Daily Engagement: ‘The Indivisible Guide’ and How to Get Congress to Do Its Goddamn Job


Daily Engagement is a new, brief, daily feature on Flavorwire. It’s aimed at helping people feel somewhat less helpless and hopeless (or at least in control of their helplessness and hopelessness) in the midst of a political news cycle that’s been doling out daily affronts to human decency.

Every day, we’ll post one easy thing that people can do to continue to resist the current state of politics under the Trump administration, focusing on the creative ways (we are a culture website after all) that citizens are finding to resist. Today, we’re looking at a guide to influencing Members of Congress to resist the Trump agenda.

What’s the issue?

The Trump presidency as a whole! (And, specifically, the fact that it needs Congress on its side to actually put its policies into effect.)

What can you do?

That, of course, is the $64,000 question. This column as a whole is an ongoing attempt to answer that question, but today we’re highlighting another resource for people looking to prevent Donald Trump and his cabinet from doing the potentially huge amount of damage to America of which they are capable. It’s called The Indivisible Guide, and you can find it here.

The Guide was written by a group of former congressional staffers, and it’s essentially a set of best practices for getting Members of Congress to stop daydreaming and actually do their jobs. Interestingly enough, the tactics described therein are derived from the authors’ observations of the Tea Party:

Together, we have the power to resist [the Trump regime] — and we have the power to win. We know this because we’ve seen it before… We saw [Tea Party] activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own [Members of Congress] to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism— and they won… If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

This is a reassuring thought, to be honest; over the last few years, it’s the right who seem to have had exclusive rights to making life difficult and unpleasant for Congress, and many — including Flavorwire — have argued that the left needs to stop being so nice in its opposition to Trump.

To be clear, the Indivisible Guide doesn’t encompass any tactics that might be illegal or otherwise frowned upon by your parents. It’s based around the idea of influencing Members of Congress, and it outlines in impressive detail ways in which you can advocate for those Members to represent the interests of those people opposed to the Trump regime (a group of people that is, it should be remembered, significantly larger than those who do support Trump.) It looks at how the Tea Party managed to do the following:

– Changed votes and defeated legislation – Radically slowed federal policymaking – Forced Republicans to reject compromise – Shaped national debate over President Obama’s agenda – Paved the way for the Republican takeover in 2010 and Donald Trump today

The Guide rejects some of the tactics that the Tea Party used to achieve its results, specifically intimidation, hate-mongering, and rejection of reality and rationality. Even without those tactics, however, there’s a lot to learn from the Tea Party’s success: despite comprising only a small number of people, they were highly organized, highly focused, and highly disciplined. They concentrated on contacting Members of Congress directly — in person at Town Hall meetings, via phone calls, demanding meetings, etc — and making it as difficult and unpleasant as possible to do anything but vote along the lines that the Tea Party wanted. As the Guide notes, “[Members of Congress] care much more about getting reelected than they care about any specific issue… Every time your [representative] signs on to a bill, takes a position, or makes a statement, a little part of his or her mind will be thinking: ‘How am I going to explain this to the angry constituents who keep showing up at my events and demanding answers?'”

There’s a huge amount of information provided in this document, all set out in a manner that makes it easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to put into practice. Happily, it’s been very popular — it apparently started life as a scrappy Google doc, and the amount of attention it received necessitated compiling it into a more polished document. It’s available as a PDF and an audiobook, and it’s also been translated into Spanish. Download a copy, read it carefully, and start putting its practices into action!