The Unrepresentative 18
By Ezra Levin, Indivisible co-founder
It’s Launch Day here at Indivisible, and I couldn’t be more excited to bring you in on our plans to defeat the MAGA Majority and retake the House in 2024. You may have already heard me share the news last night on Rachel Maddow, but today, we are officially launching The Unrepresentatives — our plan to take on the 18 most vulnerable Republican representatives by exposing their extremism, holding them accountable and defeating them.
For a succinct version of our campaign, watch Rachel, then visit our new campaign site unrepresentative18.org and if you’re able, chip in to help support the work. But if you want to get into the nuts and bolts, read on!
Meet the 18
Marjorie Taylor Greene and similar MAGAs grab much of the press. Most of the national media attention these days focuses on those right-wing wackadoodles like Marjorie Taylor Greene. Fox News and other GOP propaganda operations are full of politicians like Greene from safely gerrymandered Republican districts trying to out-MAGA each other. The national media eats it up because these people are ridiculous, must-watch TV! If you read an article or see a broadcast of a congressional Republican spouting an outlandish quote on the issue of the day, nine times out of ten, it’s gonna be from one of these safe district MAGAs.
Meanwhile, the actual majority-makers of the MAGA House hide from the headlines.
While Greene’s rants to Tucker Carlson give us a sense of the dystopian clown show driving Kevin McCarthy’s majority, that’s not the whole story. The members who are actually propping up the GOP House majority are hiding behind the curtain — politically scared, maybe a little nauseous, desperately avoiding attention, and just as responsible for the mess we’re in as are the MTGs of the world.
To understand this, you really just need simple math. There are not enough Marjorie Taylor Greenes from safe GOP districts to produce a House majority. Kevin McCarthy’s speakership is built on a small but significant number of Republicans representing Democratic-leaning districts. We can put a precise number on that — we call them the Unrepresentative 18.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is a dangerous but entertaining headline-chasing bozo. But it’s these Unrepresentative 18 who give her the power to actually endanger our democracy, menace our economy, and threaten our freedoms. After all, on average, they vote with her 95% of the time. 95%!
To get reelected, the Unrepresentative 18 have to keep their own constituents in the dark. These 18 Unrepresentatives are spread across eight geographically, demographically, and politically diverse states, but they all share one basic political reality: Biden won their districts in 2020. Each of these Republicans is running for reelection in a district heavily favored to vote Democratic next year. And each of them shares the same three-step strategy for reelection:
- Raise a ton of money from right-wing donors
- Vote the way these donors want (otherwise you don’t get the money, silly!)
- Fool their constituents into believing that they have nothing to do with extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene
Here’s a fun challenge for you: look through the list of the Unrepresentative 18 and without Googling tell me if you recognize more than one. I bet you’ve heard of George Santos — he’s all over the news for his ridiculously corrupt shenanigans — click, watch, retweet (I know I have!). But the rest of the 18 are not household names. Few Americans have ever even heard of them. And that’s by design.
Yes, these members side with Marjorie Taylor Greene on almost every vote. But they don’t advertise that fact. They don’t go on Fox News to embrace a national default or a federal abortion ban, or to spout pro-Putin talking points. They keep a low profile. They raise a boatload of money. And they try to distance themselves — in style and presentation, if not with their votes — from Marjorie Taylor Greene and her virulently MAGA buddies. You probably haven’t heard of them because they don’t want you to hear about them.
Our Strategy: A Case Study from NY-17
One of the men behind the curtain: the Unrepresentative Mike Lawler (NY-17). Let’s pluck one example out from the 18 — New York’s 17th congressional district, just north of New York City. It’s a district that’s been represented by Democrats for about 40 years. Biden won it, Hillary Clinton won it, Obama won it twice, Kerry won it, Gore won it, Bill Clinton won it twice. It’s not a “swing” district by most definitions.
But in 2022, a Republican won the district by the skin of his teeth — a Republican by the name of Mike Lawler. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Mike Lawler? Of course you haven’t! He doesn’t want you to know his name, because Lawler isn’t a complete idiot. He knows he has to run for reelection next year in a district Biden won by more than 10 points. He knows he’s got only one path for political survival: to lay low, raise a ton of money from right-wing donors, vote the way those donors want, and then do his damndest to convince his constituents to ignore his voting record.
Lawler, like the rest of the 18 Unrepresentatives, has to build his reelection strategy around keeping his constituents in the dark, hiding the fact that his votes directly empower MAGA extremists to do terrible, unpopular things.
Defeat the dark with some light: a case study in effective, local, public pressure. So how do we cure Congress of these ills? Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And we saw a real world example of that just this past weekend.
This past Saturday, Speaker McCarthy flew into New York 17th for a big fundraiser. Lawler joined him. This was not a public event — Lawler was just trying to raise a lot of money behind closed doors. But rather than a quiet fundraiser that escaped any public attention, Lawler had some unwelcome visitors: his own damn constituents. Indivisible members from Rockland United, Indivisible YorktownNY, Indivisible Westchester joined together with some stellar organizers from NY Working Families Party. They brought signs asking Lawler to not default on the debt, and to not cut Social Security or Medicare. It was a simple, effective message — so much so that it made the local news: Potential cuts to government spending draws protesters to Armonk fundraiser.
As a result of the work and their press coverage, more of Lawler’s constituents know that he’s buddying up with Kevin McCarthy for high-dollar fundraisers with right-wing donors. It was so bad for him that Lawler had to release a statement saying he would refuse to vote for cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Score one for team constituent pressure.
Rinse and repeat to limit MAGA damage and rebuild the Democratic trifecta. This is exactly the kind of local attention that the 18 Unrepresentatives want to avoid. They don’t want to be held accountable for empowering MAGA. But if we’re going to limit the harm done by Kevin McCarthy’s House and ultimately retake control of Congress, that’s exactly what we have to do: shine a light on what they want to keep in the dark. That means asking the tough questions at the right time to the right people.
- Will the United States go into default this summer? Ask the 18 Unrepresentatives.
- Will the federal government shut down this fall? Ask the 18 Unrepresentatives.
- Will the House pass a national abortion ban? Ask the 18 Unrepresentatives.
- Will Congress cut Social Security or Medicare? Ask the 18 Unrepresentatives.
Ready to join us?
This won’t happen unless we make it happen — and everybody can help. We can’t just hope these questions are asked, we have to actively do the work. For our part, Indivisible launched the Unrepresentative 18 to make sure these questions get asked loudly, repeatedly, and authentically by the folks who have the most ability to impact things: the constituents in these districts. We’ll be working with local Indivisible groups to bring a little bit of light to the darkness that MAGA would like to spread in these districts.
So if you’re in one of these 18 Unrepresentative districts, time to get busy! And if you’re not in one of these districts but want to help, it’s still time to get busy. Huge thanks to all of you who have already chipped in — since last night’s announcement, we’ve received a swell of support from hundreds of donors around the country.
This is one of Indivisible’s top campaigns for the next two years, and we’re going to need all the help we can get to hold these Unrepresentatives accountable. So if you have the capacity to chip in and help launch this campaign, please give what you can. Let’s shine some light in the dark together.