Apologies for this slightly-delayed monthly newsletter -- it’s been quite a month since we last wrote you. As a reminder, we write these monthly newsletters personally to engage with the Indivisible movement, share our thinking, and hear from you all directly. This month we’re quarantined in our home, which means that -- just like with the original Indivisible Guide -- we’re writing this together in our living room. As always, feel free to reach out directly to us on Twitter: @ezralevin and @leahgreenb. Let’s get to it.
Indivisible loses a beloved team member
Earlier this year, COVID-19 was a looming threat. It’s hard to process how fast the world has changed. In February and March, several members of our national team across the country contracted the virus. Then, last weekend, we lost our midwest regional senior organizer Tim Liszewski to COVID-19. This is a devastating, heartbreaking loss for the Indivisible team and the Indivisible movement.
Tim was a lifelong warrior for justice. He joined our team in early 2018, covering states from his hometown in South Carolina all the way to Iowa. Tim was loved and respected across our team for his kindness, his quiet leadership, the depth of his organizing craft, and his wry sense of humor. He wasn’t someone who wanted to be the center of attention, but he was genuinely interested in people -- often the first to greet newcomers to a space, and quick to build rapport -- and formed deep ties wherever he went.
Earlier this year, I (Ezra) joined Tim for a road trip through Iowa -- crisscrossing the state from Dubuque in the Northeast to Red Oak in the Southwest, where group leaders greeted Tim at every stop with warmth. Tim and I spent hours on the road talking about everything under the sun, including his organizing experiences across the progressive movement -- from fighting to end the Iraq war to the Bernie 2016 campaign. He was in the process of hiking through the entire Appalachian trail. He was devoted to and proud of his children, Rebecca and Aaron. He was excited to get married to his fiancée, Maris, next month. He was quietly hilarious, easy-going, and fiercely committed to making the world a better place.
In Tim’s own words, organizing wasn’t a job for him -- it was a lifestyle. At the same time Tim was covering so much turf for Indivisible, he spent his weekends in South Carolina feeding the hungry through his local chapter of Food Not Bombs. And he was an early Executive Committee member of the South Carolina Progressive Network -- a statewide network dedicated to promoting social and economic justice across the state.
We don’t normally include fundraising requests for Indivisible in these monthly newsletters, but we hope that you’ll consider making a donation to the South Carolina Progressive Network in Tim’s honor -- you can do that here. Tim’s dream was to finish hiking the Appalachian Trail -- you can make a donation to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy here to ensure others can live that dream.
What we’re reading
Earlier this week, Trump and Mitch McConnell both blamed Democrats and the impeachment trial for distracting the nation and aiding the spread of COVID-19 (source). We know -- the shamelessness of this accusation is infuriating.
In light of this article, and the entire GOP response to COVID-19, the quote we’ve been coming back to in recent days is from George Orwell’s novel 1984, a dystopian story about a futuristic authoritarian government bent on controlling the population through misinformation, brainwashing, and coercion. The quote is this:
Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.
The authoritarian political party in 1984 needs to justify itself and its actions, so it alters the official record of the past in an effort to control the future.
One form of resistance in moments like this is to simply to insist that reality is reality. We resist by insisting that the past is not just whatever they say it is. We have to cling to real, honest-to-God truths, otherwise the authoritarians will control our future. We’ve felt this at various times during the Trump presidency, but never more than we do now. So let’s collectively cling to some truths:
In late January, when asked whether there was any reason to fear a pandemic, Trump responded “No. Not at all. And-- we're-- we have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's—going to be just fine.” (Source)
At a campaign rally in early February, Trump said of the virus, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” (Source)
Less than 6 weeks ago, Trump’s story was the same: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” (Source)
A couple days later, Trump continued downplaying the severity of COVID-19, explaining “When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.” (Source)
About 5 weeks ago, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney advised Americans to turn off the TV and stop paying attention to media reports about the dangers of COVID-19. (Source)
About 4 weeks ago, Trump claimed “As of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test [can have one], that’s the important thing, and the tests are all perfect.” (Source)
The same day, his Secretary of Health and Human Services said, “There is no testing kit shortage, nor has there ever been.” (Source)
Less than 4 weeks ago, Trump noted how much less severe COVID-19 was than the flu: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” (Source)
The rot within the GOP extends far beyond Donald Trump.
The same day that Trump was comparing COVID-19 to the flu, Fox News was rushing to his defense. Sean Hannity accused the media of “scaring people unnecessarily” and trying to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.” (Source)
Three weeks ago, Rep. Devin Nunes, one of Trump's top lieutenants in Congress, sought to downplay concerns about COVID-19, announcing “it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant.” (Source)
Two weeks ago, the GOP Governor of Mississippi issued a statewide order overruling local government efforts to contain COVID-19, mandating some restaurants, gun stores, and other businesses reopen. (Source)
Last week, the GOP Governor of Florida issued a statewide stay-at-home order that overruled local government efforts to limit in-person religious gatherings. (Source)
Then the GOP Governor of Texas issued a statewide stay-at-home order than allowed for in-person religious services while banning all surgical and medication abortions throughout the state. (Source)
And just a couple days ago, the GOP Governor of Georgia issued a statewide stay-at-home order after claiming that he only just learned that COVID-19 could be spread by people who were not showing symptoms. (Source)
A new academic study puts data behind a fact that is blindingly obvious to anybody who doesn’t feed at the Fox News trough: “Republican governors and governors from states with more Trump supporters were slower to adopt social distancing policies.” (Source)
Throughout the crisis, and with few exceptions, the entire GOP has engaged in shameless partisan grandstanding and power grabbing, while accusing Democrats and the media of politicizing the crisis, and while orchestrating a mortally inept response.
Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.
We have a lot of work to do in the weeks and months ahead to care for and heal our communities -- and we know this is precisely what local Indivisible groups across the country are doing right now. If you’re looking for ways to be part of that work, we recommend you reach out and help build up the community response locally with your own local Indivisible group.
But while we do this immediate, necessary community work in the present, we cannot allow Trump, McConnell, and their allies to define the past. We cannot allow them to escape the responsibility for their craven political games and inept response that have and will cost American lives. We cannot allow them to control the future. We have to hold them accountable. We have to take back power in November. And we have to build a functioning, representative democracy where these types of villains never dictate American public policy again.
Stay safe and healthy until next month
While we and the Indivisible movement are grieving for Tim, we’re deeply aware that the scope and the horror of this crisis is the direct product of the flaws in our government and our society. The virus has spread because of the inadequacy of our public health infrastructure and the failure of our political leaders like Trump and GOP governors who downplayed the crisis instead of responding to it. COVID-19’s impact is more devastating because of our lack of universal healthcare, our collapsed social safety net, our lack of paid sick and family leave, and the horrific, dehumanizing state of our prisons and detention centers. This pandemic casts into stark relief the many ways in which our society makes its people vulnerable and disposable -- and which we cannot ever accept, and Tim never did.
That’s why we hope you hold Tim’s memory in your hearts and that it fuels your own work for justice. Tim spent his life fighting for a better world. We hope you’ll honor his memory by carrying on that fight.
Ezra & Leah
Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors, Indivisible
PS -- We celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary and 10 year dating anniversary this past weekend. We made fettuccine alfredo at home and rented a bad action flick (Leah’s choice). Even in times of COVID-19 quarantine -- especially in these times -- it’s important to find joy. If in the midst of this chaos and darkness you’re finding things to celebrate, please share with us!