Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda
December 15, 2016 8:11 AM   Subscribe

"Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen" [Single Link Google Docs] A guide, based on the Tea Party playbook, on how to use the tools of government to resist the Trump agenda.
posted by SansPoint (54 comments total) 119 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes, this is helpful and good. It's also a little frustrating when you realize how well the system is set up to corral all the progressives you know into the same few left-leaning districts, so that no matter how loud you can get, or no matter how many people you can get on board to join your team, you're all yelling at the same few representatives who are already basically on your side.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:22 AM on December 15, 2016 [21 favorites]


It's also a little frustrating when you realize how well the system is set up to corral all the progressives you know into the same few left-leaning districts, so that no matter how loud you can get, or no matter how many people you can get on board to join your team, you're all yelling at the same few representatives who are already basically on your side.

Imagine how frustrating it would be if the representative for your heavily left-leaning district also can't vote on any bills and you don't even have senators.
posted by Copronymus at 8:27 AM on December 15, 2016 [45 favorites]


The Tea Party was pushing other Republicans further right. This is essentially a plan for pushing Democrats to be more resistant to Trump. I can't see my Republican Congressman, John Katko, giving a shit about grassroots progressives in his red district.
posted by xyzzy at 8:43 AM on December 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


An important bit I think you missed, xyzzy:
If your MoC is in a heavily Democratic or Republican district, you may assume that they have a safe seat and there’s nothing you can do to influence them. This is not true! The reality is that no MoC ever considers themselves to be safe from all threats. MoCs who have nothing to fear from a general election still worry about primary challenges.

More broadly, no one stays an MoC without being borderline compulsive about protecting their image. 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.
posted by SansPoint at 8:45 AM on December 15, 2016 [41 favorites]


anecdata: when I called my MoC a while back re: Bannon her assistant immediately asked "Are you part of an organized group???*" Which I took offense at at the time, but yes, speaks to some paranoia there. And that is also the MoC office that most consistently asks for my name and zip code.

It's not "hey I can make my Republican congresspeople go blue" it's "There's a lot of us and we're angry and the winds might not stay in your favor, Bub, so don't get too comfy in that chair." There's value in doing that.

Part of me hates to say I'm taking things from the "Republican" playbook but just as they hurt themselves by deciding things like good wages and healthcare are Liberal and therefore Bad, we hurt ourselves by deciding action and pressure on our elected officials is Conservative and therefore Bad.

*I responded "No, I just don't want a NAZI advising the President!!"
posted by emjaybee at 8:53 AM on December 15, 2016 [55 favorites]


The Republican fringe gets shit done. It would be silly not to coopt their most successful tactics.
posted by wotsac at 8:57 AM on December 15, 2016 [38 favorites]


It's also a little frustrating when you realize how well the system is set up to corral all the progressives you know into the same few left-leaning districts, so that no matter how loud you can get, or no matter how many people you can get on board to join your team, you're all yelling at the same few representatives who are already basically on your side

But that's largely a function of the Democrats/left basically ceding state-level politics to the Republicans for the last 20 years. Even this post, helpful as it is, focuses only on the Federal level.

The Republicans, whatever you may think of them, were smart enough to see that if they won the local game they could control the national game, while Democrats seem bizarrely blind to that. The Republicans make damn sure they're in charge when reapportionment/redrawing time rolls around.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:58 AM on December 15, 2016 [40 favorites]


These are standard tactics that progressive groups have also been using for years, and they really are effective in my experience. Some of the sidebars are breezing through what are the really hard parts, like creating diverse groups.

But what I really want is the state-level version of this, that's the key to undoing the worst of the damage. Some of the same principles apply in some places but others are definitely not as effective below the congressional level. Even if some of the advantages the Republican party at the state and local levels are related to the ease of campaigning in exurban areas (no local newspaper, barely functional county committees, non-competitive races) versus urban areas, I hope there are effective strategies to fight at the state level. My fear is that there aren't, and we are headed into a really dark period, but I really want to believe there are.
posted by sputzie at 9:13 AM on December 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


Don't get angry, organize.
posted by indubitable at 9:18 AM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


The Republican fringe gets shit done. It would be silly not to coopt their most successful tactics.

After all, they coopted their tactics from Saul Alinsky.
posted by tommyD at 9:19 AM on December 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


In the short term, these are good suggestions. But the other thing the Tea Party did, and the right has done for decades, is try to fill every nook and cranny with true believers. They ran them for city council, they ran them for dog catcher, they ran them for school boards. Wherever you look, right wingers, and not just right wingers, rabidly partisan right wingers pushing an extremist agenda in any place they can.

These things affect us more, on a day-to-day basis, than national politics. It's these people who have been crapping up our educational system with shitty textbooks, have been slashing funding for everything from city parks to garbage pick up, and have managed to devastate unions, grind widespread access to abortion to a halt, push your local publications rightward through decades of working the ref with claims of bias, and all the other manipulative, on-the-ground activism that the left is supposed to excel at.

We got to do that as well. Now. It won't pay of for five years, ten years, 20 years, but they've got a head start and we need to start pumping the breaks on that.
posted by maxsparber at 9:22 AM on December 15, 2016 [57 favorites]



Sorry to have to bring this up. But I really believe a way will be found to effectively gerrymander progressives out of political existence.
posted by notreally at 9:34 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that these tactics would work just as well with your state senators/representatives as your federal ones, no?
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:34 AM on December 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Not really, notreally, especially if you help the growing movement calling for independent redistricting committees.
posted by tommyD at 9:40 AM on December 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


If the political process completely shuts people out, then we will have to resort to mass resistance (and hell if the economy goes kaput, we'll all have plenty of time to do so). That's very scary and getting arrested by a hostile state is a terrible outcome but that's the only thing left to us if all legitimate means are shut off.

But we're not there yet (though some action is about to happen in NC thanks to their out-of-control Republicans), so we keep pushing where we can.

Statewise, I am trying to keep on top of the state lege calendar/proposed bills here and I know who my state-level reps are, and I will be calling them regularly. My city is pretty good, for now, but going to City Council meetings is something I'm going to work on next year also.

There's some good info on getting involved in local politics here.
posted by emjaybee at 10:22 AM on December 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm glad the Democrats are having these conversations. They've been relying far too much on touting their (truly) better policies, while ignoring the Machiavellian stuff that actually insures that they get a chance to enact those policies. Don't show up at a gun fight with a carefully worded statement about how comprehensive and well-crafted your marksmanship is.
posted by jetsetsc at 10:29 AM on December 15, 2016 [41 favorites]


If the political process completely shuts people out, then we will have to resort to mass resistance

Some sections of the population are already at this stage. 1 in 3 black men born today will go to prison, and in many states they will lose voting rights (and economic opportunity) as a result. And then in some states, maybe they'll just find a way to disqualify them anyway, like in NC in the past US election.

But we're not there yet
I would say we are.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:49 AM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Useful in conjunction with this doc - the Vote Spotter app, that lets you know how your reps vote on every bill, in real time.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:57 AM on December 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


I can't see my Republican Congressman, John Katko, giving a shit about grassroots progressives in his red district.

In my unsubstantiated opinion, blue voters in red and pink districts are the most important squeaky wheels that we have.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:27 AM on December 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


And that is also the MoC office that most consistently asks for my name and zip code.

It remains kind of absurd to me that someone's remembering the correct zip code is how we validate that you've called the correct representative . As of it wouldn't be possible to index every zip code - representative pair such that you could just give the poor staffer who answers the phone a random zip that's in the representative's district.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:34 AM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can't see my Republican Congressman, John Katko, giving a shit about grassroots progressives in his red district.

He will care if you and 15 of your friends show up to his Town Hall and start yelling at him in front of god and everyone. He will extra care if you issue a press release the morning before you go so that all the local news is there to record it.

I'm not sure if you remember the Town Hall events that signaled the creation of the Tea Party in 08 but it was not business as usual for anyone involved and it got noticed, both locally and nationally. I mean, I was appalled because who even behaves like that in public let alone to an elected representative but--this is how Democrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We second-guess our every motive and motivation, we are really concerned with not looking crazy or bad or mean, and we form circular firing squads at every available opportunity because moral purity is preferable to winning. You know who does not give a single shit about any of those things? Reactionaries.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:42 AM on December 15, 2016 [53 favorites]


Also also: I just discovered that my wingnutty local state rep puts up polls on her personal site to ask about what she should focus on in the next Lege session. She posted this on Nextdoor. Her questions are mostly bullshit with no "good" answers but I was able to vote for more money given to local schools on one question, and then use the comments section to tell her what I REALLY wanted her to focus on.

Once I completed the poll I was told about a way I could sign up to get texts letting me know what she's up to. Which I did.

So you might check your local state people's sites for similar tools.
posted by emjaybee at 12:09 PM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Republicans managed to con America into believing that health care reform was bad, and they managed to toss enough monkey wrenches into it to validate their accusations of it being clunky and unworkable. This is textbook Ann Richards where she famously joked that Republicans say the government doesn't work and then get elected and prove it. It was a great line, and it's true. What I'm getting at is that there is/was no fallout for Republican stonewalling. None.

However, some of Trump's policies are going to be very popular. If he renegotiates trade deals to be more favorable, how can Democrats block that without extreme blow back? The answer is that they can't, and Trump's advisers know this. He's not going to be an easy out, and doing to him what Republicans did to Obama isn't going to work, because Trump is going to wrap job creation around every single policy he pushes. It's going to be very tricky to stop him.
posted by Beholder at 12:30 PM on December 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


People won't regard those trade deals as favorable if we get into a tariff war and no one can buy their cheap stuff cheaply any more.
posted by winna at 12:40 PM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Also he has no interest in job creation (for instance, the Carrier "deal" didn't change their plans one iota, and the tax breaks are going into automation that will cut more jobs) so it is entirely possible to call out his bullshit.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:45 PM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's going to be very tricky to stop him.

The thing is, we're all mostly nobodies here anyway, so it's difficult for us to do anything. Let's start with doing what we can with what we've got, and leave it there. The road is always long and hard.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:48 PM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


(If you're in a position where you can stop Trump cold, please do. I am not and doubt that I will be.)
posted by Going To Maine at 12:50 PM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Republican fringe gets shit done. It would be silly not to coopt their most successful tactics.

Yeah but isn't the tricky bit here that what they're so good at getting done is blocking policy and shutting down programs? It's always easier to destroy than build. Unless Dems give up on the idea of the gov't doing anything for people, adopting the Tea Party tactics will just counter-productively make it harder to advance any sort of positive agenda. The whole problem is the right literally wants to abandon having a federal government. It's much easier to succeed politically when all you're trying to accomplish is making sure nothing gets done and the government is too weak to regulate anything
posted by saulgoodman at 1:17 PM on December 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


I mean, I guess at this point resistance is all we've got, but I wouldn't go getting too misty eyed over the Tea Party's tactical genius. They didn't get things done. They stopped things from getting done. And the tactics they used are really only useful if that's your aim.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:19 PM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Right, but what we want to stop is the gutting of what's been accomplished so far. If obstruction, filibusters, lawsuits and general monkey wrench throwing can stop the dismantling of public education, climate agreements, etc, then I say bring 'em on. A deadlock with no progress for 4 years beats the hell out of full speed ahead back to the 1890's. Or 1300's or whatever.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


saugoodman and jetsetsc: The Tea Party started with obstructionism, and once they got their candidates in, moved to create policy. We can do the same.
posted by SansPoint at 1:34 PM on December 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


Stop Muslim registries. Stop voter suppression. Stop gerrymandering. Stop deportations. Stop dismantling of Social Security, Medicare, and the ACA. Stop anti-abortion bills. Stop anti-trans bills. Stop the suppression of free speech. Stop DAPL. Stop corruption. Stop warmongering. Stop climate change. Block Cabinet nominations. Block Supreme Court nominations.

In other words: YES! Under the incoming administration, we absolutely want to block, shut down, and destroy. If that gives us an opening to advance our own agenda later on, all the better, but I would consider any one of the things I just listed a major accomplishment in its own right.

At any rate, the doc talks in detail about why it is useful and necessary to take a defensive position right now. Part of it is because, with the Republicans in control of three branches of government, we've got no other choice, but they also argue that it helps avoid fracturing groups due to policy disagreements. It's a lot easier to get people to agree that Trump and his agenda are bad, and that's what we need to do right now. This is absolutely an emergency.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:50 PM on December 15, 2016 [47 favorites]


The whole problem is the right literally wants to abandon having a federal government. It's much easier to succeed politically when all you're trying to accomplish is making sure nothing gets done and the government is too weak to regulate anything

The right wants to cause human suffering, because the right are hardline capitalists who believe that human suffering is necessary for the global economy. Moreover, they believe that human suffering is a zero-sum game; if I can cause someone else to suffer more, I get happier. They're perfectly happy to have a federal government when it spies on people, tortures people, deports immigrants, limits women's and LGTBQ people's rights, and restricts access to healthcare. Yes, let's make sure none of that gets done.

(or on preview, what sunset in snow country said)
posted by capricorn at 1:56 PM on December 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


when I called my MoC a while back re: Bannon her assistant immediately asked "Are you part of an organized group???*"

Surely the correct answer was "no, I'm a Democrat."
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:58 PM on December 15, 2016 [25 favorites]


The Tea Party did get things done, if by "things" we mean "elections" and by "done" we mean "won."
posted by witchen at 2:04 PM on December 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


I am all for shutting shit down. We on the left may disagree strongly about what needs to be built and how that can be accomplished, but we all agree that enacting legislation to harm trans people is bullshit. We all agree that trying to kill Roe v. Wade is bullshit. We all agree that putting CEOs in office is bullshit. I'm tired of left politics that pretends to be all above the negativity, man. The reality is that legislation is passed all the time that totally screws the working class, screws people of color, and shoot, screws pretty everyone who isn't super wealthy. Fuck em, they're not hurting my neighbors without a fight.
posted by teponaztli at 2:10 PM on December 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


Trump is going to wrap job creation around every single policy he pushes. It's going to be very tricky to stop him.

He's going to pretend that's what he's about, but his real agenda is to line rich people's pockets, like the carrier deal. If we hand the owner my tax money, maybe he will keep jobs here! This is an angle you can harass Republicans on. He is stealing your tax dollars for his buddies and creating a welfare job state.

If Trump proposes comprehensive taxation on profits from outsourcing and tariffs on environmental violations (basically a progressive's dream version of the TPP), hell, I might support it.
posted by benzenedream at 2:21 PM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


It’s strange to me that this document nowhere includes a complete list of authors. These three are mentioned:posted by Going To Maine at 2:50 PM on December 15, 2016


When does law become farce?

What are we willing to obey?
posted by Max Power at 4:51 PM on December 15, 2016


Why do you think that's strange, Going To Maine? Maybe it best if not everyone knows who they are. These are people in the thick of things and this is political war.
posted by tommyD at 4:55 PM on December 15, 2016


I wouldn't be surprised if some of the authors are currently working for elected officials and think it might hurt their bosses if their names were associated with this. It's impossible to search for Angel Padilla (it's a common name, and he doesn't give much information on his twitter bio), but Haile and Levin seem to be working for non-profits that are unlikely to get a lot of blowback over this.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:29 PM on December 15, 2016


Why do you think that's strange, Going To Maine? Maybe it best if not everyone knows who they are. These are people in the thick of things and this is political war.

Because in a time where quite a few things are faked and have garbage provenance, I like to have identities to associate with things. “Maybe it’s best if not everyone knows who they are” is a fun excuse, but I’d at least want them to give it.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:12 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just want to note that the Tea Party and the republican fringe in general has been supremely well funded. They started as Astro-turf operations. Feed them enough money and friendly media coverage (an entire cable news channel!), and they go mainstream.

Same with the take over of state politics. It's not like they just "wanted" it more or something; billionaire assholes poured hundreds of millions and billions of dollars into capturing state legislatures and governor's houses.

That, and older people have more time to do things like organize and show up to town hall meetings to be disruptive. Know many single moms in their thirties (or shit, anyone in their thirties with kids or just without job security) who can do that? Probably not a whole bunch, because that's some super human shit.

The playbook is not enough. There are structural differences to overcome. If we can do it by leveraging apps or whatever the fuck, awesome. But let's not go in thinking it's an even playing field and we can just do what they did, because I don't think it will be sustainable.

It's asymmetric political warfare. I don't know how to fight that, but I think that's more of what we need.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:29 PM on December 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


The progressive campaign against Pat McCrory in North Carolina may be a useful case study in how to organize. (current legislative coup notwithstanding)
posted by dry white toast at 7:21 PM on December 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


"...they also argue that it helps avoid fracturing groups due to policy disagreements."

Yup. You can expect a whole lotta Libertarians and even some Republicans to report for duty for the Democrats' War on Trump and thus it's probably best that we try not to stray too far off the topic of Trump Sucks lest our coalition get distracted by bickering over less urgent shit.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:32 PM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Know many single moms in their thirties (or shit, anyone in their thirties with kids or just without job security) who can do that?
Not off the top of my head, but I could probably come up with a list of 15 to 20 local people who I think would be willing and able to show up regularly for things. I've run phone banks and canvasses for the Democrats: I know who shows up on Tuesday nights. And it's true that not very many of them are people in their 30s with kids. They're retired people and people in their 40s with older kids and people in their 50s whose kids have moved out. There are also some people who don't have kids! College students show up, and some of our best canvassers this year were high school students. Their point is that a relatively small number of people can make a difference if you work locally, and at least where I live, we could come up with some people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:35 PM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


I forget who said it here, but offering babysitting services for these kinds of groups allows the 30 something pissed off moms/dads to come out and contribute.
posted by benzenedream at 8:33 PM on December 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


this is nice, but don't forget about some tools from deep democracy playbook

amendment no 1, y'all
posted by eustatic at 8:41 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's going to be very tricky to stop him

Not to interrupt MeFi's regularly scheduled doomsaying, but it's worth pointing out the ways in which we're facing a much weaker opponent than the Tea Party was in 2009.

Trump is going to be the least popular incoming president in modern history; he lost the popular vote by a wide margin and was the most unfavorably viewed major presidential candidate ever. He has unprecedentedly low levels of support within his own party; he hates and is hated by most of the Republican bigwigs; his positions, insofar as he has them, do not line up with the standard Ryan-McConnell-Pence-etc. playbook. He has no clear goals, no knowledge of policy and no understanding of how to use political power to achieve tangible ends. The personal and political scandals that erupt around him at regular intervals show no sign of abating, and his public legitimacy outside of Breitbart world will keep taking a hit with each one.

We're talking as if Ryan and co. are now in the driver's seat and can start the work of taking a sledgehammer to the social contract, but actually if you're a Republican politico right now life is not easy. Your president-elect is an ignoramus, but he's not a docile ignoramus a la Bush -- he's a narcissist who thinks he knows more about everything than anyone else and is not beholden to anyone in his own party. Yes, he can be manipulated, but there are going to be lots of different people trying to manipulate him in lots of different directions, so you're going to be spending much of your energy (or what's left of it after you go on CNN to do damage control for his daily Twitter rant) trying to wrangle him into promises that he'll probably break the next day. And he's massively vindictive, so that anyone who's breathed a word of criticism against him will probably get publicly humiliated and certainly never have the boss's ear again. Even if you're Steve Bannon, you can't be feeling too confident given that he went through three campaign managers in four months. Basically, you're going to be fighting your own president and the daily curveballs he throws you before you even get around to fighting your Democratic opponents.

On top of that, the political future is less predictable than ever and you have no way of knowing whether in 2018 Trump will be king of the world or a dead weight around your electoral neck. But the latter probably seems very plausible given how things are going a month before the inauguration. Do you line up behind Trump and risk paying the price if he implodes, or break ranks and risk getting cast into outer darkness? Politicians are cautious creatures and most of them are going to wait and see which way the wind is blowing, just like they did during the election.

Republican congressional majorities are much slimmer than Democrats' were in 2009, so in any given fight we may only need a couple of defectors, and we couldn't ask for a more divided opposing party. If Dems can exploit and encourage the divisions and learn to play the pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions against each other they can win a lot of the upcoming battles.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 9:12 PM on December 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


This is quite true and heartening, but gerrymandering is still real and Trump's stupid election doesn't change that. That work remains.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:51 PM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Trump is going to be the least popular incoming president in modern history

This understates things. Trump will be the least popular incoming president since we figured out how to measure that. The only reason we have to say that Trump isn't less popular than some non-modern incoming president was that we can't know how popular they were, because we hadn't figured out how to do accurate polling.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:05 PM on December 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


(At the risk of Godwinning everything, my impression is that Hitler only got about thirty percent of the popular vote when he ran for president. His popularity only matters, for at least a little while, if he cares about such things. Which is why you've got to yell at your reps! Especially if they are Republicans!)
posted by Going To Maine at 10:24 PM on December 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


Now we're talkin'! Thanks for posting this.
posted by zarq at 4:30 AM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Also, to clear up my earlier Godwinning point, since on re-read it might be unclear: Hitler lost that Presidential election, as well as the subsequent run-off. He came to power via coalition building with the Conservative party, which assumed it could control him. It couldn’t. (An actual historian would probably have many more caveats; I’m just a dude reading a book.))
posted by Going To Maine at 12:48 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


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