Spring is in the air, vaccines are in peoples' arms, and Donald Trump is out of office. Forget T.S. Eliot -- April is the coolest month. You know the drill -- this is the monthly newsletter from us co-founders of Indivisible, Leah and Ezra. Get in touch directly on Twitter if you’d like -- @leahgreenb and @ezralevin. We got hundreds of responses to our question last month about state-level GOP voter suppression. For this month we want to check in on how the post-Trump era is going: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hopeful.
How we see the post-Trump era shaping up
When Dems won the two seats in Georgia, that threw American politics into a brand new paradigm: the Democratic trifecta. We had been preparing for that moment, and immediately released a new Guide. Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Fixing Our Democracy. The new guide is about how to use a trifecta to deliver on a bold Democratic agenda and specifically on the structural reforms we need to protect our democracy. It draws on lessons learned from the first two years of the Obama administration -- the last time Democrats held a trifecta.
We were both Capitol Hill staffers during the last Dem trifecta, so this was a therapeutic exercise. Because frankly, the experience of being a young congressional staffer in 2009-2011 was incredibly frustrating. We watched as a Dem trifecta passed a recovery package that was too small. We watched as precious months were lost to fruitless negotiations with Mitch McConnell and other GOP bad-faith negotiators. We watched as congressional leadership watered-down crucial legislation in desperate attempts to appease conservatives. And we watched as a rising right-wing movement unnerved Democrats and Republicans alike. Ultimately, the Tea Party surge of 2010 wiped out House Democrats (including Leah’s boss, Tom Perriello), and ended the window for potential transformative change. And we’ve all seen what came after that.
So it was very, very, very important to us -- and to Indivisibles across the country -- that we do not repeat the choices that blunted economic recovery and led us to the 2010 wipeout. That’s why we had two top demands:
First, go big, go fast, get it right. Deliver on an agenda that meets the scope of the crises we face, and do it fast. Don’t get bogged down in the hopeless mirage of McConnell-backed “bipartisanship” that will never actually materialize.
Second, prioritize fixing our democracy. Our democracy isn’t saved just because Trump’s out of office. We need federal action to secure the freedom to vote, to protect our elections, and to fight back against the ways Republicans have rigged the rules to stay in power. If we don’t get these reforms now, we won’t have another chance.
A couple of months into this new era, we’re taking this time to check in on how it’s going.
The Good: Democrats have been...doing stuff! And it’s really good stuff!
The American Rescue Plan is a huge deal. It’s $1.9 trillion of REALLY. GOOD. STUFF. Expanded unemployment insurance. Survival checks. Vaccine distribution funding. Money to states and localities. A child tax credit. It’s a massive transfer of wealth to low- and middle-income families and it’s going to have an enormous impact on inequality and child poverty.
Was it perfect? No! We wanted a $15 minimum wage, immigrant inclusion, and student debt cancellation. We’re going to keep fighting for the pieces we didn’t get. We’re going to demand that the upcoming recovery package go even bigger, and incorporate the transformative action we need for climate, for economic and racial justice, and for good jobs (a good analysis of that here).
But we need to celebrate when something good happens -- and the American Rescue Plan will do an enormous amount of good.
And we should celebrate what happened here: Democrats went big, and they went fast. They didn’t fall for the bipartisanship trap. And that’s a huge deal. It’s all too easy to imagine an alternate 2021 where the relief package negotiations are still dragging on as Democrats desperately cut the plan in half in a vain attempt to get McConnell or other hold-out Republicans on board. Or a few conservative Democratic senators or members of Congress could have flat-out decided to kill the bill. It’s a credit to everyone involved -- President Biden and his team, Democratic leadership, and the Democratic caucus -- that this passed. And special credit goes to the House Progressive Caucus, whose organizing helped to prevent the bill from getting watered down in the final stages (good backstory on that here).
Above all, it’s a credit to the movements that made this window of opportunity happen, whose electoral organizing delivered a Democratic trifecta, and whose vision of a just society helped to reshape what was possible politically. None of this happens without a movement behind it.
The Bad: Remember how we said, first, fix our democracy? Well, it’s April and we’ve still got a long way to go. The For the People Act has passed the House -- itself a big victory. But we’re facing a tough fight in the Senate, where we need every vote -- and we’ll need to overcome a Republican filibuster. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and D.C. statehood have yet to pass the House. There is a growing movement to transform our nation into a full-fledged democracy by admitting the Douglass Commonwealth to the Union (good article on that here), and we expect to see significant action on this front around D.C.’s emancipation day on April 16th, a District-wide holiday recognizing the abolition of slavery in D.C., predating the Emancipation Proclamation.
But the weeks and months are ticking by -- there are only so many days left on the legislative calendar to admit the Douglass Commonwealth and pass the democracy saving-reforms. In the middle of a packed recovery agenda, it’s crucial that these bills do not get lost. The fate of our democracy depends on it. That brings us to...
The Ugly: Republican legislators are very, very busy in the states rushing through an avalanche of voter suppression bills. We wrote to you about this last month, and since then Georgia Republicans passed a voter suppression bill that’s being described as “Jim Crow in new clothes” (see here). We asked about what you were seeing on the ground in your own states and got hundreds and hundreds of downright scary responses.
- Arizona: We can’t list all the incoming from Arizona, but suffice it to say it was overwhelming: Yuma County Indivisible, Indivisible Sedona, Phoenix, Prescott, Cottonwood, Northern Arizona, Southern Arizona. We heard from the entire state, and it is quite ugly: reducing voting hours, restricting mail-in voting, scaling back early voting, and giving the legislature the power to ignore the people’s will and choose its own presidential electors. Message: if you thought Georgia’s voter suppression was bad, just wait for Arizona.
- Florida: Again, an overwhelming response from all over the state. Indivisible Martin, Palm Beach Indivisible, Indivisible Clay, Southwest Florida, Safety Harbor Indivisible, Indivisible Gainesville, Indivisible Action of Southwest Florida, and more all wrote in. As in Arizona and Georgia, the state GOP is playing a similar tune: constricting mail-in and early voting, limiting the use of drop boxes, and making it easier to amend the state constitution!
- Pennsylvania: Again, everywhere. Pennsylvania has a Democratic governor but a Republican legislature -- and those GOP electeds are busy. Hershey Indivisible, Chester County, Indivisible NW Philadelphia, Indivisible Bucky County, Upper Darby Indivisible, and more wrote in about what the GOP is cooking up: restricting mail-in voting, slowing down official vote counts, and removing drop boxes, among other anti-democratic ploys.
This is sadly just a very small selection -- we heard from Indivisibles in just about every state in the Union. From Indivisible Duluth to Indivisible TX-10, to Norris Area Indivisible (Tennessee), to Boise Indivisible One -- we cannot call out everyone but we read every single one. This reporting out from Indivisibles on the ground matches what we hear from our friends at the nonpartisan Brennan Center -- they’ve put together an ongoing tracker of state-level voter suppression bills that are advancing at a “furious pace” (here).
The horizon is grim. If we don’t take action, state Republicans are on a path to gerrymander and voter-suppress themselves into a congressional majority in 2022. If we lose the House majority, that’s the end of any legislative progress. If we lose the governorships of key swing states, we’re in an even grimmer place heading into 2024.
This is scary. But it’s not a fait accompli. We can stop them. And that’s what we’re going to do:
The Hopeful: we see, as we talk to Indivisible groups nationwide, that the movement to resist Trump has transformed into a movement for inclusive democracy. California Indivisibles have spent this month pushing Senator Feinstein to drop her opposition to the filibuster to pass H.R. 1 -- and they’ve gotten results. Arizona Indivisibles have been repeatedly filling up Senator Sinema’s mailboxes with calls to end the filibuster and fight for democracy. And folks all over the country have taken up the 51-star flag in support of the Douglas Commonwealth (see Indivisibles in Anchorage here!), which for too long has been a fight that D.C. activists have had to carry alone.
This has always been an uphill battle. But it’s winnable. We can save our democracy. We can deliver a transformative progressive agenda. We can cast Trump, McConnell, and their fascist allies into the dustbin of history.
But it doesn’t happen without a movement.
Last month we asked you what you were seeing on the ground. This month we’re asking what you’re doing on the ground. The following is a simple one-click response, but if you have time to provide more details, clicking an answer will take you to a page where you can tell us more -- and we will use those responses in our next newsletter and beyond to try to give more folks more ideas about how to be part of this pro-democracy effort.
Our question for you: What are you doing in the next month to help save our democracy?
🌸 I’m calling my Senator to support D.C. statehood, For the People Act, and the John Lewis VRA
🌸 I’m bringing a 51-star flag to my Senator’s district office
🌸 I’m participating in an event with my local Indivisible group
🌸 I’m writing a letter to the editor in support of the Douglass Commonwealth and democracy reforms
🌸 I’m going to do something else
We can’t wait to read about what you’re doing on the ground, and we can’t wait to use those stories to inspire even more people to join us in this fight. Until next month,
Ezra and Leah
Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors, Indivisible