The national group Indivisible has surged across America like a progressive tsunami. Beginning in mid-December with the circulation of the “Indivisible Guide: A Practical Guide to Resist the Trump Agenda,” the progressive movement’s membership has skyrocketed. Iowa Starting Line first wrote about this new group bursting into the Iowa political scene in mid-January.
Since that initial report Indivisible members have increased their organizing strength in Iowa at a phenomenal rate. They recently reached one of their primary goals by establishing an affiliated chapter in every one of Iowa’s 50 senate districts. Individual chapters each have a volunteer leader. Their current Facebook membership on the Indivisible Iowa page is at 6,300 as of this week. Individual senate districts’ memberships are quite remarkable as well. Senate District 20 (R-Brad Zaun) which includes Urbandale Grimes has over 200 Facebook members.
However, the numbers alone don’t begin to tell the story about the typical Indivisible member. They are generally a mix of Iowa demographics, including many that have had very little political experience. They represent a cross section of Democrats, progressives, independents, socialists, libertarians and a few Republicans. There are older experienced political activists as well, but the majority represents people new to political action. They are also very skilled in the use of social media and are demonstrating a unique creativity in building their ranks. Many Iowa Democrats are assisting or plugging into their networks.
Indivisible members are concentrating on attending legislative forums, town hall events and regular congressional office visits. They are actively resisting both the national and Iowa Republican agenda. We have seen them demonstrate their political muscle at Republican town halls across America in the past few weeks. They are making calls, sending emails and forcing Republicans to answer their questions. During the recent recess, Congressman Young didn’t schedule any town halls. Indivisible members told him they would have 70-80 folks at his office that week if he refused to schedule one. He suddenly announced a pop-up town hall. Indivisible as well as many other groups filled that Young town hall.
In Urbandale, the Senate 20 group came to the February 25th legislative forum prepared with tough questions for Senator Zaun. They had created green-agree signs and red-disagree signs to show their support or opposition to Zaun. The visual clout of 25-30 folks waving opposition red signs in response to Senator Zaun’s answers was very effective in swaying the mood of the audience. Jess McCord, the Senate 20 Indivisible leader had prepped his group, and they very effectively executed a strategy to show their disapproval of Senator Zaun’s proposed legislation. McCord, a young newbie to politics was asked what motivated him to get involved. “Iowa is my home and I don’t want it destroyed by the Republican agenda,” he replied.
Nationally, the Indivisible leaders simply make suggestions on how to organize geographically. Some states have organized by cities, counties or neighborhoods. Holly Shkonick, one of the key marketing members for Indivisible Iowa explained how they have organized. She gave the initial credit for organizing to an Iowa City leader, Anna Plank. Plank suggested organizing by individual Senate Districts and it seems to have grown organically.
Shkonick said they just recently added a web page, IndivisibleIowa.us, for those members that don’t use Facebook. Keep in mind, these are all unpaid volunteers committed to bringing like-minded folks together. Shkonick is also a leader in Senate District 17 (D-Bisignano) located in SE Des Moines.
Lidija Geest, Indivisible chair in Senate District 45 (D-Lykam) in Davenport is a political veteran first who worked on past campaigns for Senator Tom Harkin. She also serves as membership chair for the Iowa group. Her Facebook group “We are Stronger Together” has 60 members. She works closely with Senate District 47 (R-Smith) in Bettendorf. It’s a slightly larger group with 80 members. Her group is slightly younger than others. They range in age from mid-20s to mid-30s and are mainly new to politics. They recently held a Senator Ernst 2020 retirement party following Ernst’s vote for Betsy DeVos as education secretary.
A related group called Operation Buttercup here in Des Moines is doing similar work as Indivisible. They have a Facebook group of 300 and their meetings number 25-30. The cofounders, Jill McClain and Lael Luna are concentrating on educating on the issues. They chose the name Operation Buttercup based on the Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufman’s (R-Wilton) attack on colleges alleged grief counseling following the election. He called his legislation, “suck it up buttercup.” McClain explained they were going to “rise up” rather than cry about the election.
Indivisible is bringing an amazing surge of younger energetic members committed to resist and remove Republican politicians. In slightly less than two months, they have established an astounding structure cultivating new political activists throughout Iowa. It’s too early to predict how effective they will be in stopping the Republicans’ agenda. However, they’ve already proven they are a powerful political force that Republicans are forced to address.
by Rick Smith