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Meet Our Alliance Partner: Indivisible

Posted on June 22, 2021

When on-the-ground grassroots groups coordinate with large-scale organizations, powerful progress can be made at the local, state, and federal levels. Swing Left Greater Boston/ Swing Blue Alliance is proud to partner with Indivisible to encourage collaboration among regional groups and national experts, in the service of creating impactful networks to preserve our democracy leading up to 2022 and 2024. 

What Is Indivisible?

Indivisible was launched quite suddenly in December of 2016 as an exercise in shared grief. Just after the November Presidential election results were in, a small group of Congressional staffers sent an online condolence message to other staffers, who quickly began writing notes proposing nonviolent resistance to the new administration. This famously led to the posting of a 23-page handbook which rapidly spread across a devastated electorate and was shared by millions. Out of this moment of crisis, Indivisible was born. 

The key idea was to be effective. Indivisible organizers urged grassroots supporters across the country to speak out at Congressional open house events during the February 2017 recess in defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), then under assault in the new Congress. Their loud opposition is widely credited with saving the program for millions of needy health insurance subscribers. 

How Does Indivisible Work for Progressive Causes?

Since that first round of activism, Indivisible has evolved a uniquely decentralized but highly coordinated structure. Thousands of grassroots local groups address issues of local and national significance in their own way, with strong leaders galvanizing each group. 

Meanwhile, the national organization operates at three different levels: 

  1. Indivisible Civics 501(c)(3) trains leaders of local groups and supplies a tool kit of organizing strategies. 
  2. Indivisible Project 501(c)(4) operates nationally to coordinate and support local campaigns with strategic advice and technical expertise. 
  3. Indivisible Action functions as a political action committee, or PAC, directly funding electoral campaigns.

This model works to implement a set of clear principles. Indivisible is committed to empower marginalized communities of every sort and bring them into the political process. It believes in the primacy of strong leaders at the grassroots level, but also pursues an  “inside/outside” strategy, working to influence Congressional leaders directly while exerting pressure on them from its network of external activist groups. 

Finally, Indivisible believes in the “virtuous circle” by which advocacy for progressive issues flows into electoral work, which in turn strengthens the ties that motivate activists to continue their advocacy work between elections. Deeply rooted in the experience of its founders, idealistic staffers working on Capitol Hill, Indivisible moves fluidly between national political engagement and local grassroots activism.

These principles have guided Indivisible to work in two time frames: the immediate work of winning elections, and the longer-term labor of nurturing progressive constituencies. As Laurie Veninger, vice-chair of the Indivisible Mass Coalition (IMC) remarked recently at the Grassroots Reboot Conference, “the most important work we do is not just preparing for electoral politics, but the more difficult, longer-term work of building bridges within our communities.”

The SBA/Indivisible Partnership

The logic of Indivisible’s organizational structure is easy to follow. We all understand how crucial the 2022 and 2024 elections will prove to be, not just for bending the arc of the moral universe, but also for preserving our democratic institutions. While those institutions are under daily assault, the process is dispersed, multi-faceted, and a bit hypothetical. The elections which may prove decisive are still a long way off. But the work of building bridges in our local activist communities is here, now, very tangible, and absolutely essential to prepare for the electoral struggles ahead. That is the logic of the Indivisible Mass Coalition, and it tells us that this organizational realignment comes at a crucial time for our movement and for our democracy.    

Building those bridges between activist communities here in Massachusetts and across the country is at the core of the new partnership between Indivisible and the Swing Blue Alliance, under the umbrella of the statewide Indivisible Mass Coalition. There has already been a considerable degree of collaboration between SBA and IMC. As Swing Left Greater Boston co-coordinator Susan Labandibar has observed, “From the inception of the For the People campaign, Swing Blue Alliance has been partnering with Indivisible groups in Massachusetts to cross-promote phone banks and For the People briefings. Local Indivisibles are also working with SBA on its postcard campaign.” 

Looking Ahead

The Freedom to Vote Rally on Boston Common on Saturday, June 26, offers an even greater opportunity to build more bridges within our local activist community. The rally in support of S.1, the For the People Act, will bring together democracy advocates including IMC and SBA, as well as local chapters of the NAACP and Common Cause, Progressive Mass, and a host of others. The rally starts at 2 pm below the State House and in view of the newly refurbished Shaw 54th Regiment memorial, a reminder of the long road we have traveled to win and defend the universal right to vote.

Want to Get Involved? 

Come to the Freedom to Vote Rally, Saturday June 26, on Boston Common, 2-3:30 pm. 

Learn more and RSVP 

– Brent Whelan is a retired teacher, a climate activist, and writer of postcards to swing state voters. He lives in Allston, MA.