NILCer Teamed Up With Other Ex-Congressional Staffers, Civil Servants and Advocates to Create a Playbook for Resisting the Trump Agenda
By Angel Padilla, NILC health policy analyst
JANUARY 20, 2017
What happened on the night of November 8, 2017, was as awful as it was unexpected. After he’d campaigned on racist, xenophobic, and sexist rhetoric, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.
In response, a group of us—former congressional staffers, civil servants, and advocates—began meeting in mid-November to talk about what we could do to mitigate the harm that would almost certainly result from a Trump presidency and Republican control of Congress. We weren’t unique—in fact, we were just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of groups that organically began meeting around the country.
But our group eventually produced a guide that we hope will empower more people to effectively influence their members of Congress. We modeled our guide on the helpful Tea Party strategies and tactics that derailed many of the Obama administration’s policy priorities, except without the hatred and nastiness that we now associate with those groups. As of now, the more than 70 volunteers in our group—all working in our free time, in the early and late hours and on weekends—have helped to organize 3,500 groups and 130,000 individuals across the country, including from every congressional district, to demand that their congressional representatives resist the Trump agenda.
The guide—“Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda”—is based on two central premises. First, local-level action actually works. You don’t need to travel to the bubble that is Washington, DC, in order to influence your three representatives in Congress. It’s much more effective to gather a few friends and go down to your representative’s local office to voice your concerns or, better yet, confront them in a public setting. And calling Paul Ryan (the House speaker) or Mitch McConnell (the Senate majority leader) to complain won’t make an ounce of difference, unless they happen to be your representatives. It’s better to stick to targeting your representatives—make them complain to Ryan and McConnell.
Second, a defensive strategy can slow and even halt the momentum of an incoming president. A defensive posture allows for a bigger tent, as it’s easier to keep groups together in opposition. There’s no negotiating. There’s no compromising. We just say no. The truth is that progressive policies are off the table under a Trump administration, so our priority should be defending the gains we’ve won, protecting vulnerable communities, and safeguarding democratic values—not trying to develop good public policy.
We’ve been pretty shocked at the response we’ve gotten: the guide has been downloaded over 500,000 times and “Indivisible” groups have formed around the country. It’s been covered by a number of media outlets, including in op-eds in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. More importantly, we’ve seen that it can work. Republicans have already been forced to change course due to overwhelming backlash from their constituents at the local level.
Immigrants will without a doubt be one of the most vulnerable groups under President Trump. His campaign has already normalized hate, xenophobia, and racism, which will take years to undo. He’s promised to undo DACA, ramp up enforcement and deportations, and build a wall along the southern border. But “Indivisible” presents another opportunity for NILC and other immigrants’ rights organizations to push back and defend our communities. (The guide encourages participation by immigrant communities.) “Indivisible” groups understand that “an attack on one is an attack on all,” and they have promised to fight just as hard to protect immigrant families as they are fighting to protect Obamacare. I hope NILC will work with these groups to the extent possible. We can win.