The day after the 2016 elections, two congressional staffers, Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin, started Indivisible. They knew that Trump was waging war on progressive policies, our way of life, democracy and human rights. They knew he would target vulnerable groups first and they wanted to show that we stand with them. They wanted it to be known that an attack on one is an attack on all. That is why they named their guide “Indivisible.”
As congressional staffers, they had watched the Tea Party essentially break our democratic system and they decided they could reverse engineer their successes. They created a Google document – 23 pages long – which went viral within days and within weeks there were groups popping up across the country (6000 country-wide; five on Cape Cod)!
They realized that nothing depends upon Trump, but on the elected officials who support or fight him. They knew this was not just about Trump, but about resisting the forces that allowed him. They were not content to wait for Democratic leaders like Pelosi or Schumer.
The Indivisible guide may have used the premise of the Tea Partiers to hold elected officials accountable, but we are NOT the Left’s Tea Party! The Tea Party was purely defensive in that it fought every progressive proposal and punished any concession by their elected officials. They offered no new ideas. The Tea Party sought to block all progressive reform through a refusal to compromise, the use of verbal and physical abuse and bullying, and the invention of alternate facts.
The lessons congressional staffers learned from the Tea Party are about getting our elected officials to listen to us: we outnumber them and if we speak up we can counter their belligerence with logic and compassion. We can shape the public discourse, but in a positive way. We can make our elected officials pause before signing on or voting on some atrocious bill. We can stall the Trump agenda until the time comes when we can restore decency and democracy.