“Our first goal is to know what we’re talking about.”
Scott Shaffer is determined to stop Donald Trump. He’s already got some key allies, even in deep red Texas, where he lives. But he’s adamant about not putting the cart before the horse.
Right now, Shaffer’s band of rebels includes just four people: himself, his wife, and two friends. Still, the La Grange, Texas, native has big plans to expand the group. He wants to appoint a sentry to spot congressional bills the second they’re filed, analysts who will read them obsessively, and communications specialists who will craft messaging in support or opposition. To acquire the manpower, he’s visiting local churches and meeting with political leaders to recruit more volunteers.
“I’m not incensed anymore. I’m focused like a frickin’ laser. It’s past time to be incensed,” he says.
Since Nov. 8, more than 4,500 independent political action groups have established themselves across the United States under the banner of the “Indivisible” movement.
The groups’ playbook is the Indivisible Guide, written by four former congressional staffers, which instructs aspiring local organizers on how to use tactics originally deployed by the Tea Party to oppose the Trump administration’s agenda.
“We think it’s critical to have these groups in red and blue districts alike,” says Sarah Dohl, an Indivisible board member. “While it’s critical to weaken Republicans’ resolve on Trump’s dangerous agenda, it’s just as critical to stiffen Democrats’ spines and encourage them to be bold in their opposition.”
The guide’s authors established a central organization to act as a resource clearinghouse for the individual groups that operate independently — many in cities, towns, and districts where Republicans have historically been dominant.
“I’m not very eager to see our young men and women sent off into another foreign war,” explains Carl Genthner, who runs an Indivisible Group in Arizona.
Genthner, an Air Force veteran and retired defense contractor, runs an Indivisible Group in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional district, currently represented by Republican Martha McSally. At present, his team boasts about 40 members, mostly residents of the over-55 community where Genthner lives.
“We’re trying to diversity geographically, demographically. And we are nonpartisan. I have a couple of Republicans in my group,” he says.
Genthner’s group has participated in several rallies in Tucson, and has been making calls to legislators like McSally — who edged out a victory in 2014 — to make it difficult for her to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pressure her to distance herself from Trump.
“She knows that this is not a solid Republican district. She has to be moderate. And she’s trying to avoid any confrontation. She’s trying to avoid holding any town halls. And we can’t let her get away with that,” Genthner says.
Laura Rushton and Amy Burns, colleagues on the Richland County, Ohio, Democratic Women’s Caucus, say they are encouraged by the new energy the Indivisible movement has injected into their meetings.
At first, using Tea Party tactics to pressure their legislators seemed like a radical idea to the pair, who have been active in local Democratic politics for years, but they hope to bring younger Bernie Sanders supporters into the party.
“I know there’s been some divisions over candidates, and who they thought the party should have endorsed … but I think that basically we’re wanting health care for everyone, affordable health care, we’re wanting people to have basic rights to control their own reproductive health care, to have a safe environment,” Rushton says.
In the meantime, they’re working on helping people deal with the social anxiety of cold-calling their elected officials and agitating for a town hall meeting with their congressman, Rep. Pat Tiberi.
More than anything, the leaders of these Indivisible groups say their highest priority is to keep up the momentum for the long haul.
For Schaffer, that means building a team that looks like America.
“Too many of these groups get to be one thing: white people with a little money and time,” he says. In order to diversify his group, he plans to meet with local black and Latino political stakeholders to discuss strategy and recruitment — to make sure the entire community’s concerns are represented.
Genthner, meanwhile, is working hard to make sure his group doesn’t burn out. He knows that minds won’t change overnight, and that the key is to keep the emails and phone calls rolling in at a “constant buzz.”
“They have to know that we’ll be here all the time. Every day. For the next four years.”