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Political Involvement vs. Elected Representatives

March 24, 2017

Since the 45th Presidential Inauguration, Congress has seen an unprecedented amount of their constituents making their voices heard within the political process, in ways that we haven’t seen before, and that are challenging the way that we view our members of Congress. Protests with hundreds have broken out in front of local congressional offices, town hall meetings are being demanded, and phone lines to Congress members simply cannot handle the amount of calls they’re getting daily. For some, getting in touch with your local state representatives has become increasingly difficult, leading to extreme tactics being used by constituents attempting to simply be able to make sure that their Congress member keeps in mind the interests of the people that they were elected to represent. When they are shut out of congressional offices, they slide angry letters under the door. When their Congress member flies back home, they show up at the airport to greet them, although “greet” may not be the right word, since these aren’t particularly pleasant encounters between the protesters and the state representative. When they can not get their local Congress member to attend a town hall meeting with their constituents, despite setting up the venue, time, and invitations, they hold one anyways- with an empty suit on a hanger as a stand in for their representative. This kind of political involvement is truly remarkable, and though we are only about a month into this new presidential administration, this movement has already sent waves throughout Washington D.C.

One of the backbones of this movement is a group known as the Indivisible Guide. This Google Doc turned political game changer was written by former congressional staff members, who had observed how the interworkings of congressional offices function, how effective protest happens, and used this insider information to inspire change by informing the public as to how to protest in a way that leaders in D.C. would hear them. This simple document has inspired over 7,000 groups to form across the country as of today, but that number is still growing. These are the people who want to hear from their legislators, who are showing up at town halls, who are calling every day, who simply want to be represented and to be treated with respect by their Congressmen. These groups provide a platform for those who feel marginalized and attacked by this new presidential administration to stand up for themselves, and for their convictions. Local meetings can teach members how to help protect their undocumented neighbor from being caught up in I.C.E. raids, how to organize a rally in support of the Affordable Care Act, or how to place political pressure on their Congressional leader in order to secure the notion that they should be working on behalf of the people in their district or state. This “Indivisible Movement” has given frustrated American citizens a toolkit in order to effectively make the change they want to see in their government, local and national.

This movement of challenging the new era of United States politics is unique from nearly any other political trend we have seen in our history. The closest historical precedence is what we saw from the conservative right with the Tea Party in 2009. The Indivisible Group knows this too- so they have started to harness tactics that we saw the Tea Party use to make political change, but for their own causes. “We know this because we’ve seen it before. 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 [Members of Congress] to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism— and they won.” (Indivisible Guide).

The full impact of this group has yet to be seen, but within about the month this movement has existed, it has inspired an unseen amount of political involvement. Congressmen who prior to the 2016 election had trouble getting maybe 25 constituents into town hall meetings, now flee from their own meetings because there’s are hundreds, even thousands, of angry consituents demanding to talk with their state representative. Whether you agree with these protesters or not, it is difficult to understate the importance of this movement.

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