Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, a new grassroots movement formed. It’s called Indivisible, and it has thousands of chapters all over the United States. The founders, former congressional staffers, studied how Tea Party members blocked much of President Obama’s agenda. They created a manual for progressives, encouraging them to use similar tactics to resist President Trump. Now, as the midterm elections draw near, their work is evolving.
Linda Harris didn’t know much about these two sisters who sat behind her in church.
“Really all I knew is they have the most beautiful hair,” she says. “They have this white, white thick hair.”
But one day, not long after Donald Trump was elected, they invited her over to their house.
“Actually said are you interested in getting together for a meeting,” Harris says. “We’ve gotta do something.”
Harris was still kind of shell-shocked. Trump’s election had taken her by surprise. But she didn’t just want to stay frozen in shock. So she said yes. The meeting was small. Mostly retirees, like her.
“I’ve never actively been involved in politicking per say,” she says. “And that was pretty much true of everybody in the group. So we didn’t really know what we needed to do.”
But they had a resource: the Indivisible Guide. It’s a step-by-step handbook for taking political action, from hosting rallies to speaking up at town halls to visiting representatives’ offices. They poured over the guide and, by the end of the meeting, decided to start an Indivisible chapter in Las Cruces.
Around the same time, similar meetings took place all over Southern New Mexico.
“It’s not enough just to vote,” says Diana Tittle, who co-founded an Indivisible chapter in Truth or Consequences. “We need to fight for the democratic values we believe in, especially since they are under increasing threat from our very president.”
Tittle sits outside a popular brewery on T or C’s main drag. It’s a busy night; there’s an environmental justice rally and the town’s monthly art hop. She and some other Indivisible members set up a folding table, where people can come register to vote, learn more about candidates’ environmental platforms, and sign a petition to put a new city ordinance up to a public vote.
Tittle says Indivisible is partly a resistance movement. “Fighting the Muslim ban, fighting the separation of children at the border,” she says. “But now we’ve turned our attention to electing progressive candidates to Congress. So T or C Indivisible is just one small group of mighty people trying to turn CD2 blue.”
CD2 – Congressional District 2 – covers the southern half of the state. It’s traditionally red. But Tittle thinks many voters here share common values, regardless of party.
“Especially around the love of the land and the desire to protect our water resources and the desire for economic growth,” says Tittle. She hopes Xochitl Torres Small, the Democrat running against Republican Yvette Herrell, can appeal to a wide swath of voters.
There’s a national debate about whether the Democratic Party should embrace progressive groups and candidates or stick to a more centrist message. But Tittle says here in T or C, that tension doesn’t really exist.
“We have become fairly close allies in this endeavor,” she says. “So, many members of Indivisible are members of the Democratic Party. It’s kind of hard in a small town to make clear cut distinctions.”
Nadia Sikes is Chair of the Otero County Democratic Party and a member of Otero Indivisible. “A lot of what Indivisible decries is what we also believe in,” she says. “So it was just a perfect blending of a group of people who wanted to get involved, who hadn’t been involved before, and a Democratic Party who had been involved but understood where these folks were coming from. A lot of them were independents. A lot of them libertarians. It seems as though we’re all just working together on the same agenda.
Dimid Hayes co-founded Indivisible T or C. He’s dressed up for the tabling event as Brother Earth, in a shimmery mask, green cape, and a tie-dye vest covered with felt flowers and animals.
“I would say the difference between the Democratic Party and Indivisible is that people who have responded to the call of Indivisible nationally are people that have reawoken to their civic responsibility and have maybe been negligent in that over the years and realized that they were needing to really step up to getting engaged civically,” Hayes says.
Mirdza Finch falls into that category. “When I was 18 years old and voted for George McGovern that was running for peace during the Vietnam War and he lost, I just dropped off the scene,” she says. “And I just didn’t vote most of my adult life.”
That changed with Bernie Sanders – a candidate who, Finch says, finally represented her interests. And now, with Trump in office, she feels an obligation to re-engage. Finch joined Indivisible, and she’s out on the streets every week, registering voters.
“The efforts I’m making is to make up for all these years that I just dropped out of it,” she says.
Right now local Indivisible chapters are learning from Democratic field organizers about how to mobilize voters.
“Where we go from here after November, I don’t know,” says Linda Harris, from Indivisible Las Cruces.
The group is so new, so organic, still figuring out its place. But Harris feels confident the movement will continue beyond the election.
“Because this time the energy is us,” she says. “So it’s not we’re following a candidate. It’s like we need to step up. And I think that’s the difference.”