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Questions from the Field

Leah GreenbergEzra Levin - 04/30/2019


First of all—wow. Since we sent out our first Leah/Ezra email last month, we had nearly 500 questions and comments in response to our kickoff letter. And most of these aren’t one-liners—many of you wrote in paragraphs. This is great!! We read through all of them and grouped these into a few categories so that we can provide some top-line answers.

Note that there were a fair number of Mueller/impeachment questions, and we tried to address those in our newsletter. And there were a whole bunch of one-off questions that we can’t respond to en masse like this. If we didn’t get to your question, we strongly encourage you to get in touch with your Indivisible organizer. Yes, there is someone organizing your state for Indivisible full-time. If you don’t know who that is, fill out this form or shoot an email over to to get connected.

Bottom line, it is so cool to be having an Indivisible movement-wide conversation like this. We think this is working, so we’re going to keep doing it. If you’re not signed up yet to get Indivisible’s emails, you can sign up here and you’ll get the next letter from us.

OK, so let’s get into some of the questions—we’re going to cover four broad categories below:

  • Indivisible and the presidential primary

  • Indivisible and democracy

  • How to recruit new Indivisible members

  • How you can get involved in Indivisible if you’re not involved yet

Indivisible and the Presidential Primary

Cindy from Indivisible Chicago asked: what role, if any, will Indivisible play at the national level to "vet" the Democratic presidential candidates?

Leah/Ezra response: We got a ton of questions about the presidential primary, and they were all in some form or another about how Indivisible national is planning to engage. First of all, in direct response to the Cindy’s question: yes, Indivisible will be making an active effort to “vet” the candidates—which is to say we want the Indivisible movement to be able to poke and prod the candidates and understand their vision and plans, so that movement members can make a good choice. We’ll be releasing overviews of the policy positions they hold, and we’ll helping movement leaders ask the candidates their questions directly.

Second, we’re going to re-up here the “We Are Indivisible” pledge that we just launched last week. This is an important first foray into the primary for Indivisible. We will engage fully in this primary—and part of that means ensuring both the grassroots and the candidates agree that we’re going to rally around whoever wins and do the work to beat Trump.

Through 2019, we’ll be working with groups to develop a process for Indivisible National to engage in the primary. We are doing this because we believe the grassroots engaging in the primary will help us win in November. And we want candidates to be on the record for governing how we want them to govern when they become president. This is our responsibility—because our movement, with our partners, have built incredible power over last two years, and now we have the opportunity to maximize progress on our issues as we build toward the defeat of Donald Trump.

Lauren, an Indivisible member in Vermont writes: Which candidate do you think has the best chance of defeating Trump?

Leah/Ezra response: We think this is one of the top concerns that people have when trying to evaluate the candidates. And we have a pretty strong opinion on this—just about all of them can beat Trump! And the same ones could lose to Trump. Folks are often concerned about “electability” but the reality is that candidates that look “electable” lose all the time. And often, “electability” is used to dismiss candidates who aren’t white, older, wealthy, or male. So while we care about winning in 2020, we think we have a whole bunch of perfectly electable candidates to choose from.

Our advice in the primary is something along the lines of what Rachel Maddow said this week: In the primary, vote your heart. In the general, vote your head.

We need a candidate who inspires a progressive, multiracial base. We need a candidate who inspires voters. You can’t accurately guess who might inspire somebody else, but you are an expert in who inspires you. So by all means get behind the candidate or candidates who inspire you the most. This isn’t starry-eyed idealism. We want to defeat Trump too. But we know that there’s a good chance if you find the candidate compelling, other people will too. And, again, if your candidate doesn’t wind up winning the nomination, get ready to throw your whole self into electing whoever wins. Indivisibles don’t take our ball and go home. Indivisibles do the work to win.

Indivisible and Democracy

Pelle from Indivisible Northampton in Massachusetts writes: How can we counter voter suppression, gerrymandering, and corruption in the next election if we can't get HR 1 passed?

Leah/Ezra response: For those who don’t know it, H.R. 1 is the For the People Act, the big pro-democracy bill that the House passed earlier this year. In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “socialism” and a “power grab” and is refusing to allow it to get a vote. More recently McConnell called himself the “Grim Reaper” for progressive policies—those are literally his words. So Pelle is right—H.R. 1 is not becoming law before we take back the House, the Senate, and Presidency in 2021. So what do we do until then?

We have a couple immediate ideas.

First is state-level advocacy. Indivisible is running a set of proactive and defensive campaigns at the state level. In New York, major efforts are underway to restore voting rights for formerly incarcerated citizens, establish automatic voter registration, and back public campaign financing. In Texas, we're fighting back against voter suppression and intimidation. In Arizona, we're fighting back against attempts to purge hundreds of thousands of early voters and efforts to make ballot initiatives and voter registration more burdensome. There’s a good chance that regardless of what state you’re in, there’s work to do either on defense or offense to protect democracy.

Second, H.R. 1 has passed, but it’s not the end of the story for federal advocacy. If we are wildly successful and take the House, Senate, and Presidency in 2021, Mitch McConnell or some doppelganger will still be the Republican Minority Leader of the Senate—and they’ll filibuster to death H.R. 1 and any pro-democracy bill. Democrats can eliminate the filibuster with 50 votes (McConnell eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominees in 2017—that’s how we got Gorsuch and Kavanaugh). But Democrats have been squeamish about this, and only a few sitting Democratic Senators have said they’d axe the filibuster if necessary. If you’ve got a Democratic Senator, ask them if they’ll give McConnell and the Koch Brothers a veto over our democracy legislation. Get them on the record now so that we’re able to hit the ground running in 2021.

How to Recruit New Indivisible Members

Kim with Lee OFA Indivisible in Florida writes: Are you finding that people are getting tired of trump's antics, hundreds of emails asking for money or scores asking us to get involved? I formed our group 2 years ago soon after you announced your guide. In the past two months, however, our attendance at our meetings is dwindling. And members are devastated with what we have seen/heard of the Mueller report. Any thoughts?

Natalie with Indivisible Ocean Hills in California writes: Our group has lost energy and focus…. Any advice on how to re-energize our little 200-member group?

Leah/Ezra response: After all of the energy and activity around the midterms, it’s natural that your group might be seeing a downtick in member participation, or having a harder time recruiting new members. Developing a plan to take on both challenges is a critical part of ensuring your group’s overall strength and health.

First, we recommend reaching out to your Indivisible organizer. Your organizer will be your go-to expert who’s ready to be your partner on tackling recruitment, retention, and anything else that can support your group’s work.

We’ve also put together lots of resources over time, based on the experiences and best practices of others in the network. Check out our comprehensive resource on recruitment that covers everything you need to know to develop a recruitment plan, including this member recruitment worksheet to walk through important questions and helpful considerations as you build your plan.

But we know bringing in new members is just one side of the coin—you want to make sure you’re keeping your members engaged as well. Retaining members is a testament to the strength of the relationships fostered in your group, and the commitment to developing new leaders for the long term. Our webinar on building intentional relationships, and our webinar on growing and sustaining your group, are two great guides to help you get started.

We’re also developing a new resource specifically to support group leaders facing attrition. If you have questions you want to make sure are covered, or pieces of wisdom you want to share with our network, let us know and we’ll make sure they’re included!

We know that Indivisible is only as strong as the local Indivisible groups. So stay tuned for some planning around how Indivisible National can help with local recruitment in 2019. We’ll be cooking up some fun stuff!

How You Can Get Involved in Indivisible if You’re Not Involved Yet

Corrie, an Indivisible member in Seattle writes: I work full time, have a family and a house and all that...If I have just one hour per week to commit to progressive changes, HOW SHOULD I SPEND IT?

Similarly, Nancy from Indivisible SF Peninsula writes: What is the best strategy for a part-time tutor who can't donate a lot, but who needs to do something almost every day to feel engaged?

Leah/Ezra response: These are such important questions. We all want to try and fit more advocacy and action into our lives, but there are only so many hours in the day. What can we do that fits into our schedule AND has the biggest impact?

You hear us talk a lot about the importance of making a phone call, and that’s because it’s a tactic that is proven time after time to actually move the needle. Calling your legislator or official is quick, it’s effective, and it’s a crucial tactic no matter if it’s your U.S. Senator or local school board. If you only have a little time every day or week, making a phone call is the best way you can support the issues you care about. Sign up for our email list and we’ll send you regular opportunities to make a call in our weekly newsletter. (Oh, and never call anyone other than your own legislator. More on that here.)

If you’re interested in spending your time getting involved locally, we recommend reaching out to your local Indivisible group. With thousands across the country, you’re sure to find one of your area, with the expertise to help you get plugged in with local and state advocacy opportunities. (And if you want, you can always pull in a few friends and start your own group—that’s how this movement works.) You may not be in a place to commit to offering lots of time to your local Indivisible group. And that’s ok! Sign up for their email list or join their Facebook group to keep an eye on upcoming events, like a day of action, phonebanking party, or local convening, that you can plan to fit into your schedule as you’re able. Over time, you might find yourself able to make room for even more activities.

This is what the Indivisible movement is built on—folks like you in communities across the country putting in what they can when they can. Taken together, it adds up to a pretty darn powerful political force.