Indivisible Guide


We’re not going to resist Trump without – well – resistance.

I’ve been reading the Indivisible Guide – which Carolee Matsumoto sent me recently. This is not 1,391 pages of “War and Peace.” It’s only 26 pages, is very readable, and is also available in Spanish. It’s a citizen’s guide to lobbying your Congressman en masse.

Contributors to the Guide include former congressional staffers who describe their work of love as “best practices for making Congress listen.” Many of them were around during the rise of the Tea Party and it dawned on them that some of the Tea Party’s tactics were damn clever and could easily be replicated by living human beings with souls.

For skeptics or the time-challenged, here are quick summaries of the chapters:

  1. How grassroots advocacy worked against Obama – the “takeaway” from this chapter is to resist the urge to advance only positive goals. Instead, put your Congressman on the defensive and redirect her from her own priorities. Punish him for changes he does make. Remind her of the illegitimacy of the Trump administration. Keep him (if he’s centrist) from making accommodations with the Republican agenda.
  2. How your Congressman’s brain works -Seen under a microscope your Congressman is a simple two-legged organism with one physiological function: to run for (re)election. This chapter tells you how all the rest of its anatomical structures (constituent services, meet & greets, etc.) serve the primary function. If your Congressman is a good person, don’t go on the attack: instead, reward (and train) him. Understand the rewards and punishments that drive the organism. Understand that you (singular) are unimportant to your Congressman, while you (plural) are feared. Understand that your Congressman employs “pliable” stances on positions to guarantee “desired” outcomes. Lots of good stuff in this short chapter.
  3. How to identify or organize a local group – Join together within your Congressional district, keep efforts focused, use social networking, make your group diverse, have a kickoff meeting, make sure everyone is on-board with the same principles: this is not a social club; it’s a serious endeavor. Choose a name, assign roles, agree on how you are going to communicate, and expand. With a couple hundred members you (plural) will be too big for your Congressman to ignore.
  4. Advocacy tactics that really work – This is a really long chapter, and by far the most important. Identify the (1) Congressman from your district and the (2) Senators from your state. Get on their mailing lists. Educate yourselves on their positions. Who donates to their campaigns? Follow local news reports to discover where they get public pats on the back (or smacks on the backside). Attend their public events. Mobilize your members to attend their public events. Always have questions prepared in advance. Focus on a theme. Coordinate. Make sure your members don’t go rogue or off-script. Arrive early, spread out in the audience, ask good questions. Share everything on social media. Attend their other events. Don’t be afraid to interrupt if you don’t get the microphone. Find out which reporters are covering these events and talk to them nicely and rationally (next time they might interview you). If these events are sponsored, hold the hosts accountable. Make sure you visit your Congressman’s office(s). Go in numbers. Don’t be idiots. Sit-ins and civil disobedience can backfire. Build a relationship with your Congressman’s staff. They can either be your friend or a pugnacious gatekeeper. Always have an “ask” – something you want. And let people know you are going to the office to ask for it. Don’t be afraid to call. Drown them in calls. There are so many delays built into mail (checking for anthrax, etc.) and filters for email (spam, content filtering), that phone calls are often best. Keep records of your conversations. Let other members know how the conversations went. Design scripts and practice them.

This also works at the state level. Check here for your Massachusetts legislators.