How the Trump Resistance Went Pro in Alabama (The New Yorker)

How the Trump Resistance Went Pro in Alabama

http://bit.ly/2BwwVXO

A year ago yesterday, a handbook, written by former congressional
staffers and outlining a path of useful action for those disturbed by
the election of Donald Trump, appeared online. It was called
Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump
Agenda
,”
and it has since helped instruct new activists seeking to elect
progressives—or at least prevent the election of more
conservatives—around the country. The resulting group now has six
thousand chapters. Six months ago, an Atlanta Indivisible
chapter got behind the insurgent campaign of Jon
Ossoff
,
the young Democrat aiming to flip a historically Republican
congressional district in the Atlanta suburbs. Ossoff lost the highly
publicized race for many
reasons
—including
his youth, his residence slightly outside the district, and, arguably,
the cautiousness of his
message
. Democrats close to the Ossoff race might also point to the volume of Republican super-PAC attack ads that aired during the extremely expensive campaign. Another possible factor: Indivisible did not have the resources that it
does now, which it just used to help elect Doug Jones in Alabama.

“The capacity we had during the Georgia Sixth race was much more
limited,” María Urbina, Indivisible’s national political director, told
me yesterday. “It was more like a help desk: we were trying, from afar,
to help support groups when they reached out for guidance.” Now, she
said, “we’re paying for an app, training volunteers on it, and paying
for staff to be down there to support knocking, calling, everything.
That’s a much different level of engagement and investment.” The group
also has access to voter files, and all of this “allows our locals to
hit the roads a lot faster.” Maybe the result in Georgia would have been
different if they’d had these things at the time, Urbina suggested. “Who
knows.”

A number of other progressive groups, both local and national, worked to
propel Jones to his unlikely victory. Among them were Alabama’s
N.A.A.C.P. chapter, which, according to the journalist Al Giordano,
instructed its local
branches
to
call every registered Alabama voter who did not vote in the 2016
Presidential election. Woke Vote, the Working
Families Party
, MoveOn—and, as AL.com
reported, “a former sharecropper in an
S.U.V.
”—also
helped lead to high turnout numbers among Democrats, particularly in
African-American communities. African-Americans make up twenty-seven
percent
of Alabama’s population,
and they comprised almost thirty per cent of
voters
in the election; ninety-six per cent of
African-Americans
voted for Jones. The Jones campaign itself was also effective in this
effort, as I witnessed while walking
around
predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Montgomery, a few days
before the election, with volunteers working to get out the vote and
distribute yard signs.

But Indivisible’s efforts appear to have been particularly well
targeted. Of the six counties that the group focussed on in Alabama,
three of them—Madison, Lee, and
Mobile
—flipped
from having a majority of their voters select Trump last November to a
majority choosing Jones. In the other three counties where it knocked on
doors, made calls, and sent the majority of its texts—Houston, Dale, and
Henry—the G.O.P.’s winning margins shrank by more than twenty points. Steve
Bannon, speaking on a Breitbart radio program after Jones defeated Roy
Moore, whom Bannon repeatedly stumped
for
,
acknowledged the effectiveness of the collective progressive ground
game. Bannon told Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, Alex
Marlow
,
“You’ve gotta give the devil its due.”

Though its resources have grown dramatically in the past year,
Indivisible’s footprint in Alabama, like that of the Democratic Party,
was relatively small prior to the race between Jones and Moore, the
Trump-backed Republican. “There’s really great local organizations,
especially in Alabama’s African-American community,” Urbina told me.
“But, in terms of infrastructure and party apparatus, it’s quite lacking
there.” In September, there were five Indivisible chapters in the state,
the biggest of which was in Huntsville, a bluish city in the
north
,
which regularly draws a hundred members to its protests and meetups.
During the Jones campaign, Indivisible’s five local chapters knocked on
fifty-five hundred doors to get out the vote. “We had a lot of
Alabamians talking to Alabamians,” Slate Goodwin, a
twenty-seven-year-old member of the Huntsville chapter, told me
yesterday. “Not a whole lot of out-of-staters knocking or calling. It
was mostly here in the community, and I think that really played a huge
role.”

Still, Indivisible exerted an out-of-state influence, too. “We did help
supplement the local chapters with text messages from our entire network
coming into Alabama,” Urbina told me. According to the group, fifteen
hundred national Indivisible volunteers sent two hundred forty-two
thousand and four hundred texts to likely Democrat voters, reminding
them to vote and to make a plan to do so. Indivisible had three staff
members on the ground for the entire final week of the campaign, helping
locals canvass in what a number of Alabamians described to me as the
biggest get-out-the-vote campaign for a Democrat since Barack Obama’s
efforts in the state back in 2008.

Urbina is, of course, pleased with Jones’s victory. But she and others
at Indivisible are just as proud of another outcome: a new Alabama
chapter of the group, located in Dothan, was launched during the
campaign. “That probably doesn’t seem huge,” she told me, “but in
Alabama, where capacity has lacked over the years, we’re thrilled.” She
went on, “Our view is that these groups will take the skill sets learned
in building their own mini-campaigns, and they’ll use them to furthergrow and show their communities that they’re serious about building
infrastructure there. That’s how this movement will be sustained.”

via The New Yorker

December 16, 2017 at 10:22AM

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