Christina Brown runs along the beach near her house in Plymouth, Massachusetts, almost every morning. One day last summer, she saw a swastika painted on a rock. Another swastika greeted Brown just before last fall's election. She made a pledge that if Trump won, she would do something about it.
"I don't want to live in a world where people paint swastikas at the beach," she told me.
Trump did win, and Brown kept her promise. After attending the Women's March the day after the Inauguration in Washington, D.C., she started a Facebook page from her couch, Indivisible Plymouth, and invited friends and colleagues to join. She's now an active member of one of the more than 5,900 Indivisible chapters that have cropped up around the country since November 9.
Indivisible has, in a very short time, emerged as the public face of citizen resistance to Trump. Like the Democratic Socialists of America and Our Revolution, the official outgrowth of Bernie Sanders's primary campaign, Indivisible has received a surge of interest postelection. Unlike those groups, it didn't exist beforehand.
Less a single organization than a decentralized network, Indivisible grew out of a twenty-three-page document drafted by a handful of former Democratic Congressional staffers in the days after Trump was elected. The subtitle: "A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda."
The former staffers, including Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, now the group's executive director and chief strategy officer respectively, had seen the Tea Party kneecap their bosses' attempts to pass progressive policies during Obama's first term. The guide was their attempt to distill the lessons of the right's grassroots army for a more progressive crowd, those interested in stopping Trump's agenda district by district.
Greenberg says the group's main model for the guide was the Tea Party playbook that they saw succeed in their time on Capitol Hill, though the organizing ethos behind it isn't totally dissimilar from those of the last century's left-leaning social movements. The Tea Party itself took several of its cues from the writings of Saul Alinsky, who himself learned to organize from leaders in the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
The alter-globalization movement popularized the concept of having mostly small affinity groups come together for big actions, like the shutdown of the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999. Similar tactics showed up in Occupy Wall Street more...