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Working with Republican members of Congress

We’ve defeated Trump and his cronies, and now it’s time to defeat the forces that fueled his rise and encouraged this threat to our democracy. But if you live in a district or state with Republican Members of Congress (MoCs), what does this look like?

First it’s important to identify what type of Republican your MoC is, as that will determine the most important ways for you to engage with them. Here are the main types of Republican MoCs:

The Typical Republican

  • Examples: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI), most Republicans that don’t have national audiences and are loyal to the party.
  • What they say: They say they just want “common sense” and “fiscal responsibility” and that the most important thing to do is roll back government regulations.
  • What they do: They pretend to stick up for their district, but they actually just do whatever Republican leadership tells them to do. They will demonize immigrants and people of color, and their main goal is dishing out favors for their wealthy donors.
  • How to pressure them:
    • Expose their ties to extreme GOP views.
    • Hold them accountable for obstructionism.
    • Highlight the local harms of their actions.

The Supposedly Moderate Republican

  • Examples: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Republican members of the “Problem Solvers” Caucus
  • What they say: They will say they want bipartisanship, that they agree with some of the things Democrats are trying to do but that progressives are just going too far or too fast.
  • What they do: They attempt to walk the line between doing just enough to fend off an electoral challenger, while still siding with the Republican party, obstructing progress, and doing favors for their wealthy donors. For the most part, being “moderate” is just for show.
  • How to pressure them:
    • Make them back up their nice words with their votes.
    • Expose their hypocrisy when they side with GOP extremists.
    • Use their electoral vulnerability against them.

The Trump Republican

  • Examples: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Members of the Freedom Caucus
  • What they say: They did everything Trump asked for, worked to defy the will of the voters, embraced conspiracy theories, spread lies about elected Democrats, and viciously attacked immigrants and people of color. Many of them come out of the Tea Party - they do not hide their extreme views, but instead go on Fox News, conservative radio, and other platforms to proudly espouse their allegiance to right-wing extremism.
  • What they do: They stoke their extremist base, seek to undermine any progress, and are prone to publicity stunts to gain national attention. They will also make a big show of opposing their own party leadership if they are not sufficiently extreme.
  • How to pressure them:
    • Ensure the views they express in right-wing forums are exposed in your community and local media.
    • Focus on the harm their positions and actions cause, not how extreme they are, since extremism is part of their electoral strategy
    • Display local opposition to their extremist positions, especially during high-stakes moments.
    • Debunk their claims that they are simply “representing their constituents.”

The High Profile Republican, or Republicans in Leadership

  • Examples: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
  • What they say: They will say whatever is most politically convenient, embracing the Trump-like figures of the party while claiming they want bipartisanship and it’s the Democrats who are really the extremists.
  • What they do: Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Every appeal to moderation is a just a trap to delay the progressive agenda, and they will use endless process complaints to hide their extremist views on policy.
  • How to pressure them:
    • Make it clear that they are just savvy enablers of the worst members of their Caucus.
    • Expose their neglect of local issues or community needs.
    • Wield their high-profile media attention against them, highlighting who they have used their power to benefit and who they have left behind.

There are of course many more ways to pressure your individual MoCs, and it’s important to use strategies and tactics that are best suited for your district or state. Additionally, some MoCs may be categorized in a couple different categories, or move between categories depending on the issue. These categories should get you on the right track though!

 

 

Cardboard Cory

Cory Gardner is now a former Senator from Colorado, in no small part due to the persistence of Indivisibles on the ground who exposed Gardner’s allegiance to the Republican party and his unwillingness to meet with his constituents or hold town hall meetings.

Although he pretended to be a moderate, Gardner’s votes in Congress proved he was out of step with his constituents who had voted against Trump. Through long-term organizing, including creative actions like holding town hall meetings with a cardboard cutout of Gardner, his constituents were able to expose just how out of step he was. This had a profound impact on Cory Gardner’s popularity, local and national media narratives about him, and ultimately his reelection prospects. You can see more of this incredible story of perseverance and activism in this short documentary!

 

 

What to do after you’ve started pressuring your MoC

Play the long game. It’s going to be difficult, and we won’t be able to immediately flip every district or shame every right-winger into being less extreme. But together we can make progress, and be ready when circumstances turn in our favor. The 2020-2021 Georgia Senate elections are a great example of years of grassroots organizing coming to fruition to defeat two GOP incumbents and deliver a Democratic majority.

The most important thing is to not give up. We can’t sugar coat this - Republican MoCs are going to do some awful things and take some harmful votes, no matter how many letters to the editor we send or empty chair town halls we hold. We have to be in this for the long haul, to make sure we show up during critical votes when swinging a few Republicans can make all the difference, and to put ourselves in the best position possible when elections come around.

You’re not in this alone. In addition to your fellow Indivisibles who are pressuring their own Republican MoCs, everyone working with a Democratic or progressive MoC benefits from the work you do with your own Republican MoC. By exposing their extremism and obstruction, making them feel vulnerable back home, debunking their claims about their own constituents, and ensuring their harmful votes do not fly under the radar, you make passing the bold, progressive legislation we need even more possible. Every bit of attention these Republican MoCs have to spend back home is time and effort they cannot spend obstructing progress in Congress or spreading lies on cable TV. Saving our democracy takes all of us, regardless of who your MoC is!