Several weeks after the 2016 elections while I was still fuming and literally wearing “war-paint,” I decided to take action beyond ranting on my personal FB page. A friend had texted me a link to a sloppy-looking Googledocs manifesto called the Indivisible Guide, co-authored by a group of former DC congressional aides. 10 aides collaborated on this document to show voters (Democrats and others who did not vote for Trump) how specific actions taken by a relatively small number of Tea Party reactionaries in 2009 worked exceptionally well in turning the tide on the 2010 midterm elections and sweeping Tea Party candidates into the House and Senate. The Indivisible team laid out steps in an accessible tutorial explaining that Tea-party activists were effective simply by making “noise” at Town Halls and meeting with their elected officials — which succeeded in getting their perspective front & center: the “squeaky wheel…gets people elected” tactic.
The same day that I registered my Indivisible Group, the Lake Tapps Resistance League, one of these congressional aides appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC nightly news broadcast for his first high-visibility media interview: Indivisible Game On! Ezra Levin, a teen-aged looking policy wonk, proudly explained that as of that date, there were 350 registered groups around the country. I jumped up & down like a kid—excitedly telling my husband “I just registered a group today! I am one of these 350 groups!” Wow: I had 3 members, including myself. Wahoo!
6 weeks later, our group now has roughly 190+ members and we have become active participants in the grassroots resistance to Trump in WA State’s 8th CD. A few days after registering the group, I watched a news report on a group of 40 Indivisibles who stormed Rep. Reichert’s office with a KING5 news crew–only to be barred entry by a locked door. I realized that I wanted to be on the “inside” of that door, having a conversation with Reichert personally, asking him directly about my fears and concerns.
Being a complete novice to this process, I picked up the phone and called his office. Why not?
I got an answering machine and waited –sure enough, at the end of the message there was a list of extensions for office staff. I chose the ext. for WA CD Director, Sue Foy, and left a brief message. Within 5 minutes she called me back. We spoke for an hour. I learned a lot more than I expected: I learned that the first Indivisible Group had not actually made an appointment to meet with her staff (which is what the guide said to do). I learned that she has worked with Reichert for over 30 years, and though she admits that doesn’t agree with him on every issue, she respects his personal integrity. I learned that there was more in common between us than I would have expected.
The Indivisible Guide stresses that we should treat all political staff with respect. That we should get to know them, build a relationship, and just maybe, we would then be able to schedule a meeting with our legislator during their Congressional recess breaks.
That first conversation with Sue Foy has led to standing bi-monthly meetings with Sue and Reichert’s staff. We have had a face-to-face meeting with Reichert on Friday February 24, and are scheduled to meet with him again during his next recess on April 14th. As a direct result of conversations with Sue—on the phone, and in person, Reichert agreed to a sit-down interview with Enrique Cerna at KCTS9 using FB LIVE to answer questions submitted by his constituents. Over 3000 questions were submitted, though only 12 made it to the live session, the remainder were placed onto a thumb-drive and handed to him personally.
At our 2/24 meeting, Reichert told us some interesting things: He told us that he likes to tell stories—and then spent much of our allotted 60 minutes spinning yarns. Now we know what to expect and will not let that happen again. He also denied having personal knowledge about Steve Bannon’s ties to white supremacist Breitbart news (really!!). And pushed back—literally –on the copy of Time magazine with Bannon on the cover which we placed in front of him. When confronted about protecting the safety of his Jewish, Muslim or Mexican constituents he stated that he would “NOT stand for any of my constituents being oppressed”—that we would see him speak out. And when confronted with data on the WA State 735 Bill which voters overwhelmingly approved—64% statewide, 57% in the 8th CD—and asked why he wasn’t supporting this when his constituents have told him what they want, he informed us that he doesn’t “do what I am told—I do what I believe is right.”
That said, Reichert is in fact available to meet with his constituents—you simply have to call his staff, state your concerns and that you are a resident of the 8th CD. If you are polite while you are stating your issues, there is about a 99% chance that you, too, can have a meeting with them.
Additionally, last week I attended an impromptu Town Hall with Indivisible Guide co-author Ezra Levin who happened to be visiting Seattle. The evening was well attended given that tickets were only available 24 hours prior to the event. He reinforced the premise that the Guide was written to empower individuals to follow the breadcrumb trail left by the Tea Party to ensure their voices are heard by elected officials. He stressed that these groups are NOT intended to become electoral engines necessarily. That job is done via the Democratic party (or in their case, Libertarian), and IG members would benefit this process by getting engaged in their local LDs and helping to recruit new candidates and working to get out the vote.
Also last weekend, our Lake Tapps Resistance League members rallied to attend the Town Hall convened by WA State Rep Morgan Irwin and Drew Stokesbary on Saturday at the Bonney Lake Justice Center. About 30 people attended the meeting on a rainy morning, to meet our newest WA 31st Rep. who was appointed to fill Phil Fortunato’s vacated House seat when he took over Pam Roach’s vacated Senate seat (after Pam “stepped down” following her election to the Pierce County Council)—initiating the chain reaction which means we will be having Special Elections this year and next year for these 2 seats.
Borrowing a strategy I saw implemented at other town halls, I made paper handcards for our attendees: red, “I Disagree,” and green, “I Agree,” cards to wave in the air during the officials’ “spin sessions” to show support or dissent with their statements. The first time these cards were deployed, both men were visibly surprised and a bit unsettled by this show of crowd unity and ability to quietly give them immediate feedback on their statements. Also—Stokesbary appeared to have sudden onset dry-mouth (he immediately requested a bottle of water from his staff), and then proceeded to filibuster for 30 minutes where he explained in lengthy detail the chronology of the ST3 transit bill which has caused recent car-tab fees to go through the proverbial roof. Finally, one of our IG members pulled him back to reality by stating that she was there to ask questions, and that we were running out of time—clearly the GOP standard tactic for meetings with constituents: waste as much time as possible…
Eventually we engaged both of these men in informed Q & A using questions people had submitted at the beginning of the meeting. Some of these addressed specific bills currently in legislative committee review (we are now more than halfway through our legislative session) including HB 1800 on new requirements for City Council open seats, HB 1630 and 1611 regarding additional fees for potential spills from Brakken Crude Oil trains travelling through the South Sound, The Hirst Act regarding a moratorium on new wells which could negatively impact shared aquifers and seasonal fish runs; and a vigorous and informed debate with Stokesbary (an atty) on WA State’s repeal of Citizens United (HB Memorial 4000) about the legitimacy of corporate “personhood” and freedom of speech –aka, the ability to drown out individual donations with ‘secret’ mega-funding of political campaigns.
Which brings me to today’s bi-monthly meeting with Reichert’s District Director, Sue Foy.
Our Lake Tapps Resistance League has proposed using FB LIVE to capture 5 to 10 personal stories of our members who will be negatively impacted by an ACA repeal — and we will be sending this 10 minute video directly to Rep Reichert next week to share with his colleagues in DC. Additionally, we will record another video of our entire group (currently about 200 members) and our diversity –to present during our face-to-face meeting with Reichert in April. Our members have attended marches in protest of the Travel Ban, Women’s March, Protest of DAPL, Black Lives Matter and have a long list of upcoming events on our page. People make weekly calls to our members of Congress, and check our FB page to keep up with breaking news posted by the our members sharing content from vetted major online, broadcast and print media sources.
I would sincerely encourage all of our 31st LD members to read the now clearly formatted and easy to read Indivisible Guide –and find an Indivisible Group geographically near you. It’s an easy DIY method to get actively involved in national politics—and MUH more rewarding that simply spewing on your personal FB page—and potentially aggravating your extended family members.
Stay tuned for future updates as we navigate the white water of Trump vs Democracy.
Persist & Resist! Robin Macnofsky