My must-read post for this week is not a quick skim. It’s a manual for navigating activism after Jan. 20, and it was written by four former congressional staffers who saw firsthand how the Tea Party effectively organized against President Obama.
From the creators of the guide: “…the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.”
Unlike the Tea Party, though, Indivisible promotes “a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness”–and its writers give practical tips for clearly communicating with one’s MoCs, or Members of Congress.
But the end goal is more than just successful communication; it’s persuasion. To persuade someone, you have to have a sense of what that person wants, and what they most definitely do not want. The guide’s writers call upon their cumulative experience working in congressional offices to help resistance activists get into the heads of their MoCs, to apply the most effective pressure and get results. So what does a member of Congress want? To be reelected, of course. “MoCs want their constituents to think well of them and they want good, local press. They hate surprises, wasted time, and most of all, bad press that makes them look weak, unlikable, and vulnerable. You will use these interests to make them listen and act,” the guide says–then tells you how.
For example, the guide includes a script for calling representatives and encourages callers to stick to a single issue (or, to “have a clear ask”). The guide gives some of its meatiest advice in the section about attending town hall meetings, such as “always have your hand in the air” to ask “sharp and fact-based question(s),” and to “look friendly so staffers will call on you.” Indivisible even offers tips for getting in touch with local reporters (because you took video of that MoC who got pissy about your signage, or flip-flopped on a huge issue just to shut you up, or whose staffer tried to physically wrestle the mic from your hands, right? Reporters want your videos. Reporters read your tweets. Reporters need you in their stories. I know because in another life, I was one. I read your tweets and watched your videos and put you in my stories).
In clear language, the well-organized Indivisible guide promotes, perhaps above all else, the power of local organizing and advocacy. Your MoCs only care about their direct constituents, the guide tells us in no uncertain terms (because only you can reelect them!), so your most critical action should concern mobilizing your friends and neighbors to relentlessly pressure your representatives on the issues that matter to you.
“…no one stays an MoC without being borderline compulsive about protecting their image,” the guide says. “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.” Good. Be deeply alarmed.
What I like about this guide is that it isn’t ranty but uber-practical; it seems to have a solid understanding of some of the concerns non-citizens might have in contacting MoCs (and reminds them they are not required to give their names); it encourages collaborating with and centering the dissenting voices of those most directly impacted/threatened by Trump’s policies; and it acknowledges and makes the case for a defensive strategy by reminding us that progressives “aren’t setting the agenda” at the moment, fascists are: “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.”
Read. Print. Share. Organize. Do.