Anyone who has, as I have, read the Indivisible Guide [Indivisible Guide] will know that the strategies and tactics it describes for countering and resisting the actions and policies of the new President and Congress are modeled on the successful methods employed by the TEA Party in imposing its agenda on the Republican Party and opposing and resisting the policies of the Obama administration. It is not surprising that a similar effort from the Left would look to that very successful effort for ideas, after all, it worked. I have begun to question whether many in the Indivisible movement fully understand what it was that worked, and how, and to what end. It also occurred to me that much of the current leadership and advisers on the Right are veterans of that project and could anticipate that the Left would try the same thing and consider how to counter their own methods.
I submit that what the TEA Party accomplished was the imposition of its agenda on the Republican Party largely through threatening GOP incumbents and candidates in safe districts with primary election challenges, and that their behavior toward Democrat office holders and candidates served two main purposes. The first of these was to agitate their members and prospective members, and maintain the interest of their own ranks. The second was to model for their candidates the fierce and uncompromising opposition to everything the Democrats and President Obama might propose or do that they wanted of their candidates. The message was, “Do as we do if you want our vote.”
What they did not do or expect to be able to do was to change the positions of Democrat office holders or candidates. That is the part that I suspect many in the Indivisible movement do not fully understand, and may be thinking that their phone calls, post cards, town meeting confrontations, and rallies have any real chance of getting Republican legislators to change their plans and agendas. The course of that party is set and they believe it is what their base wants. The TEA Party has seen to that.
This is not to say that all those efforts and activities are useless or in vain. They serve the same purposes as they did for the TEA Party, and send a like message to the Democratic Party and any prospective candidates under that banner. The catch in that now is that it needs to include more than opposition. The movement needs to be clear and make clear what it does want in the way of policy and program. This means, as it did for the TEA Party, the maximum platform, everything they want, in full measure. No single candidate needs to promise it all, but it must all be there with no half measures or compromises implied. And, wherever and whenever possible, that messaging needs also to be framed in terms that speak the language of conservative values and the needs, hope, and fears of the former Obama voters who turned to Trump. The usual liberal/progressive terms and language which those in the movement find clear and comfortable will not be heard by disappointed Trump voters except as triggers of their accustomed knee-jerk reactions and as the same-old-same-old.
So, that is that. Now, what about the predictability and the resulting ability of the other side to plan counter moves? When I think about that, I remember a statement by Sun Tzu in The Art Of War, “Wage war with surprise moves.” In this case, I don’t know what those might be, but some kinds of actions and messages which are not predictable from the Indivisible Guide and standard political playbooks are needed, not instead of what is being done, in addition to that and not necessarily directly associated with the Indivisible movement.
AN EXAMPLE OF COUNTER MEASURES:
Recently Rep. Meadows [R] of North Carolina was invited to participate in a Town Hall event. He had not scheduled any such event on his own. He declined the invitation and the organizers represented him at the meeting with an empty chair with his name on it. Why did the Congressman choose not to attend? He understood well, as a veteran of the TEA Party movement and current Chair of the House Freedom Caucus, the purpose of the event. By not participating he denied the organizers the opportunity to be recorded confronting him, the “Vid-Op” they could then use in organizing and messaging. He forced them to talk ABOUT him and his policies rather than TO him. He also sent the implicit message to them and his supporters that he did not care what the people at that meeting had to say and would not be swayed by it, that they and their movement don’t matter and are not a threat to him.
A legislator with a safe district only needs to fear a primary challenge. He or she only needs to be concerned with the opinions of those motivated primary voters whose votes might go against him or her in the next primary. The opinions of those whose votes are neither his or hers to loose or win are of no interest. Mr. Meadows knows or believes that most of the people at that meeting have never voted for him and never will, so there was no point in bothering with them.
As a counter measure, his absence was exactly the right move.