It may be recess for members of Congress, but it’s not exactly a walk in the park for many Republicans who are holding town hall meetings in their districts full of angry constituents. They’re upset about the promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act — among other things, such as President Trump’s relationship with Russia and his failure to release his tax forms.
One of the driving forces behind the town hall mobilizations as well as the resistance to the Trump agenda that’s spreading across the country is the “Indivisible Guide,” which was written by former Hill staffers to teach their constituents how to effectively communicate with members of Congress. Though it started as a Google Doc, the guide has since expanded into a platform that has a presence through more than 7,000 local groups in every congressional district.
The Indivisible Guide is “based on the theory that Donald Trump’s agenda doesn’t depend on Donald Trump; it depends on whether or not individual members of Congress choose to go along with it, or choose to resist it,” Ezra Levin, a co-author of the guide, told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. “That choice gives constituents a ton of power.”
The mobilization of constituents is reminiscent of the Tea Party town hall meetings during the summer recess of 2009, when members of Congress — most of them Democrats — faced voters who were angry about President Obama’s plan to overhaul health care. While the organizers of the Indivisible Guide do not agree with the Tea Party’s policy agenda, they borrowed some of their campaign strategies when they wrote the document.
“We didn’t agree with a lot of [the Tea Party’s] tactics that were sometimes overly aggressive — sometimes even violent — but we thought they were smart on overall strategy,” said Levin. “That strategy was a local, defensive, congressional advocacy strategy implemented by constituents.”
One of the most common constituent concerns at town halls is the promise by congressional Republicans and the White House to repeal and replace Obamacare. Many progressives have been arguing for reforming the current bill, not repealing it.
“I would love to see there be some bipartisan tweaks to make to improve it,” said Levin when asked whether there is room for compromise between the two political parties regarding health care. “Politics is the art of the possible. We’ll see exactly what people are willing to do.”
While some remain skeptical about whether town halls are effective, Levin — who previously was an aide for Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett — said they serve as a way for members to stay attuned to what their constituents are thinking.
“[Members of Congress] craft their image very thoughtfully,” said Levin. “They will take [those constituent views] to heart. Now the big question is once they hear from these constituents, do they go back to Congress and actually change their ways?”
Though “Indivisible Guide” is a progressive platform, it is not directly connected to the Democratic National Party. And though they understand that elections are important, for the immediate future, they are focusing on the fight against the Trump agenda and getting their constituents’ voices heard, Levin said.
“Nobody is unifying the progressives like Donald Trump is right now because of his all-out assault on the broad progressive ecosystem,” said Levin. “I’m hopeful that that doesn’t have a hugely negative impact on the country, but the silver lining to this incredibly dark cloud is that we are seeing a lot of people come together and get active.”