The Role of the Indivisible Movement in the Resistance
Knowing Indivisible’s role in the resistance is critical for understanding its strengths and weaknesses, and for recognizing its potential for impact.
There are thousands of grassroots organizations across the country that makeup the resistance. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses based on their size, who their members are, and what brings them together. Many groups existed long before Trump, and they will exist after him. These groups are often small, but their members are close. They build one-on-one relationships between members who share the same political opinions, demographics, and identities. These groups work to enact change from outside the system; they address long-term problems and seek radical change.a
Conversely, there are protest movements that seek immediate reform. Their members come together quickly to enact short-term change, working inside the political system. These movements are large, but when change is accomplished, the movements end. An antiwar movement, for example, grows in size and strength, but when the war ends, the movement ends.
Indivisible is a protest movement. It is mobilizing large numbers of people to enact short-term change as quickly as possible. Knowing Indivisible’s role as a protest movement is critical for understanding its strengths and weaknesses and for recognizing its potential for impact.
One of the strengths of movement is its size. It has thousands of local branches in congressional districts across the country, and tens of thousands of liberals and progressives have been empowered to take action, many for the first time. Millions of people are angered by Trump’s victory and motivated to resist. Indivisible creates a systematic way to quickly bring people together.
Although branch leaders typically have strong political opinions, they often have little experience in organizing. An online manual, entitled Indivisible Guide: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, offers step-by-step instructions for setting up local branches that instantly become part of the larger Indivisible movement. The guide provides a framework for coordinating members and organizing events.
In addition to size, Indivisible has another strength: rapid coordinated action. The movement has no central command or leadership, but the guide offers a framework to launch quick acts of resistance. The guide was written by former congressional staffers who witnessed firsthand how a small minority in the Tea Party could create gridlock in Washington. Numerous legislative victories have been claimed by Indivisible groups that use strategic tactics to influence members of Congress during town halls, office visits, public events, and coordinated phone calls. Local chapters have participated in the national Tax Day March, Climate March, March for Science, and March for Truth, and state and local events.
Indivisible’s role in the resistance is an important one: It connects leftist organizations that are more radical to the mainstream. Groups that address long-term problems, such as Black Lives Matter, anarchists, communists, and socialist organizations now have a larger space to operate. These groups enact change from outside the system, while Indivisible enacts change inside it. Indivisible puts white middle-class liberals in the resistance, creating a conduit for other groups to spread their message. The resistance is mainstream.
Invisible is a powerful movement—but it has weaknesses, and correcting them will be critical for the movement to reach its potential to create long-term change. Indivisible is a protest movement, so its longevity is threatened by the way in which it was formed. The movement is reactionary and reformist in nature. It is focused on a single issue: Trump. It will be effective in resisting him in the short term, but the movement’s long-term impact on the status quo will be limited to weak reforms if it does not address the contradictions of capitalism and systematic problems in America.
The size of Indivisible is a strength—but also a weakness. Members are united in their shared hatred of Trump, yet political differences among members could divide the movement when it comes to campaign strategies. Members are brought together by their disdain for the president but not necessarily because they agree on the way forward. Serious internal divisions could threaten the movement’s impact and longevity.
Naturally, its members embody a diverse range of political opinions, including progressives who supported Bernie Sanders and liberals who supported Hillary Clinton. These are profound differences, considering the vast disparities between the candidates. These divisions could drive a wedge between the Indivisible movement, especially as it attempts to adopt an electoral strategy. Branches must decide which candidates they want to support. Some members will want to endorse candidates who promote universal healthcare, tuition-free education, and higher wages; other members may agree with this agenda but will be quick to point out that winning elections is the most important thing. These members will want to support the Democratic Party establishment. This could divide local branches.
The Indivisible guide sets out a clear strategy for resisting Trump, but it does not express what the alternative should be; it does not say which policies or candidates should replace the current system. Although the guide was not originally written with the intention of winning elections, local leaders are already developing strategies for the 2018 campaign. Indivisible could play an instrumental role in determining the outcome, but local branches will have to address differences among their members.
As branches work to adopt strategies to win elections, members should seriously discuss which candidates they want to endorse while being aware that supporting the Democratic Party establishment is a losing strategy. The antiwar movement of 2004 supported a “winnable” Democrat in John Kerry and lost; it was not until four years later that the antiwar movement was substantial enough to elect the more left-leaning Obama. Again in 2016, supporting a corporate Democrat turned out to be futile. Hillary was focused on winning white-collar voters by promoting a conservative economic and military agenda while also trying to attract liberals using her version of identity politics. In the process, she completely abandoned the working class.
The Indivisible movement should work to bring about systematic change to capitalism by supporting progressive and socialist candidates in 2018 and beyond. Any nominee who accepts donations from corporations should not be endorsed. Indivisible should support a forward-thinking economic agenda, such as the one promoted by Bernie Sanders, that benefits immigrants, people of color, and the working class. The movement should endorse higher wages, universal healthcare, strict environmental protection, tuition-free education, and a smaller military budget.
Corporate oligarchs who dominate all three branches of government are the obvious problem, but corporate Democrats offer no solutions. Democratic are far less evil than Republicans, but the Democratic establishment has been part of the neoliberal assault on the lives of ordinary people for 40 years. The Democrats must shoulder part of the blame for the dreadful conditions in communities across the nation.
Indivisible can be a powerful influence for change. The Democratic Party is divided, and party leaders, the media, and liberal elites are completely out of touch with the millions of people who are ready for something new. Bernie Sanders received 13,000,000 votes, and he won the key battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin. Now is the time to push the Bernie wing of the party to the forefront. This would bring radical improvement to the lives of ordinary citizens.
Corporate Democrats will certainly attempt to solicit support from the movement. Elected politicians are excited to speak at rallies, while Democrats thank Indivisible members for their support at town halls. Although Democrats commit brave acts and should be praised for them, the Indivisible movement must be clear about who is in charge and exert unrelenting pressure on every member of Congress. Real checks and balances exist, not between the three branches of government but among the people keeping tabs on the government. The Tea Party was successful because it was ruthless.
Indivisible must fight against capitalism, imperialism, and the military industrial complex. The corporate state fears massive movements that seek to change the system rather than reform it. Indivisible must not restrict itself to strict parameters of reform.