On Tuesday, December 12th, 2017, volunteers with Indivisible teams in Alabama looked on, tears in their eyes, as the returns rolled in. The impossible had happened: Democrat Doug Jones had won the Alabama Senate seat. Their efforts – knocking on doors all over the state – had helped to defeat Roy Moore, a Republican judge who refused to support gay marriage, who has ties to White Nationalists, and who was accused of sexual predation with minors. This was the culmination of a year of grassroots organizing by groups like Indivisible, Flippable, Swing Left, and Let America Vote. This was another piece of evidence that 2018 would be a wave election.
Almost a year before that, on January 5th, 2017, 35 Chicagoans gathered in the back room of Gideon Welles, a bar in Lincoln Square, and began to devise a plan in response to the election of Donald Trump. A new document was circulating called “The Indivisible Guide,” a blueprint to working through your elected officials to push back against the regressive policies of the new administration. The tenets of this document were based on Tea Party tactics, which the guide’s authors, Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, had seen grind President Obama’s agenda to a halt in 2009. The techniques were simple: influence your members of Congress through town halls, public appearances, and endless phone calls to make sure they are hearing the views of their constituents. In other words, use the principles of democracy already in place to have your voice heard. thirty five members were the first members of Indivisible Chicago, an organization that would be over 6000 members strong when Doug Jones won his Senate seat.
For the majority of Indivisible Chicago members, the desire to get engaged and fight back against the Trump presidency was borne out of the desire to no longer sit on the sidelines and hope for the best. The election of Donald J. Trump was, for many, a wakeup call and a call to action.
Indivisible Chicago has been on the vanguard of the fight for progressive values since 2016. We gathered at O’Hare to protest the Muslim ban. We fought the ACA repeal through rallies, phone calls to MOCs, and petitions. We’re now actively defending DACA recipients by joining with those directly impacted for rallies and phone banking, and now, as the 2018 mid-terms approach, Indivisible Chicago is turning to the ultimate form of resistance: voting. Flipping the House and Senate from red to blue would finally put in place the checks and balances so dearly lacking with the current Congress.
We at Indivisible Chicago believe that a wave election is coming. We have seen the momentum building, with massive wins in Virginia and New Jersey, with the taking of seats in Ohio and Washington, and with the unprecedented election of a Democratic Senator in Alabama. But the so-called blue wave won’t happen because Donald Trump is the least popular president in modern history, and it won’t happen because this is “our time.” It will happen because concerned Americans are doing the hard work, putting boots on the ground and showing up for marches and phone banks. It will happen as we register new voters, reaching out to youth and the disenfranchised. It will happen because we’re standing up for our progressive values and fighting for our beliefs.
To be sure, you might think the blue wave is a sure thing. And you might think your small efforts aren’t going to move the needle, so someone else can put in the work. But the Republican House seats are gerrymandered to the point that unseating the incumbents will require the perfect storm of Democratic popularity and unprecedented civic engagement from the grassroots. Every phone call, every door knocked, and every postcard written is amplifying the actions of your fellow activists. It is the aggregate of a thousand small actions that builds the wave. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment, and members of Indivisible Chicago are ready to put in the hard work necessary to win. We are ready to be the force that drives the wave.
And so we will come together, we will organize, and we will build a foundation for getting every volunteer engaged. And on November 9th, as the returns roll in, the members of this movement will once again have tears of joy in our eyes.
Jason Rieger is director and founder of Indivisible Chicago. Supporters are gathering this Sunday, March 11th, at Malcolm X College. You can learn more about the summit on the Indivisible Chicago website.