In 2017, we saw the birth of a movement of hundreds of thousands of local activists who started organizing with their neighbors and participating in our democracy to resist the cruel and hate-filled Trump agenda. But the power of an activated constituency shouldn’t stop at our federal representatives in Washington. We have elected officials making decisions on our behalf at all levels of government — from our local school board to our city council and state legislature. The strategy outlined in the original Indivisible Guide describes, in general terms, how to engage in the democratic process; those tactics can be applied to anyone that we elect to represent our interests in government. For the last two years, we’ve followed the stories of dozens of Indivisible groups across the country that have realized that their constituent power has more leverage locally, and have already begun taking their activism to the state level to create change in their communities.
The GOP has been using a state-centered strategy to take and hold power for almost half a century. Conservative organizations like ALEC have been drafting dangerous model legislation and ushering it through statehouses across the country for over 40 years. Then a decade ago, GOP strategists laid out a plan called REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project) to take back power through state legislatures after the 2010 Census — and it worked, dramatically. In 2010, there were 9 Republican and 16 Democratic “trifectas” (where a single party controls the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature). In 2018, Republicans fully control 26 state governments, while Democrats control 8.
By controlling state governments, conservatives have been able to suppress voting rights, control redistricting, and maintain power in Congress via gerrymandering. By drawing districts in their favor, the GOP has been able to consistently win and hold a disproportionate share of Congressional seats relative to the number of votes that they win. For example, the GOP retained the majority in the House of Representatives in 2014 despite receiving 1.4 million fewer votes. While we don’t believe in the GOP attempt to fundamentally undermine democracy, there are lessons we can learn from the Republicans’ strategy of focusing on states. Progressives have largely ignored state legislatures to our detriment. Now is our chance to take them back.
This document is for Indivisible groups and members who are interested in using their constituent power to influence their state’s policy agenda. We hope to demystify how states can resist the Trump administration and how to develop strategies and tactics for impactful advocacy.
Indivisible States: Empowering States to Resist the Trump Agenda by Indivisible Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.