have a non-partisan affiliation, this is very clearly a progressive agenda. Here in Virginia, they’re already forming an active presence. In Charlottesville, the Indivisible group has nearly 3,500 ‘likes’ on Facebook in less than six weeks. In the Shenandoah Valley, active members near 1500.
At the state and local level, we’re already beginning to see signs of organized resistance as a result of Indivisible. In Richmond as legislative session comes to a conclusion for 2017, we have seen increased volumes of phone and email traffic, specifically to Indivisible-supported measures against defunding of Planned Parenthood, sanctuary cities, while supporting LGBT rights, and most vocally, redistricting reform. These issues have led to scored of phone calls and email efforts to elected officials, particularly to the General Assembly’s Republican majority.
For Virginia, the ramifications remain to be seen. This fledgling movement has already begun disrupting Congressional district offices and begun efforts to protest elsewhere throughout the Commonwealth. To date, most of their work has been seen in the 5th and 6th Congressional Districts. Newly elected Congressman Scott Taylor the 2nd Congressional District is hosting a town hall next week, providing an opportunity to observe Indivisible’s attempts at influence in Hampton Roads.
The Indivisible movement almost certainly hurts the nomination prospects of Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who faces a challenge from darling of the progressive left, Tom Perriello. Any sort of focus by Indivisible groups on the Virginia gubernatorial Democratic Primary would be a boost to Perriello, who’s agenda falls nearly identical. Northam, who in his legislative career was viewed as a moderate Democrat and who nearly switched to the Republican Party, only to have the move called off after being stupidly leaked by the then-Republican Party state Chairman, would be highly vulnerable to a coordinated progressive effort against him. Northam has taken a number of steps to try and counteract, tacking further to left in response to General Assembly passed bills likely to be opposed by progressives and Indivisible groups.
On the Republican side, the unanimity of the Indivisible movement against anything and everything President Trump could provide an unlikely opportunity for Price William County Chairman Corey Stewart. Stewart, who’s campaign was on life support after failing to gain any sort of traction, has found unexpected footing in his protesting of Charlottesville’s attempted removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Stewart’s initial campaign appearance in the park was shouted down by protesters, who disrupted and broke up Stewart’s rally. As a result, Stewart has received far more press, and looks to capitalize with more efforts in Charlottesville. Indivisible’s commitment against Trump looks to be spilling over to Stewart, who’s notoriety, media coverage and subsequent higher name ID would be a boon to the struggling campaign. For Ed Gillespie, the Indivisible movement is unlikely to have any real impact, given his relative distance from the Trump agenda, and his campaign’s ‘do-no-harm’ tract. Given the enormity of his current lead over the field, there’d be no reason for Gillespie to engage or take unnecessary risks.
For the general election in Virginia in November, how and what the Indivisible efforts are remains to be seen. The Tea Party protests in 2009 were the aftermath of a divisive President who rammed a poorly constructed bill down the American people’s throats. Protests in 2009 originated in the summer recess, giving them a six month head start to the Republican wave in Congress. Indivisible, by forming so quickly after Trump’s inauguration, faces the challenge of maintaining momentum and focus for two full years in order to disrupt and change Congress. Democrats already faced an uphill battle holding onto incumbent Senate seats in 2018, having been elected on the coattails of President Obama’s 2012 romp. Should the Indivisible movement grow restless and impatient, some Democrats may find unexpected challengers, ala Bernie Sanders.
However, progressives have shown a proclivity for uniting around a core handful of issues, doing so far better than their conservative counterparts. The Republican and conservative commitment to ‘eating their own’ remains unparalleled. As we know, the initial Tea Party movement spiraled quickly, moving away from the original spontaneous protest and awakening against President Obama and Democrats, morphing into a ‘RINO-hunting’ squad requiring purity tests of Republicans to prove their conservative bonafides.
Should the Indivisible movement avoid the pitfalls that ravaged and derailed the Tea Party, focusing on key issues, message and methods, they well could form a progressive movement to be respected, and feared.