Looking Back and Forward
In our movement we – all of us – are creating a legacy. We’ve now been on the scene for a year. What have we done in that time? And what are our plans?
Let’s start with where we’ve been. Rachel Goldstein founded our group in the dark days following the 2016 election. We quickly gravitated to the Indivisible organization, founded by Democratic former Congressional staffers who witnessed the success of the Tea Party’s tactics. thinking globally and acting locally, Indivisible advocates using constitutional methods to slow the classist, xenophobic, antidemocratic, and anti-intellectual policies of the current GOP administration.
Nationally and locally Indivisible has had considerable success – every Congressional district in the United States now has at least two Indivisible chapters, not to mention the many other progressive groups that have risen up around the country. Though the daily assault on American democracy continues unabated, groups like ours have helped slow the regressive policies of the authoritarian party that controls at least two of the three branches of the federal government. Our hard work helped stave off the GOP administration’s first major legislative victory – the cynical tax scam forced through Congress days before Christmas 2016 – until almost a full year into the current administration.
Our local group, Indivisible Central NJ, has grown to cover three main areas:
1. Education. We have established a program of knowledgeable outside speakers. These have included Jose Morales of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Erin Murphy of Swing Left NJ07, Lacey Reszowski, the candidate we supported in Legislative District 21, and many others.
2. Lobbying legislators. We make our presence, our votes, and our influence felt through office visits, phone calls, and emails.
3. Election activism. We have knocked on doors and made phone calls for moderate and progressive candidates in New Jersey, and phone banked for candidates as far away as Alabama. Because most of our local legislators are already solidly progressive and not in electoral jeopardy, we have partnered with other progressive groups to help candidates in districts where our work can make a difference.
Finally, many of our members are active in a series of semi-independent sub-groups (or "huddles") focused on areas of common interest and need. These include reproductive rights, voting rights, environment, immigration, and health care – a list that can morph as times change.
What does the next year look like?
First, we’ll continue what has worked. We’re continuing our educational program, inviting compelling speakers to our meetings, often from other organizations with we partner. We’re adding “Activist Minutes” to our monthly agenda so all our attendees can feel more at home with the work all of us need to do. We’re continuing our lobbying efforts, because it’s clear that the GOP cabal will never let up its attacks on our democracy as long as it’s in power.
And most of all we’ll ramp up our election activism. 2017 was a great warm-up; in 2018 we go national. We will do our part to take back the House of Representatives, a handful of governorships, and maybe even the Senate. Here’s a rough agenda to keep in mind:
Voter Registration. Always a good idea, and never more crucial than this year, especially within swing districts. Prospective New Jersey voters can register up to 21 days before a primary or election.
Special Elections. There are a few special House elections coming up – one important one will be in March for the Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District, whose supposedly pro-life Republican congressman, Tim Murphy, just resigned after it was revealed that he had asked his mistress to have an abortion. The district is gerrymandered for Republicans, but the GOP nominee is very far right and the Democrat, Conor Lamb, is a moderate, so flipping the district is not out of the realm of possibility. We’ll be working with Lamb’s staff to set up phone banks.
The primaries are in early June. Once the candidates in nearby swing districts have been decided, we’ll be linking up with their campaigns. The swing district closest to us – where we have already built some solid relationships, and where we’re likely to be doing the bulk of our work – is NJ07, Leonard Lance’s district. Others we’re keeping an eye on include:
· NJ11 (R-Frelinghuysen). Northern New Jersey
· NY11 (R-Donovan). Staten Island
· NJ05 (D-Gottheimer). Northwest New Jersey
Polling so far is giving moderates and progressives a decent chance – if we work hard enough and stay united – of taking back the House. A record number of Republican incumbents has already decided not to run for reelection, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall. Retaking the Senate is possible but less likely: Unless Sen. Menendez runs into polling troubles in the course of his retrial, we’ll be focusing on the House.
We’re expecting to start the next phase of our work – door-to-door canvassing, phone calls, etc. – in the late spring and summer, with the major push likely to begin in mid-September. Please start thinking now about your availability in the fall for door-to-door and phone canvassing – especially weekend days, though week-nights also work when the days are long.
As an example, last fall I aimed to work at least one 3-hour canvassing shift every weekend beginning in mid-September and through Election Day. My wife works Sunday afternoons, so to minimize her political widowhood, I scheduled my canvassing to coincide with her work. As it turned out, I was able to work a shift every fall weekend but one (my son’s college weekend), and I put in a couple of extra shifts the weekend before the election.
We can’t kid ourselves: This work is a serious commitment. The GOP will try every subterfuge, distraction, payoff, and lie it can muster to prevent our succeeding. The Koch brothers have already pledged to spend $400M to keep the Republicans in charge nationally. So our struggle is cut out for us, but we are making every effort to keep the work manageable so as not to overly disrupt the rest of all of our lives.
We will support one another in the labor, the joy, and the legacy of restoring our democracy.