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By Jason Michael
If we want to know what a document really says, so we are told, we have to get to know the authors. The authers of the Indivisible Guide have done something truly worthwhile, but they may represent an old and defeated mode of thinking.
Responding to the presidential election victory of Donald Trump, a group of congressional staffers came together to write up a manual outlining a number of ways in which people could, by mimicking the tactics of the Tea Party movement, resist the Trump agenda and protect progressive political ideals. The end product of this was of course Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. It is undeniable that a Trump presidency and Trumpism as a new socio-political force poses some serious challenges to democracy, not only within the United States but around the world. Given his rhetoric, the disturbing nature of his election promises, and his now obvious willingness to deliver on those promises we should all be joining the resistance, and Indivisible is a good place to start.
Having said that it is a good launching site for a comprehensive US and global movement against Trump and Trumpism we have noted that it is not perfect. The authors themselves have recognised this and have invited constructive criticism, asking readers to “share it, amend it, and make it their own.” In making this our own, and before we are able to amend it to suit our purposes, we must first identify the authors and their agendas. Indivisible is not a neutral document, just as anti-Trump activism is not a neutral project. Yet not all activism against Trump shares a singular agenda, and, in spite of the document’s hope for indivisible solidarity, we cannot be naïve and allow ourselves to become uncritical actors in another agenda that is not in our interests.
According to C-SPAN there are five categories of congressional staffer; personal, committee, and leadership, institutional and support agency staff. Only the last category in this list, support agency staff, is comprised completely of non-partisan employees of Congress. Some institutional staff members, such as the Capitol Police, are non-partisan, but, as a body, the majority of staffers on the Hill are not neutral actors – they belong to one party or the other. The names behind Indivisible – Ezra Levin, Leah Greenberg, Angel Padilla, Sarah Dohl, and Matt Traldi – are all Democratic Party staffers who describe themselves as progressives. In an interview with Thom Hartmann one of the co-authors, Angel Padilla, made it clear that this was about mass political involvement – but this involvement, to him, meant getting people involved in their local Democratic Party Committee Precinct. In its origins, therefore, Indivisible is party political and must therefore reflect a developing strategy of the Democratic Party to regain power.
While those who have been attracted to the Indivisible project may all agree that Trump must be stopped, they may not all agree that the Democratic Party is the best vehicle for this task. Large swathes of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, in frustration at the actions of the DNC, swung to support Trump. Others simply voted independent or refused to cast a vote. These people will not easily be won over to another Democratic Party vision for an establishment future without Trump. To them, and to many others, this is no change at all – and it is clear that it is change they want and need.
Moreover, the authors have been explicit about having no policy agenda. In replicating the tactics of the Tea Party their plan is to become a movement that incapacitates Donald Trump in the way that the Tea Party incapacitated Barak Obama. This is not enough. People voted for change and change will not be won without policy. Left as it is the Indivisible Guide is capable only of offering more government inaction for another presidential term.
Suggestions: As a rallying place and as a forum for continuing discussions carried over from the election, Indivisible is invaluable. But it does not contain within its first draft the necessary framework for a sustainable social movement capable of affecting real social and political change. This is what will have to happen within the grassroots groups and communities that have formed around the project. The questions of why we are here and what we hope to achieve beyond Trump will have to be answered by each individual and shared with others in free, honest, and open discussion.
Trumpism is many things, but what it is not is an expression of the old Republican Party. Even now the GOP is struggling to catch up with where this movement is taking it, and not every Republican is on-board the Trump train. In fact Trumpism has transcended the bounds of the Republican Party and has attracted a good many Democrats. It has appealed to class attitudes and prejudice, and these social conflicts have grown precisely because both the Republican and the Democratic parties have ignored them. At this early stage it might be safe to suggest that the solution to Trumpism might not be in the programmes of either of these parties as they currently exist, but in a more radical type of political thinking that is willing to transcend the bounds of the Democratic Party.
Now Is The Time To Be Indivisible Against Trump!