A (political) earthquake

Indivisible Guide
7 min readApr 18, 2024


By Ezra Levin, Indivisible Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director

(Note: This edition of Ezra’s newsletter was sent out on April 7. Sign up to receive Ezra’s next newsletter in your inbox!)

Bi-weekly-ish newsletter time! Reminder: We’re here to defeat Trump and MAGA, rebuild the Democratic trifecta, and pass democracy reform and abortion rights legislation next year. That’s the plan. This newsletter is an opportunity to share relevant updates and have a conversation as we walk this path together. With that, let me get to the news, the brag, and the discussion!

The News: Building the case for democracy in New Jersey — and nationally.

There was a lot of news in the last couple weeks — No Labels dropping out (good), RFK Jr. building his campaign (bad), Trump falling on his face in court after court (schadenfreude). But I want to focus on something less flashy: the New Jersey Senate race.

Talking to friends and family, I’ve been surprised how many haven’t heard about this. It hasn’t received the type of coverage it deserves. This is an inspiring and consequential David and Goliath story about a pro-democracy fighter, buttressed by a grassroots movement, successfully taking down a corrupt political machine. It’s good stuff!

The corrupt incumbent and the powerful political machine. Last year, New Jersey’s senior Democratic Senator Bob Menendez was found to have been hiding bribes of literal gold bars in his house. Nonetheless, Menendez insisted he’d run for reelection. Congressman Andy Kim was one of the first elected officials to say that that was unacceptable — and he put his money where his mouth was by throwing his own hat into the ring for the Senate race. But most observers thought Andy had little hope of winning because the governor’s wife, Tammy Murphy, was also eyeing the seat. The political machine in New Jersey is so powerful that it didn’t matter that Murphy was a major GOP donor who voted for George W. Bush twice, had never held elective office, and wasn’t sure about filibuster reform. Because of the machine’s support, most pundits described her as “unstoppable.”

New Jersey is a notoriously hard place to run for office if you don’t have the party machine’s support, for a very specific reason: the Line. The Line is, in a nutshell, a primary ballot design that puts the party’s preferred candidate front and center and buries any other candidates way in the back. It’s estimated that the candidate who gets “the Line” gets a 15%+ bump in the vote — an almost insurmountable advantage in a primary election. For a candid take on exactly how damaging and corrosive this is, check out fellow Indivisible fave Tom Malinowski’s recent piece on his own experiences running for office in New Jersey.

Grassroots momentum builds into a pro-democracy crescendo. Andy courted everyday New Jersey voters in his attempt to take on the corrupt machine. Ten local New Jersey Indivisible groups endorsed Andy Kim late last year, and they called on Indivisible National to come in with an endorsement. I hosted a statewide event with Andy, and New Jersey Indivisible members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a national endorsement. To toot our own horn, that made Indivisible the first major national organization to come out in support. You can read about Indivisible’s work on this in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Roll Call, Semafor, and the New Jersey Globe, to name a few.

Andy was gaining steam, winning county conventions in the lead up to the statewide primary date this summer. At the same time, Andy filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the line disenfranchised voters.

The last couple weeks saw three major developments in this story:

  1. New Jersey’s own attorney general, who had worked for and been appointed by the governor, declined to defend the political machine’s wacky ballot in court.
  2. Then the governor’s wife, Tammy Murphy, suddenly dropped out of the race, ending what everybody thought would be a bitter primary fight.
  3. And finally, just last week, the federal judge ruled the machine’s decades-old ballot design unconstitutional, and denied appeal.


What started as an improbable campaign by an outsider candidate and a doomed lawsuit against the powerful political machine turned into nothing less than a pro-democracy upheaval for the entire state. As my former grad school professor wrote, “New Jersey Politics will never the same.”

More than one candidate. Bigger than New Jersey. This is great news for those of us who care about our American democracy. The story Democrats get to tell in competitive congressional elections like New Jersey’s 7th isn’t that the corrupt incumbent was replaced by the governor’s wife, but rather by a pro-democracy champion. In my interview with Andy I asked him about the filibuster, abortion rights, voting rights, democracy reform, and court reform — and he gave A+ answers on all of them. This means we’re going to have a strong pro-democracy champion in the senate next year — and if we do our job right, he’ll be part of a pro-democracy Democratic trifecta ready to take action.

The Brag: Arizona and the political potency of the fight for abortion rights.

Trump likely doesn’t have a path to the Presidency without Arizona. And Democrats likely don’t have a path to a senate majority without Arizona. The strategic logic of focusing on Arizona is overwhelming — which is why Indivisible set Arizona as our top target this cycle shortly after the 2022 elections.

We built up a statewide team of organizers, digital staff, campaigners, and tech supporters. We ran polling last year that showed adding the abortion rights measure to the ballot would boost our turnout and decrease GOP turnout in the battleground state. I spoke to NBC news just this Friday about why this is a smart strategy. And we made this ballot initiative campaign our top priority, becoming the largest volunteer signature gathering effort in the state over the last few months. If you were out in Tempe or Prescott or Flagstaff or Phoenix the last few months you probably saw Indivisible volunteers collecting signatures for the ballot initiative outside of tattoo parlors and colleges and farmers markets.

And…drum roll…I’m proud to write that this week, the coalition behind this amendment has reached 500,000 signatures! That’s more than the required number of about 384,000, but knowing inevitable GOP opposition, we’re not taking our foot off the gas until we hit 800,000 or until the deadline in July — whichever comes first. This is good for Arizonans, and it’s good for anybody looking to prevent MAGA from taking the White House or Congress in November.

If you want to support this work, throw in a celebratory $0.5, $5, $50 (feel free to add as many zeroes as you desire). Any donation you give here is going straight to the frontlines in Arizona to pay for clipboards, reimburse for signature gathering events, and distribute voter targeting and contact tools. Just this week we rolled out our relational organizing/canvassing program Neighbor2Neighbor to the entire state to build on this momentum. If we get more money, we’ll collect more signatures, simple as that. Democracy is messy, but we like to keep it simple when we can :).

And if you know folks who want to participate in this work on the ground in Arizona — please point them here!

The Discussion: Vibe check follow up

Thank you to everybody who wrote in to help me get a sense of how much your community is engaged right now. An overwhelming number of you provided thoughtful replies in addition to the one-click survey.

For a distributed grassroots movement spread across every state and every type of congressional district, maybe it should come as no surprise that the results are mixed! About a third say that your community is extremely engaged (5), another third very engaged (4), about a quarter mildly engaged (3), and about 10% say somewhat or completely unengaged (2 or 1).

That’s the data, but data lacks the emotional punch that I got from your written responses. I felt energy. I chuckled. I empathized. I sympathized. I reflected. And I thought about how I could best convey this back to the movement. Rather than do a poor job summarizing, I’m including a quasi-representative sample of each of these five categories of responses at the end of this for you to get your own sense of where our people are nationwide.

I didn’t want to sanitize this to create hopeful propaganda. Indivisible has persisted for seven years by building community — and you build community with honesty, openness, and vulnerability, not blind optimism and BS.

There are folks in deep red areas who are fired up. There are folks in deep blue areas that are depressed. There are folks who just experienced a big win who question their contributions. There are folks in swing districts who feel guilty for not doing more. There are folks in blue cities who feel powerless, and folks in red rural communities who are determined. And vice versa.

If you’re feeling alone in this chaotic year; read these comments — you’re not. If you’re feeling fired up, you’ve got lots of company — and you’ve got folks in your midst who could use some of your fire. Even among those fired up, there’s doubt. Among those doubting, you’ve got a community. But we’re not united by our fear or our doubts — we’re united by our commitment to doing something about it. That’s why I’m here — and I know that’s why you’re reading these words.

Until next time

Putting aside reasonable doubts and fears, we can be secure in the knowledge that there are more of us than there are of them. Americans support democracy. They want abortion rights. They oppose MAGA extremism. Our job is to make sure the electorate sees the choice between fascism and freedom as clearly as possible this year.

Thank you for being with us in this fight. We’re gonna win this thing.



Indivisible Guide

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