Before the Indivisible Guide
The weekend after the 2016 election, my wife Leah and I gathered a group of friends at our house. We were grieving and angry and scared, and we were all trying to answer a simple question: what do we do now? We didn’t have answers, but we knew we had to do something.
We weren’t alone. All over the country, friends, families, and neighbors were coming together—in living rooms, on campuses, in churches and mosques and community centers—to try to figure out what they could do. And we realized that in that simple fact was the answer.
As former congressional staffers, we don’t have many skills, but we know how Congress works. We thought we could demystify congress and give people the practical information they needed to resist effectively. We knew a model of success. Stripping away the Tea Party’s racism and violence, we saw as staffers that local defensive congressional advocacy worked. And we knew progressives could use it to win.
We started drafting a guide to congressional advocacy, pulling in friends and colleagues along the way. Our message was simple: Trump’s agenda doesn’t depend on Trump. It depends on whether your Members of Congress choose to go along with it or resist. And that gives constituents real power, because every Member of Congress cares more about their own reelection than enacting Trump’s agenda.
From Google Doc to Movement
I tweeted out a link to our Google Doc guide while slurping soup at our kitchen table after work one day in December. Leah and I thought that maybe our friends and family would take a look. Then something crazy happened: people read it. Google docs started crashing within a couple hours because of the traffic. We had to make a website just so people could download it.
Over the next few weeks, we watched in amazement as traffic picked up and the media started to call. I was at work in D.C. on January 4th when I got a call from MSNBC. Rachel Maddow wanted me on the show—that night. I ran home, changed my shirt, and rushed to the airport. I got to the studio about 30 minutes before airtime. I watched Rachel’s phenomenal 20-minute segment on the Indivisible guide backstage in the green room along with everyone else.
But the really amazing thing was happening quietly. We were getting emails from people all over the country, asking, “Where can I join a local Indivisible group?” and “I’ve started a group. How do I find people who want to join?”
We pulled together a band of volunteers and created a simple directory so that people putting the guide into practice could find each other. On the first day, about 60 groups registered. There are now about 6,000—an average of 13 in every single congressional district in the country. This is not just on the east or west coast. This is not just in the city centers. This movement is everywhere.
Indivisible starts winning
On literally the first day that Congress was in session, Congressman Goodlatte of Virginia led an effort by Republicans to gut the Congressional Ethics Office. The newly formed Indivisible Roanoke went in person to the local district office of Rep. Goodlatte to let him know that they were watching. Congressional phones starting ringing off the hook with angry constituents. And it worked! Republicans backed down, and the Ethics Office was saved. That was all it took—a little bit of sunlight and a lot of outrage.
This wasn’t partisan—it was about protecting America’s core values. When fifteen Democrats voted for Trump’s nominee for CIA Director—a man who slanders Muslim Americans and is open to torture—the backlash was swift and strong. Indivisible groups stood up demanding to know why supposed progressive were voting for Trump’s extreme nominees. They made clear this resistance wasn’t just about weakening Republican resolve—it was also about making sure Democrats have spines. And it worked—two weeks later, zero Democrats voted for Betsy DeVos and only one voted for Jeff Sessions. They were getting the message.
It wasn’t until February, when Congress went on recess and more than a hundred thousand of you showed up to town halls, district offices, and community events around the country—that the media really noticed what was happening. They were stunned: where did this energy come from? What did it mean? Republicans, desperate to avoid facing the truth, claimed that their own constituents were part of some sinister conspiracy of paid protestors. But we all knew what was really happening: Americans were rising up, together, to stand indivisible.
We saw the true impact of this movement just a few weeks later, when TrumpCare went down in disgrace. Republicans spent seven years promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They had passed it dozens of times under President Obama. It was their number one legislative priority for President Trump. And they couldn’t even make it to a vote! The fight’s not over, but this success demonstrated the sheer scale of the political power at work here.
How the movement is evolving
When House Republicans finally managed to pass TrumpCare last week, some viewed that as a big defeat for the resistance. All this engagement, and yet the Republicans still won, didn’t they? This misses a couple key points. First, it took the House four months to do something they promised to do on day one. This presidency has a time limit on it, and every month it spends on something that should have taken a day is victory—it’s one less month of them doing more damage. Second, TrumpCare is not law, and there is still no clear pathway to it becoming law. It has to the pass the Senate in a form that the House can agree with, and it’s tough to see how that happens.
There’s one reason why this political calculus is now tough: all politics is local. As Payback Project illustrates, constituents across the country aren’t defeated by the House TrumpCare vote—they’re energized by it. They’re angry and they’re holding their Representatives accountable.
Politics is the art of the possible, and it’s clear now that local Indivisible groups action are changing what’s possible at the national level. We started with a pretty specific goal: local, defensive congressional advocacy to stop Trump’s agenda. But what we’ve seen around the country is something even more powerful. You’re building a foundational, progressive infrastructure at the community level. You are taking control on your home turf—starting with congressional advocacy, and in many cases, moving on to get involved in state and local policy, election, corporate pressure, and more. You’re 100 days in and you’re just getting stronger.
This is how it starts. This is how we win. And this is why we (unexpectedly) started a nonprofit organization back in January—to support this growing, evolving movement and local Indivisible leadership. I’ll go into the development of the organization in the next post. Until then, I’m so proud to be standing indivisible.