Indivisible Oregon is an activist group that coalesced after the 2016 election to resist the Trump agenda. Much of the group's focus is on getting out the vote to elect Democratic candidates by knocking on doors to talk to voters and prospective voters about candidates and issues, phone banking, and writing letters in collaboration with Vote Forward. Indivisible was also involved with some peaceful protests and demonstrations back in the days before pandemic.
rally in support of the Mueller investigation, Portland Waterfront Park Nov. 2018
I became acquainted with the group and began attending Indivisible Tuesday meetings early in 2017. These were informal affairs, held on the first Tuesday of each month with Portland staff for Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Earl Blumenauer in the courtyard at 911 NE 11th Avenue, third Tuesday with Senator Jeff Merkley's staff in the courtyard at the World Trade Center downtown. Comrades would begin drifting in around 11:30 to meet and chat informally, renew old acquaintances and strike up new ones, followed by introductions of people affiliated with other activist groups and announcements. The Tuesday call squad whipped out cell phones to call congressional staff to advocate for policies they support. Around noon staff came down to take in a recitation of the day's talking points, offer a response, fill us in on the senator or congressman's current priorities, take questions, and on occasion listen patiently to an impassioned rant.
Indivisible Tuesday went Zoom when the pandemic struck in March 2020. This brought the perhaps unanticipated benefit of opening up the meetings to participants in other parts of the state. My attendance, however, waned after the first few Zooms. The virtual format mirrored but did not quite reproduce the in-person gatherings. Interaction and exchange became more structured, with participants divided into smaller groups on the Zoom screen and instructed to talk about themselves in what took on the flavor of a team-building exercise, something I was delighted to put behind me when I retired from gainful employment. My antipathy to team-building exercises is irrational and overblown. I make no bones about that. Nonetheless, I find them contrived, almost always uncomfortable, and of questionable efficacy. Maybe a checkup from the neck up would provide insight into the psycho-pathologies behind this, but it hardly seems worth the effort at this point.
Apparently I am not the only person who missed hanging out together in the courtyards, which even in inclement weather, maybe especially in inclement weather, fostered camaraderie and connection more readily than the Zooms did. One of my Indivisible pals is Scott, a quite, unassuming fellow who paid no attention to politics until six years ago. He soon became a selfless, tireless volunteer. Scott contacted me last summer to touch base and tell me about Vote Forward letter packet pickups at Migration Brewing on NE Glisan, where we used to meet for letter-writing sessions. He also informed me that Indivisible Tuesday would crank up in person again on a trial basis with Wyden and Blumenauer staff on the first Tuesday of September, October, and November. I also got a call from Janine, an indefatigable volunteer who invariably introduced herself to newcomers and made them feel welcome. She too had thought of me and wanted to check in. These days Janine is knocking on doors to solicit support for Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Democratic candidate in Oregon's 5th congressional district.
I missed the September 6 meeting because of a previously scheduled engagement with my dentist. Scott reported that about thirty people attended, which seemed pretty good all things considered. This past Tuesday I counted twenty-eight at one point. A few more may have drifted in after that. Some familiar faces from the old days were on hand, but Scott was the only person with whom I had a personal connection. A number of comrades who had been movers and shakers from the beginning were absent. I wondered if they had moved on or simply could not make it.
The meeting fell into a familiar routine. Comrades affiliated with other activist groups were invited to introduce themselves. I picked up a packet of Vote Forward letters and envelopes, which saves wear and tear on my printer. The Tuesday call squad reached for their cell phones and called Senator Merkley's office to riff on talking points that focused on wealth disparities, child hunger and poverty, and stark differences between Democrats and Republicans on these issues. They urged the senator to do all that he can during the lame duck session to reinstate the child tax credit, raise the minimum wage, and make school lunches free for all students. Radical stuff.
Indivisible Tuesday October 4, 2022
These are people MAGA Republicans characterize as socialist, Marxist liberals, maybe even antifa. A menacing bunch of rabble rousers, n'est-ce pas? For my part I still think of myself as a man of the left, although I suspect that in some quarters I would be considered little better than a damn centrist or filthy moderate.
Senator Ron Wyden addresses Indivisible Oregon activists
Campaign season is in full swing, so Senator Wyden is in Oregon instead of Washington DC. It was a bit past noon when he escaped his office and made it out to deliver informal remarks touting this year's legislative accomplishments, capped by the Inflation Reduction Act, with provisions that represent the most aggressive action Congress has ever taken to address climate change. No, it is not enough, but it is more than has ever been done before. That merits modest celebration before getting back to work to build on what has been done.
Wyden kept his remarks brief before taking questions. An earnest and obviously quite engaged man asked about the senator's position on proposals to breach four dams in Washington's Lower Snake River Basin to promote recovery of salmon and other fish species. Wyden voiced support for the goal of salmon recovery while stressing the
the need for collaboration with all interested parties. This may not have completely satisfied the man posing the question.
Breach of Lower Snake River dams will aid recovery of native fish, new study says, Oregon State University Newsroom, July 26, 2022
Lower Snake River Dams Benefit Replacement Report: Final Report and Recommendations from Senator Murray and Governor Inslee
Wyden, Merkley statement on Senator Murray and Governor Inslee establishing a joint federal-state process on Snake River salmon recovery, October 22, 2021
A woman with a cane raised another thorny issue with a question about homelessness in Portland. Wyden addressed this with the customary generalities about affordable housing, care for people with mental health and substance abuse issues, and so on. All well and good, true enough, but these programs will not have an impact for some time even if funded and implemented tomorrow, and public officials appear reluctant to step into the minefield around what might be done in the interim to alleviate problems associated with homelessness. Unfortunately, the questioner was across the courtyard from where I stood. She was barely audible and Wyden, with his back to me, was not diligent about speaking into the microphone, so I missed some of the exchange. It is possible he added something more substantive and interesting that escaped me.
While Indivisible Oregon's hardened activist cadres are working to preserve our imperfect republic and liberal democracy, a majority of Republican nominees for congressional and key statewide offices this November "have denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election, according to a Washington Post analysis" (Amy Gardner, A majority of GOP nominees—299 in all—deny the 2020 election results, Washington Post, October 6, 2022).
Post columnist Dana Milbank profiled some of these candidates. A few examples suffice to give an idea of the best and the brightest MAGA Republicans have to offer:
J.R. Majewski, the Trump-backed lawn painter from Ohio…wants to "abolish all unconstitutional three letter agencies," including the CIA. He has said he’s willing to fight a civil war, and he made a campaign video in which he carried a rifle and said he would "do whatever it takes" to "bring this country back to its former glory."
In North Carolina, Sandy Smith is folding into her plans for the country the domestic-abuse allegations against her: "I never ran over anyone with a car and I never hit anyone in the head with a frying pan…I am bringing a frying pan to DC, though," she tweeted in May…Smith also wants "executions" of those who, she falsely claims, stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump.
Karoline Leavitt, a nominee in New Hampshire, claims that "the alleged ‘existential threat of climate change' is a manufactured crisis by the Democrat Party." In Virginia, nominee Yesli Vega argued that it was less likely for a rape victim to become pregnant because "it’s not something that’s happening organically." Also in Virginia, nominee Hung Cao asserted that more "people get bludgeoned to death and stabbed to death than they get shot," which is wrong by an order of magnitude. (Think you already know crazy? Meet the House GOP Class of ’22, Washington Post, October 7, 2022)
The discerning reader will notice that this is an impressive roster even without mention of more celebrated dingbats like Dr. Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Kari Lake in Arizona, and that noted exemplar of family values Herschel Walker, on whose behalf the party stands united: Character does not matter. As former Oakland/LA, now Las Vegas, Raiders owner Al Davis used to say, just win, baby. Some of these blockheads will win. The million crypto question is how many.
The Supreme Court will hear what J. Michael Luttig asserts is the most important case for American democracy in the almost two and a half centuries since America’s founding. The Court's decision in Moore v. Harper
will finally resolve whether there is a doctrine of constitutional interpretation known as the “independent state legislature.” If the Court concludes that there is such a doctrine, it would confer on state legislatures plenary, exclusive, and judicially unreviewable power both to redraw congressional districts for federal elections and to appoint state electors who quadrennially cast the votes for president and vice president on behalf of the voters of the states. It would mean that the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts by state legislatures would not be reviewable by the state courts—including the states’ highest court—under their state constitutions. (J. Michael Luttig, There Is Absolutely Nothing to Support the ‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory, The Atlantic, October 3, 2022)
Luttig demolishes the proposition in his article. The determination that matters is in the hands of a Supreme Court whose members are not partisan hacks. We have Justice Amy Coney Barrett's word for that.
Elsewhere, the MAGA Republican Party is recruiting poll workers using "politically charged language, calling on followers to 'join the fight,' 'combat Democrats' and 'SAVE AMERICA!'" (Lucien Bruggeman, 'Join the fight': Some GOP poll worker recruitment takes partisan bent, ABC News, January 28, 2022; see also Sam Levine, Republican push to recruit election deniers as poll workers causes alarm, The Guardian, June 30, 2022). This sounds like a recipe for disruption and chaos. After the election we can look forward to a deluge of lawsuits by nimrods who will not accept that they lost.
In this light our efforts seem woefully inadequate, but as my old French teacher Marie Laure used to say, so whacha gon' do? Stand up. Speak up. Speak out. Vote. To the barricades! I have some letters to write. And after that, maybe poems. As the Greek poet Alexandros Panagoulis said, politics is a duty, poetry is a need.
We will have a better idea about where we stand after November 8.