Uniting opposition to Trump

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“Indivisible” project has nearly 6,000 chapters nationwide, including one on the Upper East Side


  • Members of Indivisible chapters at a July 18 outside the offices of Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand’s offices. The rally was in opposition of Senate bills that would have undone the Affordable Care Act. Photo: Bryse Ayn Ciallella

When U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney spoke at a District 12 town hall meeting early last month, she opened with this remark: “I’m Carolyn Maloney, I live a few blocks from here, and I’m part of the resistance.”

The July 6 town hall was organized by NY Indivisible, New York State’s division of the national Indivisible project, a grass roots advocacy group that has focused on “resisting the Trump agenda” since Donald Trump’s election as president.

“What all of you have done since President Trump was elected has really been empowering and inspiring. The bottom line is, we are five months into the administration and they haven’t been able to repeal and replace health care. And, that I would say, is because of community activism and leadership across this country. It is phenomenal,” Maloney said.

Although the fate of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was yet unknown, it didn’t stop Maloney from heaping praise on the Indivisible coalition and other advocacy groups that had taken measures to see that the proposed bill did not pass in the Senate.

“A lot of energy had been focused on the pending health care legislation. We were able to work with about 25 organizations that were affiliated with Indivisible to create a statewide day of sit-ins at Senator Chuck Schumer’s offices around the state. Senator Schumer caught wind of the sit-ins,” said Ricky Silver, a founding member of NY Indivisible’s executive committee. “He has directly mentioned the statewide day of actions as one of the reasons for pushing forward, knowing that the folks he represents were standing behind him.”

Indivisible coalition groups also promoted a number of other activism events centered around health care legislation. The various groups set up phone drives, rallies and provided members ways to voice concern about the impending Senate vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“At the heart of the Indivisible movement was a recognition that most folks, despite great intentions, maybe had lost that direct connection and that direct understanding of how to influence and how to stay connected to their elected officials,” Silver said.

The Indivisible movement began as a vision of former congressional staffers who wrote a 24-page pamphlet, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” they then posted it online on Dec. 14. They also posted a link to the guide on Twitter. It caught on like wildfire.

The former staffers wrote the guide, they said, because they saw first-hand how effective the tea party movement had been at trying to stop President Obama’s agenda. They wanted to create a similar organization that would push back against Trump’s policies.

The Indivisible guide explains how grassroots advocacy groups like the tea party used local strategy to target individual members of Congress in order to thwart President Obama’s political agenda. It explains how members of Congress can be influenced by their constituents because they are so often up for reelection. The guide instructs would be activists to identify, find or organize a local advocacy group. And finally, the guide describes “four local advocacy tactics that actually work: town halls, other local public events, district office visits, and coordinated calls.”

There are 5,800 registered Indivisible-affiliated groups and at least two groups in every congressional district in the nation, according to the Indivisibleguide.com website.

One of those is Indivisible Upper East Side, which meets on the second Thursday of every month at The Unitarian Church of All Souls (1157 Lexington Ave., at 80th Street). The executive committee members of Indivisible Upper East Side set the group’s weekly and monthly agendas by reading the news and figuring out the likely hot topic of the month.

The committee then asks group members for input about what they would like to convey to Maloney, Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

One of the group’s five executive committee members, Rich Meitin, an attorney by trade, began his legal career in Florida as a legislative aide to the grandson of Justice Hugo Black, Hugo Black III, who served a term in the Florida House of Representatives from 1976 to 1978. That tenure got Meitin interested in politics. Law and politics, Meitin said the other day, are “two sides of the same coin.”

After Trump was elected, Meitin, 67, wanted to become in involved with an organization that would help to fight Trump’s political agenda because he thinks the president is a threat.

“I don’t just think that Trump is bad, I think he’s dangerous, I think it’s clear that he is a dangerous demagogue and honestly if there had not been so many leaks and so much dogged coverage by the press, imagine what he would have gotten away with by now,” Meitin said.

Meitin chose to become involved with the Indivisible organization because he trusts that congressional aides know how to influence members of Congress.

“I read about Indivisible, the national organization, on Facebook. And, it struck me that they were doing things the right way because they were organized by a group of congressional aides,” Meitin said. “And congressional aides basically know what they are doing, they know when the public does stuff that will cause their members to do things or not do things, and they know when the public does stuff that has no impact on their members at all. So I thought, these people know what they are doing, how do I get involved with them.”

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