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Demystifying Congress: Prioritizing Key Policy Issues

One of the things we learned as former congressional staffers is that Congress really only has the bandwidth to handle one or a few things at once. Sure, there’ll be plenty of speeches, hearings, and press conferences, but usually Congress is really only focusing on one or two issues at a given time. That gives Indivisible groups the power to focus energy into those things that really matter.

We all know that Trump poses an existential threat to this country. No matter what your issue is—whether it’s health care, immigration, the environment, civil rights, or something else—it is under attack by Trump and his cronies in Congress. A tactic they’re using is to spread our movement as thinly as possible, hoping that we don’t have the energy or the fortitude to keep fighting. We're going to prove them wrong.

However, the fact is that we still have to prioritize what we focus on in a given moment in order to maximize our impact. The question isn’t WHAT issue we care most about, it’s HOW we can have impact. Ultimately, we can't respond to everything, and we don't want to. Let us explain.

Resisting the Trump Agenda—Indivisible Style

Our number one goal is to resist the Trump Agenda through local, congressional advocacy. When we can speak with a unified voice, we increase our effectiveness. We’ve already seen how this approach can slow and even stop Trump and Republicans in Congress advancing their harmful agenda.

There’s a simple theory at work here: each legislative victory makes Trump stronger and increases the chance that he wins the next fight he picks. Each legislative defeat increases the chance of more legislative defeats. And making each fight longer and more costly helps us run out the clock until 2018. In short, whatever issue you care about the most, the best way to protect it from legislative threats is to ensure that every other regressive, racist, anti-democratic piece of Trump’s agenda is defeated.

While we won’t win every battle, we can win the war. We want to sustain the resistance through the 2018 midterm elections and all the way to 2020. And we believe that prioritization is the only way of reaching that goal.

How does Indivisible Project make decisions about which issues to prioritize?

We focus our limited resources on those issues that are strategically most effective at stopping the Trump Agenda. That being said, we want to reiterate how we, as a community, make those strategic decisions to empower everyone to have a strong voice in that process. We use the following criteria:

First, we focus on what is most immediately relevant in Congress

As progressives, we have to accept a hard truth: we don’t have the House, Senate, or the Presidency. That means we don’t have agenda-setting power. Instead what we have is the power to respond. Members of Congress and their staff can’t think several days ahead, let alone weeks ahead. Our power is greatest when we are responding to what they are working on RIGHT NOW—the hearing, the vote, the CBO score, the recess, etc. This is how we change their political calculus in real time. The Tea Party understood this 8 years ago, and we’ve got to understand this now to be effective.

Congress is typically a slow-moving, rusty machine that can only effectively handle a few issues at a time. It takes a lot of work to advance a major piece of legislation through even one chamber of Congress. We can use this to our advantage. If we focus on what Congress is working on in a given moment in time, we have more leverage—and we can have a greater impact on the outcome.

Second, we focus on issues that are central to the Trump agenda

Donald Trump made a number of big campaign promises that he intends to realize, like repealing the Affordable Care Act, banning certain refugees and Muslims from entering the country, and building a border wall. That means he will need to spend some amount of political capital trying to get them done. The harder we make it for him to accomplish any of these, the more political capital he has to spend, and the less he’ll have left to advance the rest of his agenda. And the more he struggles to move his agenda, the more we weaken his legitimacy and credibility.

Third, we focus on issues that would harm the most vulnerable communities

While recognizing that all Americans are at risk under Trump, there are communities in this country that are particularly at risk. These include immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women, LGBTQ persons, the disabled, and many others. We firmly believe that an attack on one is an attack on all. It is our duty as Americans to stand indivisible with individuals and communities that are being targeted by the Trump administration.

Fourth, we focus on attacks to our democracy

Donald Trump is systematically attacking and undermining our fundamental democratic principles. He has attacked members of the press, tried to limit freedom of speech, undermined judicial independence, irresponsibly called into question electoral results, and has taken military action without authorization from Congress. We will prioritize defending our democracy from these attacks from a would-be dictator.

We believe this process is evolving—and we care what you think!

We know there are other considerations and other vital areas where the Trump Agenda needs to be resisted. It is important to hear from you about what matters to you, what would make you and your groups more effective advocates. And we will adjust as needed to ensure that we defend our country from Donald Trump.