How we build a winning coalition in a fractious time

Indivisible Guide
9 min readMay 13, 2024

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

Screengrab via PBS

Donald Trump is probably going to jail, and then he’s going to lose, and then he’s going to prison, and then we’re going to party. How does that sound?

Welcome to the bi-weekly-ish newsletter from yours truly. Let’s get to the news, the brag, and the discussion. But first, a summary:

The news: The escalation of the war in Gaza, the growing campus protest movement, and Biden’s move to limit support for Netanyahu. There’s a pathway to protecting civilian lives, bringing hostages home to their loved ones, stitching together a pro-democracy coalition, and defeating Trump in the fall. For those of us on the front lines of building that coalition, the news from Biden this week is welcome.

The brag: We’re preparing a major national mobilization in June around the anniversary of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe. We’ll have hundreds of events nationwide to focus public attention where we need it this election: on Trump and MAGA’s attempt to ban abortions nationwide. Interested in supporting the events? Donate here. Interested in hosting an event? Info here.

The discussion: Leah and I hosted a live informal coffee chat after the last newsletter that went great! Let’s do it again! We’re planning on 4pm ET / 1pm PT on Friday May 31. Sign up here so we know there’s interest, and send in questions so we can get to as many as possible in the time we have!

The news: The fight to define this election, and the rocky road to a pro-democracy coalition capable of defeating Trump.

A dominant story in the news over the last several months has been the war in Gaza and its impact on domestic politics. This is a hard topic to write about, because once you start writing, you feel like you need to cover everything. I’m not going to try to cover everything, but I am going to try and outline my thinking on both a moral and strategic level because it’s relevant to who we are as a movement and our north star goal this year of thoroughly defeating Trump and MAGA.

Our movement’s name, “Indivisible,” means something. Indivisible is a movement rooted in shared values — a commitment to equality, human rights, and the dignity and preciousness of all human life. The beating heart of the Indivisible movement is our local groups and leaders. Since October, Leah and I have been talking to Indivisibles, and our teams have been seeking out input from Indivisibles. Though not uniform, I’ve heard a pretty consistent 3-part reflection from members on this movement:

  1. Indivisibles were appalled by Hamas’ brutal attack on October 7th that murdered 1,200 Israelis and foreign citizens and took more than 200 hostages. And they are appalled by Netanyahu’s brutal massacre of 35,000 Palestinians, almost half of them children.
  2. Indivisibles would like a permanent ceasefire, the killing to stop, and the return of the hostages.
  3. Indivisibles are worried that the war is fracturing our winning Democratic coalition and diverting voters’ attention away from the fascistic threat of Donald Trump and MAGA.

Indivisible has tried to turn the first two reflections into our advocacy work. We’ve driven calls in support of humanitarian assistance, human rights, and a ceasefire. If you’re on our list, you’ve seen our communications on this over the last several months.

And then there’s #3. Netanyahu is escalating in Gaza, civilians are being massacred and starved, Hamas retains the hostages, and campus protests are on the front page. Republican politicians who defended white supremacists and neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville are now cynically exploiting legitimate concern about rising antisemitism to fracture our coalition. And Biden is losing key constituencies — especially young people and Arab Americans — which risks us losing everything in November.

It’s the final point that I want to focus on here, because it’s something that I know Indivisible group leaders have grappled with and have asked us to grapple with.

Let’s start with the basics: An election win begins with defining for voters what this election is about. Before we even get to getting out the vote, winning this year depends on defining what this election is about for voters. If I had my way, it would be impossible to turn on the TV, open up a newspaper, or listen to the radio without hearing reports on MAGA attacking our democracy and abortion rights. All of the polling, focus groups, and message testing that we’ve seen tells us that if voters are thinking about abortion and MAGA extremism, we’re going to win.

But that’s not the only thing in the news. The Republicans will try to drive public attention to crime or the border or some cynical topic that benefits them. And all the while the raging war in Gaza and the campus protests against US support for it compete for (and deserve) public attention as well.

Here’s how we’ve wrestled with the moral and strategic imperatives of this moment. This topic lends itself to lots of rhetorical detours, so to limit myself, I’ll list out each individual thought that forms the complex worldview:

  1. Indivisible’s north star this year is to reelect Biden and a Democratic trifecta so we can pass democracy reform and codify reproductive rights nationally.
  2. Accomplishing that requires us to define what this election is about by driving press coverage and public attention to MAGA extremism and the attack on abortion rights.
  3. One challenge in focusing attention on just those issues is the ongoing war in Gaza, the prolonged plight of the hostages, and the protest against the massacre of civilians which reasonably demands attention.
  4. Netanyahu is a horrendous, corrupt leader who wants Trump to win and sees continuation of the war as his best path to staying in power and out of prison.
  5. Hamas’ massacre of 1,200 Israelis and foreign citizens on October 7th was horrific and indefensible, as Indivisible said at the time.
  6. Netanyahu’s massacre of 35,000 Palestinians and promised invasion of Rafah — the last refuge in Gaza — is horrific and indefensible, as Indivisible has been saying.
  7. Most Americans and the overwhelming number of Democrats and independents want a ceasefire and an end to the killing of Gazans. Peace is popular; Netanyahu is not.
  8. Peaceful protests are a good, all-American value — one that Indivisible has embraced since our founding and one that we’ll desperately need if the fascists win again. We can condemn antisemitic, Islamophobic, or other hateful actions or statements while defending the right to protest.
  9. The campus protests are a natural outgrowth of US support for Netanyahu’s war. The way to deescalate the protests is to end US support for the war, not send in the National Guard or sic police on kids, professors, and protesters.
  10. Lecturing campus protesters about political damage to Biden won’t bring them back into our pro-democracy coalition — and we have a duty to bring them back into the fold or we’re more likely to lose in November.

I engage here from the point of view of someone who wants civilians to survive now and for American democracy to survive after November. It’s why Indivisibles have been pushing for a ceasefire for months — calling members of Congress, working with coalition partners, and talking to the White House directly about the moral and political costs of continuing to provide unrestricted support to Netanyahu.

One of the questions I get a lot is: Why aren’t you calling on Hamas to release the hostages? And my answer is: Indivisible regularly does that. But let’s be real: A virulently antisemitic and anti-American militant group does not care what a Jewish-led organization supporting a movement of American activists has to say. When we’re building advocacy strategies, we focus on the decision makers who are accountable to us. That’s our own government — and that government has a lot of sway with Netanyahu. And we should expect our government to uphold international humanitarian law regardless of what our adversaries do.

Biden’s move this week is morally justified and politically helpful. This week Biden took a real step forward when he informed Netanyahu that he will withhold offensive weaponry for an invasion of Rafah. For months, the Biden administration has been drawing a red line around Rafah, and Netanyahu openly disregarded it. Biden’s shift is a major development — something those of us calling for a ceasefire have been requesting. Trump, Mitch McConnell, and MAGA Mike Johnson and other Republicans immediately criticized Biden for it — clearly a sign that this move was a good one.

Biden’s move illustrates a central argument in favor of his presidency that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez made two weeks ago. A vote for a president isn’t a vote for your favorite policies. It’s a vote for who you organize under to push for your favorite policies. So the question is: Do you want to be organizing under a Biden presidency or a Trump presidency? For those angry about US support of Netanyahu’s massacre of Palestinians — Biden just demonstrated he’s heard their concerns. Keep organizing.

This of course isn’t over. No doubt the protests will continue if Netanyahu continues to escalate. Building a winning pro-democracy coalition in this environment isn’t easy, but the news this week made me more confident we can achieve it.

The brag: A nationwide mobilization to focus public attention on MAGA’s attack on abortion rights.

What we know from polling, messaging, and focus groups with undecided voters in key battleground states is that they don’t like abortion bans. They don’t trust Trump and MAGA on abortion, and believe (appropriately) that Republicans will ban abortions if given the chance. For those of us who want to win in November, the question is whether these voters will be thinking about abortion rights when they go to vote.

So what can we do to make sure that this issue is top of mind this year? Well, we can make some noise and grab some headlines. And that’s what Indivisible is going to do.

The week of June 21–24, Indivisible is going to be supporting hundreds of local attention-grabbing events to focus public attention on Trump and MAGA’s attacks on abortion rights. We want voters to understand clearly what a Trump administration and MAGA congress will do to reproductive rights if given the chance. We want voters to know that Joe Biden and the Democrats will enact reproductive rights legislation into law if given the power to do so. We want voters to know that this election is a simple choice between those options.

Our organizers on the ground have been working with groups for weeks already to prepare for this moment. If you think this sounds like a lot of fun, here’s some guidance and support for hosting your own local event.

As described in our fabulous week of action toolkit, here’s the support Indivisible will be providing to make this as big of a splash as possible:

  • Event host training and press support training on May 22 and May 23
  • Community planning spaces on June 5
  • National kick off pre-events planning call on June 13
  • Follow up office hours for all last-minute questions about events on June 18
  • Posters and graphics design support from our design team leading up to the events
  • Direct financial support to help local groups pay for basic expenses — signs, printing, megaphones, pizza for volunteers!
  • Fundraising support for local groups

If that seems like a lot — it is! We’re trying to drive national attention and that requires a lot of planning and prep work. If this sounds like cool stuff worth investing in, why don’t you think about investing in it? You can toss some grassroots dollars into this grassroots effort here.

The discussion: Live Q&A is fun and healthy and we should do more of it

After the last newsletter, Leah and I experimented with an informal live discussion with Indivisibles from all around the country. We spent almost the entire time taking and answering questions about the state of the world, Indivisible’s work, organizing and messaging strategies, and fears and hopes about the campaign. It felt like a healthy movement space and we’d like to do it again! So we will.

We’ll schedule the next one for May 31 at 4pm ET/1pm PT. We’ll take in questions live again, but please register and let us know what’s on your mind. Looking forward to it!

Until the next biweekly-ish newsletter, I will end how I began: Donald Trump is probably going to jail, and then he’s going to lose, and then he’s going to prison, and then we’re going to party.

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Indivisible Guide

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