Starting an Indivisible Group at Your College or University
In the weeks and months since Donald Trump’s election, millions of Americans have begun mobilizing to resist his backwards, ill-conceived agenda. With more than 7,000 groups located in every Congressional District in the United States, millions of Americans are ready to stand Indivisible. But we haven’t done enough to reach out to the college students and young people of this country—many of whom have the most to lose under this Administration.
There’s no sugar-coating it: things are dark.
The Trump Administration seems hell-bent on moving as fast as possible to enact a reckless policy agenda. It’s acting as if it has a mandate that it does not, and it is seeking to do harm to the most vulnerable members of society. The hard truth is that we are in for a rough ride. But things are not hopeless. In fact, the tide is already beginning to turn against him.
Here’s the good news
Trump’s racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, plutocratic (we could go on) agenda doesn’t depend on Donald Trump.
It depends on whether individual Members of Congress (MoCs) in the Senate and House choose to rubber stamp it, or choose to resist it. Though there are things that Trump can do on his own, most of his bigoted agenda relies on the hundreds of Democrats and Republicans in Congress to pass laws aimed at attacking our most vulnerable friends and neighbors.
Resistance is possible; resistance works.
The Indivisible Guide was written by a group of former progressive congressional staff who witnessed the rise of a resistance movement during Obama’s first Administration. As we wrote in the guide, the Tea Party’s ideas were backwards and often rooted in racism, but they managed to stall or defeat a large part of Obama’s agenda despite his popularity and congressional majorities.
Playing strong defense is essential.
They succeeded because of a smart strategy implemented with simple tactics. The strategy was rooted in constituent power—locally focused on their own MoCs, their two Senators and one Representative on their home turf. And their strategy was almost entirely defensive in nature, keeping coalitions strong by just saying NO. To implement the strategy, their tactics were simple, taken straight from Civics 101: show up at local congressional district offices, go to public events, and make calls to Congress. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was effective. It will work for us, too.
How your MoC thinks—reelection, reelection, reelection—and how to use that mindset to save American democracy.
MoCs want their constituents to think well of them, and a big part of their strategy is to get a lot of good, local press. They hate surprises, wasted time, and, most of all, they hate bad press that makes them look weak, unlikeable, out of touch, and vulnerable. You will use their electoral self-interests to force them to listen and act.
You can use that to your advantage by scheduling meetings in their district offices, showing up at their public events, and demanding that they answer your questions and respond to your concerns—and always ensure that you alert the press when they don’t.
Constituent power translates into campus power.
The fact that Trump’s agenda depends on MoCs gives a constituents a ton of power when they act on their home turf—and that means college students too. MoCs love making speeches to big crowds, they are constantly trying to convince people to vote for them in their next election, and they desperately seek people who will help knock on doors and make calls for them. Yes, this applies to residents of the district, but it applies to students in the district too.
College and graduate students are now part of the largest voting bloc in the United States: Millennials.
You have the numbers and the ability to shape the trajectory of this nation’s politics. Here’s how:
- Organize. Asserting campus power is a numbers game. MoCs can ignore one student, but they’ll have a harder time ignoring 50 students with press coverage behind them. You and your fellow students should form an Indivisible chapter and start planning how you will use this power.
- Show up. MoCs will often schedule events or hold in-district meetings during the day—when most other folks are at work. By organizing a campus group you can ensure that every town hall, ribbon cutting, and press conference is full of folks like you who are ready to thwart the Trump Agenda.
- Orchestrate. Campus power isn’t just reactive—you can get creative and proactive as well. Campuses are great venues for advocacy actions. If you can fill an auditorium, you can invite a MoC and other local officials as speakers. You can invite local press too. If the MoC doesn’t show, you can have a cardboard cutout ready, and that’s newsworthy too.
WHAT THE INDIVISIBLE MOVEMENT IS ALL ABOUT
The Indivisible Movement—now made up of thousands of locally-led, organically-formed groups in every single congressional district—is based explicitly on the Tea Party’s strategy and tactics. It’s the Tea Party inverted—a local, defensive congressional advocacy strategy built on inclusion, respect, and fairness. This strategy and these tactics work, and we can use them to win today.
A major component of our work is in demystifying the way that Congress works.
So far, we’ve produced a number of resources related to protecting the ACA, how to interact with police when your protest or attend a town hall, and what to do if your MoC won’t meet with you. The more you know about the way legislation is passed and executive rule-making is done, the better able you are to influence your MoCs’ votes and behavior.
This toolkit goes into the nuts and bolts of how to implement this strategy—how to assert your constituent and campus power through organizing your own Indivisible Campus group. The Indivisible team will provide support where we can, but remember: you’re the leaders of this movement. The thousands of other Indivisible groups across the country started in the same way: they found the guide, they decided to form a local group, and they got to work.
The Indivisible movement is built on your leadership—nobody is going to do this for you. But you’re not alone. If we all stand together, indivisible, we can resist the Trump agenda. And we will win.