For 8 years, Tea Party activists captured Congress, electing members sympathetic to their cause and terrifying fence-sitters into backing their plays; now, in Indivisible, progressives are offered their own version of the Tea Party playbook, which explains the Tea Party's tactics and provides notes for adapting them to resisting trumpism.
The guide is available in online and printer-friendly versions, in Spanish and English; while it adapts some Tea Party tactics, it rejects the Tea Party's ideology and its most odious moves, including xenophobia and scapegoating.
The Tea Party’s success came down to two critical strategic elements:
1. They were locally focused. The Tea Party started as an organic movement built on small local groups of dedicated conservatives. Yes, they received some support/coordination from above, but fundamentally all the hubbub was caused by a relatively small number of conservatives working together.
* Groups started as disaffected conservatives talking to each other online. In response to the 2008 bank bailouts and President Obama’s election, groups began forming to discuss their anger and what could be done. They eventually realized that the locally-based discussion groups themselves could be a powerful tool.
* Groups were small, local, and dedicated. Tea Party groups could be fewer than 10 people, but they were highly localized and dedicated significant personal time and resources. Members communicated with each other regularly, tracked developments in Washington, and coordinated advocacy efforts together.
* Groups were relatively few in number. The Tea Party was not hundreds of thousands of people spending every waking hour focused on advocacy. Rather, the efforts were somewhat modest. Only 1 in 5 self-identified Tea Partiers contributed money or attended events. On any given day in 2009 or 2010, only twenty local events — meetings, trainings, town halls, etc. — were scheduled nationwide. In short, a relatively small number of groups were having a big impact on the national debate.
2. They were almost purely defensive. The Tea Party focused on saying NO to Members of Congress (MoCs) on their home turf. While the Tea Party activists were united by a core set of shared beliefs, they actively avoided developing their own policy agenda. Instead, they had an extraordinary clarity of purpose, united in opposition to President Obama. They didn’t accept concessions and treated weak Republicans as traitors.
* Groups focused on defense, not policy development. In response to the 2008 bank bailouts and President Obama’s election, groups began forming to discuss their anger and what could be done. They eventually realized that the locally- based discussion groups themselves could be a powerful tool.
* Groups rejected concessions to Democrats and targeted weak Republicans. Tea Partiers viewed concessions to Democrats as betrayal. This limited their ability to negotiate, but they didn’t care. Instead they focused on scaring congressional Democrats and keeping Republicans honest. As a result, few Republicans spoke against the Tea Party for fear of attracting blowback.
* Groups focused on local congressional representation. Tea Partiers primarily applied this defensive strategy by pressuring their own local MoCs. This meant demanding that their Representatives and Senators be their voice of opposition on Capitol Hill. At a tactical level, the Tea Party had several replicable practices, including:
* Showing up to the MoC’s town hall meetings and demanding answers
* Showing up to the MoC’s office and demanding a meeting
* Coordinating blanket calling of congressional offices at key moments
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)