Reeling from the shock of last year’s elections, progressives in the valley last January started an Indivisible chapter, one of thousands such groups in the country, including at least one in every Congressional district nationwide, to prevent such a red-state sweep again and, without being openly partisan, help progressive candidates in the sprawling (and conservative) 2d Congressional District by focusing, not on candidates, but on issues and voting records.
As the Donald Trump presidency rolled out, the local Indivisible movement in January sprang from just a handful to more than 3,000 motivated volunteers who stage rallies, create websites, reach out on Twitter and other social media, present educational forums, do fundraising and are getting started on a radio and billboard blitz, whose message will not make 2d District Congressman Greg Walden happy.
Indivisible is a nonprofit so it can’t be “political,” but they can talk up Walden’s voting record, especially on health care — and, off the record, they talk a lot about finding a strong candidate who votes pretty much the opposite of Walden.
The billboards can’t say "vote for (Walden’s opponent)," but they can say "Walden voted for 'Trumpcare,' which would have bounced x number of people off Medicaid."
They also plan to work against ballot hacking and voter suppression, which can readily tilt close elections and are anti-democratic, says co-founder Brett Levick, social media coordinator.
To raise money for radio and billboards, they are planning a big, fun, fundraiser, “Rock the Resistance,” with most of the valley’s popular rock-blues groups, including Rogue Suspects, LEFT, Alice Dimicele, Shea Celine, Jennifer Depuglia, Lisa Yiarte, Jade Chavis, John Taylor Beth Wishes & Jack Hopfinger and Girls Just Want To Have Fun. There’s also an Eric Clapton tribute. It’s at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, at the Historic Ashland Armory. Tickets ($30 in advance, $35 at the door, $20 students online) are available at Music Coop, Badass Coffee and Brown Paper Tickets.
If you’re wondering what “Resistance” means, it says these times are not just about politics as usual but, notes Secretary-Treasurer Jim Bachman, it’s about keeping progressives from wandering off into the centrist world and succumbing to the overconfidence where “we all just thought that Hillary would be elected. This all started the day after Inauguration, with the big Women’s March.”
Outreach Coordinator Kristin Moline says, “Nov. 8 was the worst day, the most terrible thing ever for my generation, but the best came after that day.”
“I’m a volunteer in it because, by being part of it, I can feel empowered to do more than just be overwhelmed with the current administration," says Gayle Wilson of Ashland. “I can be part of the change that needs to happen in this country, so we can get on course and recognize the real challenges that face us, rather than bickering politically. It’s a small thing I do, but I am getting empowered, instead of being a complainer.”
Indivisible takes its name from the Pledge of Allegiance, where it’s the word before “with liberty and justice for all.” Its mission statement says it is “dedicated to resisting the Trump Agenda (and) empowering people to hold our Members of Congress accountable … we model the values of honesty, inclusion, tolerance, and fairness.”
Events Coordinator Teresa Safay says, “This is the antithesis of what Trump is trying to put out” — and members see little difference between the president and their congressional representative, who, they say, has supported about everything Trump has done.
The hardest work, they say, is the daily “action” sent via email, giving numbers of decision-makers in Congress, the White House or state legislature, many on pending legislation, such as the repeal-reform campaign — or a range of other issues, with much about the environment.
“It’s about how much better we feel raising our voice to activate and inspire others, to speak the truth for humanity,” says local Indivisible co-founder Jessica Sage. “We all sleep better now, knowing we make a difference.”
Indivisible has 2,300 people on its ORD2 (stands for Oregon District 2) discussion page. It's also on Facebook and the best starting point, they say, is at its website, ord2indivisible.org.
Although almost three-quarter of legislative seats in the U.S. are held by men, in Indivisible nationally, it’s the opposite — 75 percent female, leading Moline to say, “Resistance is female. But the question is, can we continue to engage women? And we want more men, too.”
Indivisible is not the local Democratic Party, but sometimes they partner and share skills, knowledge, fundraising and GOTV (get out the vote) — and they do skull sessions with local groups on climate, social justice, peace, racism, migrant education and other issues, finding ways they can help each other.
Fearing complacency that whacked progressives in 2016, Indivisible plans to remain an ongoing engine of change after the 2018 and 2020 elections, they say.
“What can I do?” says Wilson. “I can resist it all in the ways that are important to me, that positively affect climate change, health, education and our attitude about how we get along in the world — the big picture things. If I think about how I can effect this change alone, then how do I get off my couch? I do my little part. I make my calls every day. I stay up to date on what’s happening. These are the obligations of being a citizen in this country.”
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.