Indivisible Ann Arbor

On Sunday, February 19, 2017, some four hundred people in the Ann Arbor area met with the intention of organizing a group to influence Michigan's senators and representatives at the US level. This group is organized on the principles of an organization known as Indivisible.

Indivisible isn't an organization, per se. Instead, it is a guide for local organizations to follow, to create their own groups. The guide purports to describe the tactics used by the Tea Party to oppose Barack Obama and Democrats during Obama's presidency, and advocates using these tactics to achieve progressive ends. "The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism— and they won," says the guide. Particularly, the guide advocates a purely defensive strategy. "The Tea Party focused on saying NO to Members of Congress (MoCs) on their home turf. While the Tea Party activists were united by a core set of shared beliefs, they actively avoided developing their own policy agenda. Instead, they had an extraordinary clarity of purpose, united in opposition to President Obama. They didn’t accept concessions and treated weak Republicans as traitors."

The four hundred people that gathered to form the Ann Arbor Indivisible group met in four separate locations: Three in Ann Arbor and one in Ypsilanti. Each location was committed to dealing with particular members of congress. Legislators targeted were: Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell, and Republican Representative Tim Walberg.

Organizer Katy Mattingly explained that this particular Indivisible group intends to focus solely on the national level, and not deal with state-level issues. However, a different Indivisible group could choose to take up state issues. A local group which specifically deals with State issues is "Michigan Resistance," which does not use the Indivisible name, but operates similarly.

Since I could be in only one place, I sat in on the group that intended to work with Senators Stabenow and Peters. Organizer Katy Mattingly displayed a slide that read "Help, my member of congress is actually pretty good". She told the group that representative Dingell asked to attend this meeting, but the organizers told her not to attend. They wanted to get organized first, to know what to ask for. "We already have members of congress begging to meet with us. That's what we want," she said. She went on to explain that even the good members of congress need to be thanked when they do good things. "Hardly anyone calls when their member of congress does something good," she said. She also explained that they still need to be questioned on their actions. For example, why did they vote yes on four of Trump's cabinet nominees? Finally, she said that even the good members of congress still need demands placed on them. For example, constituents could demand that our senators not accept any supreme court nominee except Merrick Garland.

Ultimately, the choice of what thanks, questions, or demands to put on the members of congress will not be up to the Ann Arbor Indivisible group. Instead, the people attending the meeting were asked to form affinity groups of 6-10 people, to independently plan and execute actions, and to elect a spoke to stay in touch, as well as other positions: a social/media contact person, a person to track the member of congress, and a coordinator for the affinity group.

During this week, congress is in recess - that is, members of congress are in their home districts instead of being in Washington, DC - so each affinity group was asked to plan an action to contact a member of congress during the recess.

To get in touch with Indivisible Ann Arbor, you can sign up for the email group at https://www.indivisibleguide.com/groups-nav - search by GROUP, look for Ann Arbor Indivisible, click on the link underneath our name, and fill out the form.

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