A day after hundreds of thousands of people in the Bay Area gathered in peaceful protest against the Trump administration, the hard work of political organizing for the next four years was already in full swing.
An email went out to grassroots leaders nationwide to fight the Trump agenda, and a surprising thing happened: within hours, 25,000 people signed up for the Sunday evening conference call. At least a dozen of those callers were from Berkeley. The system could not handle that number of callers, so participants were urged to join the discussion online. (It took the automated system more than half an hour to reach all the pre-registered participants.)
The call was organized by MoveOn, Indivisible, and the Working Families Party (an East Coast organization working for worker rights). The mood of the call was jubilant, as organizers noted that the size of the Washington Women’s March was three times the size of the inauguration crowd. News media have reported that Saturday’s marches were possibly the largest single-day worldwide protest event ever.
So the question for the call was, “Where do we go from here?” The speakers were mostly former Congressional staffers who were working for Democrats in the House and Senate when the Tea Party first came on the scene. Two of the speakers helped write The Indivisible Guide, which lays out an action plan for people on the left who want to reverse-engineer the tactics of the Tea Party and use those to now push Congress back toward the left.
In The Indivisible Guide, the speakers wrote that Tea Party groups started as “disaffected conservatives talking to each other online. Groups were small, local, and dedicated. Tea Party groups could be fewer than 10 people, but they were highly localized and dedicated significant personal time and resources. Groups were relatively few in number… On any given day in 2009 or 2010, only twenty local events — meetings, trainings, town halls, etc. — were scheduled nationwide. In short, a relatively small number of groups were having a big impact on the national debate.”
That, in brief, is the Indivisible model: organize lots of small, dedicated local groups and keep showing up in Congressional offices. Indivisible is just one of several national left-leaning grassroots groups that has sprung up since the election, and seems to have the most local registered “chapters” in Berkeley.
The leaders of the weekend conference call offered a 90-minute crash course in political organizing for a post-Trump world. They urged groups to start visiting their members of Congress on a weekly basis, starting Jan. 24, and every subsequent Tuesday (although Tuesday is just the suggested “day of action”). For Berkeley residents, this means the offices of Senator Diane Feinstein; Senator Kamala Harris; and Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Even though our Congressional delegates are considered progressive by national standards, Indivisible organizers said they still need to hear from their constituents on a regular basis.
For the immediate future, the focus of these Congressional visits, calls, and letters must be the defeat of Trump’s Cabinet-level nominees, Indivisible leaders said. “Let the media know you are going to visit the Congressional offices,” the speakers said. “If you don’t record it, it didn’t happen. Record everything you do on Facebook, Facebook live, even selfies. Have a plan for what you want to ask. Focus on whatever is actually happening in Congress that week. Right now they are focused on the Cabinet nominees, so ask what your member of Congress is doing to oppose confirmation of each of the nominees.”
The national Indivisible team noted that it is rare for a small group to meet with the member of Congress directly. Groups do not need to make appointments, but can go during a time that’s convenient to them and ask to speak to the office director or the highest-ranking person who will meet with them. (Though they warn: don’t agree to speak to interns.)
The Bay Area leaders of grassroots groups expressed concern that our representatives are already quite progressive, and that it would be more important to lobby Red-district legislators. “Most member of Congress can work even harder for us: they can be bolder,” the Indivisible leaders said. “We can’t let them off the hook. We have to let them know we are fighting with everything we’ve got.”
Indivisible pointed out that legislators only really listen to their own constituents, and that legislators can always be persuaded to work harder and more in line with what their constituents actually want. So they urged those in Blue districts to focus on their own delegation, while reaching out to family and friends in Red districts and supporting them in contacting their own delegations.
The next Congressional recess will be Feb. 20-24, and legislators generally come to their home districts to meet with constituents at those times. “Call their office, and politely inquire about their upcoming events. Get on their mailing lists,” the leaders said. “Go to the town hall meetings, the ribbon cuttings. Go wherever they are,” and have a list of items you want to discuss with them.
There are an overwhelming number of groups working to defeat various aspects of the Trump agenda right now. Some promote actions that take a morning or an afternoon; others have lists of actions that can be accomplished in minutes. Here is a short list of groups with a variety of action plans:
MoveOn: MoveOn has an email list and will suggest a variety of action plans over the coming days and weeks. You can find groups here who will be visiting different congressional offices, or list your own group visit.
Women’s March: The group that mounted possibly the largest protest ever is continuing its work, with a suggested “10 actions for the first 100 days.”
First 100 Ways: “From January 20th-April 29th, we’ll suggest a daily action you can complete in 100 seconds to learn about an important topic, help a progressive cause, or contribute to the greater good. As our community grows, so will our impact.”
Bay Area Rapid Response: A coalition group of Jobs with Justice SF, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and Bay Rising and others working to fight the Trump agenda. There are no action plans on the website yet, but you can sign up to get updates.
“Control of the House in 2018 will be decided by a handful of Swing Districts, places where the last election was decided by a thin margin. Find your closest Swing District and join its team to learn about actionable opportunities to support progressives — and defeat Republicans — in that district, no matter where you live.”
Update 1/30: We have put the organization Swing Left back into the article after Daily Kos pulled back from the concerns it initially suggested.
Update 9:08 a.m. This story was updated after publication to remove the group “Swing Left.” Daily Kos reported that the group may not be a progressive group but a conservative one trying to collect email addresses.