Indivisible: Protecting progressivism in the Trump era

By Robert Mann

During almost 20 years working in the U.S. Senate, I learned how simple acts — a phone call, a letter, a face-to-face conversation — can influence a member of Congress. When I worked in Sen. John Breaux’s Baton Rouge office, we sometimes took 100-plus phone calls a day on an issue. That was a tiny fraction of the state’s population, but we let the Washington office know we were being inundated.  Those calls and letters turned heads and often made a difference.

Consider how public outrage this past week forced clueless House Republicans to drop plans to abolish the Office of Congressional Ethics. These Republicans surrendered quickly because they feared their constituents’ wrath.

For weeks, friends have asked me what they can do now that Donald Trump has won the White House. The answer I’ve arrived at: We should work to stop Congress from doing Trump’s bidding. That must be the priority of every committed progressive.

And now a new online publication describes how to do it. “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” published by several former congressional staffers, reminded me of the importance and efficacy of an organized resistance movement. These staffers have performed a public service in illustrating practical steps citizens can take to resist Trump’s racist, corrupt or self-dealing proposals.

The authors found inspiration in the methods of the Tea Party movement in 2009. “We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress,” the authors write. “We saw them organize locally and convince their own [members of Congress] to reject President Obama’s agenda.”

While rejecting the Tea Party’s bigotry, “Indivisible” advocates “a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness.” In progressives’ favor is Trump’s unprecedented unpopularity. “He does not have a mandate,” they observe. “If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.”

How? By pursuing a local strategy that targets members of Congress and a “defensive approach purely focused on stopping Trump from implementing an agenda built on racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.” These two tenets come straight from the Tea Party’s decentralized and locally focused movement.

“Tea Party groups could be fewer than 10 people, but they were highly localized and dedicated significant personal time and resources,” the authors found. “Members communicated with each other regularly, tracked developments in Washington, and coordinated advocacy efforts together.”

Just as important was the movement’s defensive character. “The Tea Party focused on saying NO to Members of Congress (MoCs) on their home turf,” they write. “While the Tea Party activists were united by a core set of shared beliefs, they actively avoided developing their own policy agenda. Instead, they had an extraordinary clarity of purpose, united in opposition to President Obama.”

The authors suggest replicating three Tea Party tactics: “Showing up to the MoC’s town hall meetings and demanding answers”; “Showing up to the MoC’s office and demanding a meeting”; and, “Coordinating blanket calling of congressional offices at key moments.”

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.
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10 Responses to Indivisible: Protecting progressivism in the Trump era

  1. Pingback: Robert Mann | KeenLand

  2. jechoisir says:

    Oh I love it: let’s use the tea party model. You are going to mobilize those snowflakes to “protect Progressivism” using a model that sought to protect something real, solid, and felt-in-the-bones by ordinary citizens. A bunch of worn-out old deadheads are going to rev up the folks who are currently petting a pound dog in a Safe Space. Nobody ever blamed the Far Left for innovative thinking.

    I envision it now: “Raise the Cost of my Health Insurance, Republicans!”; “Take Those Jobs Back to Mexico, Xenophobic Republicans!”; “I Don’t WANT to Choose My Doctor, yer Deplorables!”; “Black Lives Belong to DEMS: Keep Your Mitts Off Chicago South!”; “Jihadists Are People Too”; “Mating with Opposums and Consenting Neighborhood Dogs is a Basic Human Right” seminars. And of course all the anti-Israel and anti-Semite Saturday studies conducted by broad-minded Methodists and Episcopalians while the Catholics and Baptists are in church. .

    What a brilliant idea. Even if you had to borrow it.

    You still don’t get it. So disgusted were so many Americans at your repressive Orwellian PC Newspeak and your misuse of office to drive through bills like the “Obamacare” farce, standing before the American people and Congress and saying, “You don’t need to read [the bill]. You can read it after you pass it.” (Now that’s one that long ago would have been a comic line!)—so disgusted were so many ordinary people that they voted in Republican governors, congressmen, and a man with no political experience. Barack Obama’s staggering failure as a leader and his usurping the role of the people’s representatives frightened and angered so many that they finally voted to oust the party that had become so effete and so anti-American that it could not be trusted. And your candidate was so drunk and angry and violent that the Deplorables dared not elect her, that she could not even come down and do the decent thing—-thank the room full of people who had supported her because they wanted a woman president. Is there another example in history of such winsomeness?

    President George W. Bush, Rep, spoke to the broken and broken-hearted in St. Patrick’s Cathedral while the fires of the World Trade Center still flared. He said, “God’s signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that His Purposes are not always our own….” If the Democratic Party had one cell of intelligence or high purpose left in it, it would devote itself to re-evaluating itself, to looking for God’s Purposes.

    But then it erased God, didn’t it?

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  5. martybankson says:

    In case you missed it, jechoirsir, the methodologies and tactics of the Tea Party were borrowed in significant part from their reviled Pinko arch-radical Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” Effective guidelines for organization and political participation are non-partisan.
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204624204577177272926154002
    Could you give us an example of “something real, solid, and felt-in-the-bones by ordinary citizens” (and what an “ordinary citizen” is, while you’re at it).
    Could you explain what is farcical about having 20 million previously uninsured people now able to get basic medical services? Or what makes healthcare for every citizen a privilege, while 6-7 figure salaries and financial perquisites for giant healthcare corporation executives and exorbitant profiteering by pharmaceutical are considered rights? The law does have problems, but is tweak- able. The Republicans have no idea about fashioning a comprehensive program to replace it that does not embody many of the same building blocks, without going to a single-payer system (which would be a non-starter, to be sure). They have shown their disdain for anything of the sort and done absolutely nothing since HRC began the effort in the first term of Bill. Twenty-two years, and nothing.
    Richard Rorty’s 1994 essay “Religion as Conversation-stopper” is a critique of Stephen Carter’s opinion that to privatize religion is to trivialize it. Not so, says Rorty, paraphrasing the Jeffersonian compromise: “we shall not be able to keep a democratic political community going unless the religious believers remain willing to trade privatization for a guarantee of religious liberty…”; and from Carter himself, “One good way to end a conversation—or to start and argument—is to tell a group of well-educated professionals that you hold a political position….because it is required by your understanding of God’s will.”
    You may feel you have a “feel for”, or even a revealed knowledge of “God’s Purposes”, but for me, an atheist, your claim to a higher moral or epistemological foundation is more likely to start the argument rather than end the conversation.

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    • jechoisir says:

      Ah, there you are, Mr. Bankston! A single mention of “God”—and that one from a quotation—and you are off to the races on the same old sway-backed horse.

      And that, sir, is the problem I mentioned—-a lack of humility in the face of defeat, a refusal to consider the possibility you or your position might be flawed.

      “We learn in tragedy….” That, Mr. Bankston, is the wisdom of the ages of intelligent men on this earth. Man is a selfish, hard-headed creature who seldom learns life’s most important lessons from a tap on the shoulder. Oedipus, Lear, Raskolnikov, Gatsby’s friend Nick Carraway, Robert Penn Warren’s Willie Stark and Jack Burden—–across time, the great heroes of Western civilization have learned from tragedy. Only the truly stupid, perverse, or hubristic refuse to question themselves when confronted with monumental loss or failure. I think of Milton’s Satan in “Paradise Lost,” Iago, and that archtype of the current crop of Rationalists—Leftist socialist elites—William Faulkner’s Thomas Sutpen in “Absalom, Absalom!” Contrast those with Barack Obama’s unceasing “Not My Fault,” with the Soros-paid protests that the votes of those in Berkeley, Cambridge, and Seattle should matter more than those in Kansas and Mississippi.

      As for God and your “group of well-educated professionals” (!), even a shallow reading of history makes clear peoples will have a god. Indeed, must have one, it seems. For the most basic ideas of virtue and vice, good and evil are rooted in the idea of an ultimate Truth. You and your party have made pure secular Reason or rationality your god. George Bush assumed God is a transcendent, often inscrutable Power. The great civilizations and the highest achievements of humanity have emerged from a conception like Bush’s, which I quoted. From yours, we’ve had the horror-filled “isms” of the 20th century that enslaved, burned alive, beheaded, gassed, and otherwise barbarically slaughtered all whose reasons led them in paths other than the ones approved by Dictators.

      One advantage of a transcendental Power, such as the Judeo-Christian God, is that everyone shares equally in His love, that all people require respect simply because they share in His breath. That God demands a true sense of brotherhood and compassion. Odious as it must seem to you, “a group of well-educated professionals” and a group of out-of-work mechanics or the infant born with only part of a brain are equal before that God and demand love and respect by their very being. In that world view, every life is sacred. (You really need to read Flannery O’Connor’s story “Revelation.”) Only a transcendent view of God can restrain the power of unbridled Reason. Only that kind of view can underpin and sustain a democratic Republic.

      Your party’s rejection of such a view in favor of a secular rationalism you make up as you go leads to the arrogance of the Obamas and Clintons with their scornful references to the riff-raff of “Deplorables” “with their bibles and their guns.” The Democratic Party is a party run by an arrogant elite from the Far Left who, like you, have only scorn for ordinary people who are not “well-educated professionals,” who haven’t access to the intellectual training provided by the great universities of our nation that are currently manning Safe Places where their students will never be contradicted or have to confront a new idea, where the future generation of “well-educated professionals” are currently petting a pound dog in a Consolation Booth, instead of confronting facts and learning in what for them, alas, is tragedy.

      Please recall my statement was an “if-then” statement: “If the Democratic Party had one cell of intelligence or high purpose left in it, it would devote itself to re-evaluating itself, to looking for God’s Purposes.”

      As for your Stephen Carter, I hope you will pardon me if I go with Sophocles, Aristotle, Aquinas, Burke, Sophocles, Weaver, et al.

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      • Stephen Winham says:

        I have realized debating you is to no avail, but could you please, just for me. at least spell Mr. Bankson’s name correctly. Thank you.

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      • jechoisir says:

        Bankson. Mr. Bankson. (How’s that?)
        Mr. Winham, as I recall from high school, debate is a winner-take-all event, and I have no interest in that. But when only one side is represented and that side intransigently and other ideas dismissed out of hand, then any dissent becomes “debate,” I guess.

        The only reason I read this issue was my curiosity about the strange response of the Democratic Left to this recent election. I’ve never seen anything like it. In 2008 I knew Barack Obama’s history and the people with whom he associated closely, the Bernadette Dorhns and others in communist revolutionary movements and Black Liberation Theology. I really feared what he would do once in office, for I knew the group with whom he traveled and I knew his inexperience in anything requiring decisiveness and humility.

        I did not think his election was cataclysmic, though. I didn’t stop my life and emit a cosmic scream. So all this silliness, the empty threats of leaving the country, the snowflakes and the way their schools toadied to them, the celebrity ads on television, the hatred, and most of all, the denial have surprised me. And the Democratic candidate hitting and throwing things at her security detail, cursing her staff and “the Russians,” and being so out of control, she could not be trusted to meet all those kids who were waiting for her to guide them—-Surely, that was a once-only in our history and does nothing to suggest she would have made a good president. Not a good example for women candidates who will follow.

        I had no horse in this race, but it was clear to me that people were tired of a president who really resented the nation he was charged with governing. He ran as a black American, but he resembled no black politician we’ve seen. He showed little interest in improving life for the black Americans whose lives most needed improvement—those in the white-forsaken, crime-ridden cities, his own at the top of the list. He refused to address the issue that enslaves a large segment of the black population and costs the nation in lost productivity and dollars spent on WIC—-the single mother as head of household. King addressed that. He actively encouraged riots by weighing in with an opinion before he had seen evidence in places like Fergusson, but those riots also distracted from his successive failures abroad. And revolutionaries are just given to rioting. It’s their “thing.”

        Something else that seemed weird was his petulant insistence on pitting Islam against Christianity, with defending and misrepresenting Islam in each case. Even when he spoke at the memorial service for the five slain police officers in Dallas, he harped on the need for Christians to be better to Muslims. And it was under his and Eric Holder’s aegis that the Ft. Hood jihadi’s massacre was labeled (I still find this hard to believe) “workplace violence.” That certainly would have concerned Martin Luther King, who unlike Obama, was brilliantly educated, didn’t look to Africa for a homeland, and whose actions were grounded firmly in Christianity and Western ideals.

        It should have come to me when he committed such an obvious faux pas by returning to England the bust of Winston Churchill, given at a moment when America needed the courage that Churchill represented. He did it despite the advice of many around him. The English were offended, of course. But looking back I think how much pleasure it must have given that son of the Kenyan Islamist runaway father to push the bust of the last great colonialist in the face of the Queen of England. The father he’d made up would have been proud of him.

        That’s who Barack Obama was. It is who he is. Like the anti-colonialists with whom he associates personally, he tends toward theory, is more at home in Berkeley than inner-city Baltimore. He had grown up among communists and revolutionaries. He had made up a father. And the America he saw was the same one his pals saw—a colonial power—and I think he hated it. He was alienated. He sneered at the kind of people who had been the heart of the Democratic Party. He paid no attention to ordinary, hard-working black or white people. Moreover, he failed internationally, divided the nation as it had not been divided in 60 years; he focused on trans-gender when women and children were being shot to death in Syria. And yet he and Mrs. Clinton expected Americans to turn out and vote Democratic in an overwhelming way. It took a lot to lose this election to Donald Trump, and that ought to suggest to Democrats that they needed to re-evaluate the course they’d taken. They had, after all, been the party sneered at by Berkeley and Cambridge, and now they were sneering with those citadels of arrogance. I thought of Tip O’Neill and Daniel Patrick Monyihan. And Harry Truman.

        I personally hope the Democratic Party examines earnestly what led to its defeat. We need two parties that are united in their commitment to our Constitution and the Western values that underpin it. We cannot stand another eight years like the last. So it is to the nation’s benefit that the party kicks the monied Pelosi’s out of their leadership roles and finds some people more representative of the nation in their ideals and ideas.

        But there was Mr. Mann without a single idea of reform. And there was Mr. Bankson….Sometimes, Mr. Winham, one simply has to laugh. And laughter is not appropriate to debates, I think.

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  6. martybankson says:

    I suppose continual misspellings of my name are just as an effective insult as open laughter or references to it for you. But that’s OK.
    I would like to point out the original post was not about Barak Obama, but rather organizing a resistance to reactionary policies that seem inevitable in the Trump administration. Are you truly happy with this man and all of his business conflicts, his bromance with Putin (and subsequent denial of Russian hacking, presumably because it is an ego-buster concerning the legitimacy of his election), his childish, petulant, and Twitter-erratic behavior, appearances of a coming nepotism, the appointment of Breitbart rabble-rouser and suspected white supremacist Steve Bannon, his open contempt for and threats of retribution against the press, and his budget-busting economic plan?
    Was your rush to launch a diatribe against all the good that has come from the progressive era and harp on inconsequential “snowflakes” and “safe spaces”, or own the fact that HRC won the vote of the people by almost 3 million votes the reason you failed to answer any of the questions I posed, or to totally misread or misunderstand the reference to Stephen Carter? Do you think the aristocratic Burke would have favored the leadership of Trump, unmoored as he is to tradition or the Church?
    Do you have a problem with the Separation Clause in the First Amendment?

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    • jechoisir says:

      Mr. Bankson, you may attribute my misspelling of your name to my lack of visual acuity and the many Bankstons I’ve known in my life and to nothing more. Why would I want to insult you? I don’t even know you. And obviously, I wouldn’t have been able even to look you up in a telephone book.

      Of course, Burke would not be happy with Trump. Or Clinton. He would be appalled by either. But the system of government within which he worked and lived virtually precludes such a choice. Lucky Edmund Burke in this case.

      I myself approved of neither, but I was appalled by the ways in which the Democratic President and party leadership had so abused political processes and the way in which, though PC and Victim-claiming, it had forced upon the nation policies antithetical to the history of this nation and, I believe and the election confirms, to the views and will of most people. The Snowflakes and the schools that created them are part of the effeteness and ahistoricism and arrogance of the current Far Left—the “well-educated people” who think they alone should run government.

      What independent-minded, thinking American would vote for a party that rammed through a health-care bill that was poorly prepared and consciously deceptive (Remember those tapes in which its chief architect noted what would really happen?) the way this Democratic Party did? Who would not be insulted by Ms. Pelosi’s high-handed statement to those who complained that having received the thousand-page document only the night before, they would not have time to read it before the vote she called? “You can read it after you pass it,” she smirked, confident that those who funded the party would find that a suitable response. You’ve asked me whether I approved of certain things. I ask you if you approved of that?

      For that is the Progressive (Democratic) Party’s mode of operation. The President need not work through or with the legislative arm of government: he simply passed presidential directives. But of course, now his self-imagined “legacy” can and will be undone. Harry Reid’s removal of the filabuster as a tool of the minority party now makes it possible to overturn the bill for which his overturned the filabuster. Fine irony that. Lack of foresight, I’d say.

      Donald Trump could not be more arrogant than the current president. I think that would be impossible. However tacky his style might be, he is not a socialist and I do not believe he hates the nation he will govern. I cannot imagine he will spend time trying to force the nation to approve and participate in the many sexual preferences of San Francisco, at a time more people are out of work than at many times in the Great Depression (yes, counting the numbers who have simply dropped out of the workforce, ceased looking for jobs after two years of failure). Or while Russia takes over Syria again and is putting the moves on Turkey. Nor can I imagine that he will ignore all reality and the experience of European nations and import Islamists under the current circumstances. Yes, he is loose with language, but not so loose as Barack Obama, to whom a red line means nothing and who sat by while Russia and China and no doubt Latvia hacked our computer systems. And Mrs. Clinton? Well, she was just more of The Obama. Millions of voters were like me: they simply didn’t vote because their states were already going Republican and they, probably wrongly, indulged themselves and did not vote for a candidate the didn’t like less than they feared the other candidate.

      That you would use the argument that most people really favored the Democrats, based on the popular vote, shows the kind of obstinancy to reality that led me to read this column this week. What party controls the House? the Senate? And what states did the Democratic candidate win in the Electoral College vote? And what states have Democrats as governors?

      Do you think Harry Truman would have concerned himself with writing rules for the states re transgender accommodation when Berlin was starving? That is both dereliction of duty and stupid. Do you think Harry Truman or FDR would spend their last days in office effectively pardoning the bombmakers and ISIS leaders left in Guantanamo? They loved this country and their place in it, their lives, which it permitted. They would have heeded their military and intelligence leaders. And you must know that.

      Barack Obama’s actions and the snowsflakes they gave rise to are apposite to the matter of the Democratic Party’s choice of a course and the amazing irrationality recommended by Mr. Mann. Their attitudes and their beliefs as shown in their actions are elitist and socialist. They run counter to the interests shown in the electoral college vote. They baffle people of plain minds like me.

      What I said about shared transcendental beliefs underpinning brotherhood and decision-making is historically verifiable. The morality of a civilization grows out of transcendental beliefs. It will linger on, more or less active, for several hundred years after the belief is gone, but as we have seen in the last eight years, the time comes when the morality loses its power. That is not because it has not proved effective in bringing about a flourishing civilization. It’s because fallible people grow selfish and vain, fancying themselves sufficient unto themselves. . Like you, they would have the entire heart of the nation governed by San Francisco and NYC because San Francisco and NYC ideas satisfy them. But the entire concept of freedom and its attendant idea of brotherhood that drove and appears in our Declaration of Independence and Constituttion grew out of the Judeo-Christian Western Civilization. Without those props, iwe would not exist. That, sir, is fact.

      If every man makes up his own morality, unity can never exist. It will be a state of barbarism such as we’ve seen in this administration, where paralysis and impotence has made the U.S. a source of great concern to the civilized nations of the world and delight to the less civilized who see the lack of shared vision and purpose. One need not be a professional historian to see this.

      But why talk to blank walls? Go on and organize your cells. Tell yourselves you REALLY didn’t lose the election. Preach hatred. Tell yourself that Hillary lost only because people discovered how arrogant and selfish she was via emails (and what a cry-baby she turned out to be via her own people, whom she’d hit with a highball glass in her drunken anger). Booby-trap the path of Obama’s successor. In other words, keep on keeping on. But I’m going to pray that your Brave New World, filled with hate and headstrong divisiveness and selfishness, implodes and that the nation into which I was born takes a new look at brotherhood and independence and its exceptional origins and historic purposefulness. And I’m going to ask my God to forgive me for the occasional throught that enters my mine—that those unreformable terrorists now being freed attack the folks who set them free and wanted them free, not innocent people.

      And I can pray—even out loud in public, were I the sort given to that—because this nation protects my right to practice my religion. I only wish it required you secular positivists to register yours.

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