Indivisible and The Year of Donald’s Defeat
Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin
Tl;dr summary: Now that we’ve kicked off the Year of Donald’s Defeat, we’re writing about the presidential primary, the Indivisible Scorecard (spoiler alert: Warren leads the pack), and how we’re seeing the Indivisible movement engage with both.
In the 2016 primary, the two of us supported different candidates — Hillary and Bernie. Yes, we had a few arguments. Yes, we stayed married. Yes, after the primary was over, we both knocked on doors for Hillary in the general election. And of course, we were both devastated when Trump won.
We’re writing now because once again, we’re in the middle of another heated primary. But today we’re not just talking amongst ourselves — we’re speaking to a nationwide Indivisible movement that’s spent three years building progressive power in the Trump era. How do we confront yet another contentious primary contest, where the very future of American democracy is at stake? Well, read on.
It’s been a long three years since we put the Indivisible guide to resisting Trump online. Together, we’ve fought to save the Affordable Care Act, to stand in solidarity with Dreamers and immigrants under attack, to build the Blue Wave, and to demand that Congress do its job and impeach Donald Trump. And now, finally, 2020 has rolled around. And it’s time to throw Donald Trump out of office, retake the Senate, and save democracy.
We engage in this task fully aware that our problems didn’t start with Trump. Trump is a symptom, not the cause of what ails America. A healthy democracy, one that values the lives and voices of all its people, would have rejected Trump the same way that a healthy body rejects a virus. That didn’t happen in 2016. And that’s why it’s not enough just to beat Donald Trump in 2020. We have to beat him — and then we have to fix our democracy. We personally believe this (we wrote a whole book about it!), and we know Indivisibles do too — democracy reform is the top priority when we poll the movement.
That brings us to this primary — why we’re engaging in it, and why we’re asking everyone in Indivisible to get into the arena for the candidate of your choice.
Indivisible has been engaging in the 2020 election with two guiding principles in mind:
First, we have to beat Donald Trump (and his enablers in the Senate, House, and state governments). This is a do-or-die moment for our democracy. Regardless of what happens in the primary, no one’s taking their ball and going home in 2020. We will work our butts off to support whichever candidate wins the nomination.
That’s why we launched the Indivisible Pledge last year — to get this commitment from Democratic Presidential candidates and grassroots activists. It’s an agreement to unite behind the nominee and to do everything possible to elect that nominee president. We’re proud to report that all major presidential candidates have signed the pledge, and Indivisible groups across the country have as well.
Second, we need a nominee committed to saving democracy. If we’re going to deliver on the kind of policy that actually changes peoples’ lives, we need a candidate who’s committed to grassroots power, to progressive policies, and to a bold agenda to fix our democracy.
At the suggestion of Indivisible movement leaders, we put out the Indivisible Scorecard. We spent months engaging with the candidates, urging them to complete an 80+ question questionnaire, and inviting them for live interviews to go deeper. The whole point of this process was to expose the candidates to the Indivisible movement, and give the movement more information about the candidates.
The Scorecard is not an Indivisible movement endorsement, and we won’t be making one before the Iowa caucus. As we have said repeatedly for the last several months: no national Indivisible endorsement is possible until and unless Indivisible groups support it. We’ve heard from Indivisible leaders that the field is too crowded and their groups are too divided. We respect that, and we won’t be holding a vote for a movement-wide endorsement unless and until Indivisible groups start sharing strong support for it.
The Scorecard is a tool for the Indivisible movement, requested by the Indivisible movement, and shaped by input from the Indivisible movement. It’s also dynamic: when candidates make new commitments (or walk them back), we adjust their scores. That said, we’ve been open with each candidate about where they could improve their score, and given each of them an opportunity to do so, and at this point — after months of engaging with them — it’s very unlikely that the differences between the candidates change in a substantial way.
From those months of engaging the candidates, from analyzing their policy plans to interviewing them face to face, one simple fact stood out: Elizabeth Warren is the most aligned with Indivisible’s national priorities. Warren is not the only candidate with a strong democracy reform focus, or an incredible grassroots movement, or progressive policy platform. But she is the only candidate who combines all three of these qualities.
Warren’s running a campaign focused on big democratic reforms and on attacking corruption — which lines up closely with Indivisible’s own focus on saving democracy. She’s been actively working to build grassroots power by being accountable to activists and the grassroots and working to support down-ballot and progressive candidates. And she has a progressive policy platform, with big, inspiring ideas like the wealth tax.
For us personally, the results of the Scorecard lined up with our own experiences of Senator Warren over the last few years. She reached out early and worked with us and many of the local Indivisible groups in Massachusetts to resist Trump. She’s fought to protect the Affordable Care Act, taken on her own party to try and protect Dodd-Frank against Trump’s attacks, stood strong in the fight for Dreamers, and led on impeachment.
This isn’t a surprising result, and we’re not breaking news to Indivisibles: over the past 6 months we’ve done several surveys of Indivisibles about who they prefer wins the primary, and Warren has polled at the top in every single one. She’s also consistently received the highest favorability ratings of any candidate from Indivisibles, and she is consistently the 2nd choice for Indivisible members who support someone else. In short, Warren is in a particularly strong position to unify the movement to defeat Trump in November.
But, again, the Scorecard is a tool, not an endorsement. You may be an Indivisible member reading this who disagrees with all this praise for Warren. Maybe, like us, you think Bernie has particularly strong immigration positions. Maybe other top policy priorities or candidate characteristics are the deciding factors for you that dictate who your top choice is. That’s great — it’s up to Indivisible leaders and members to weigh the evidence and come to their own decision. We hope the Scorecard helps you assess where some of the candidates fall short, and we’ll be asking Indivisibles to ask candidates tough questions and hold them accountable.
With the national polling as close as it is right now, it’s reasonably likely that any one of the top candidates could become our nominee. That means it’s up to each of us to ensure that we end up with the nominee we think is ready to beat Trump and save democracy.
So, what does that mean for Indivisible organizationally? It’s now clear where the candidates fall on Indivisibles’ priorities, and many Indivisibles across the country are campaigning to help their favorite win. Our national team will be engaging with Indivisibles in key primary states about who they’re supporting and how they can drive Indivisible priorities forward in the primary.
One of us (Ezra) is going to Iowa this weekend to meet with Indivisible group leaders and discuss what they’re seeing from the candidates and what we’ve learned from the Scorecard process. We’ll be lifting up the positions and actions that make Warren the top scorer, while holding low-scoring candidates accountable where they fall short. We’ll also be promoting the Scorecard and highlighting the differences between candidates.
It’s during contentious debates like this that we think of the quote: “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Primaries are contentious because we all care. And we care because it matters. The pull, push, and struggle through this primary is worth it because it matters. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the overall goal. In less than a year, a new Democratic President will be preparing to give their inaugural address to a new Democratic Congress. That’s where we’re headed together. Because together we’re stronger than anything they can throw our way. Together, we will win.
Ezra and Leah
Co-Founders of Indivisible