In December 2016, a group of former congressional staffers published a handbook online called “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” The online publication quickly went viral and gave rise to Indivisible, a national, progressive movement, designed to motivate ordinary citizens to participate in government.
After discovering Indivisible on the internet in early January, four people from the Lower Cape formed Lower Cape Indivisible, and stunning the organizers who were expecting 15 to 20 attendees, about 150 people gathered for the first public meeting at the Brewster Ladies Library on Jan. 30. Today the group claims 850 members.
LCI is comprised of five teams: steering; action; issues identification; communications; and, voting and elections. Emerging organically, its structure is not rigid. The LCI website (www.lowercapeindivisible.com) offers this description of its mission: “While precise political affiliations and priorities vary among our members, we are united in our support for:
• Constitutional checks and balances
• Transparent, ethical government
• Freedom of the press
• Separation of church and state
• Tolerance and inclusion
• A healthy social safety net
• Responsible environmental stewardship
• An economy that works for all Americans”
Members emphatically claim LCI is not an arm of the Democratic party. Among LCI’s 850 members are Democrats, Independents, and perhaps a few Republicans lately disenchanted with the GOP and President Trump. Many of the people involved with LCI never planned to become active in politics. The extent of their civic involvement had been to show up dutifully to vote. Over the summer, Fran Schofield, co-leader of the communications team, attended a rally protesting the repeal of Obamacare at the Orleans/Eastham rotary and met an 85-year-old woman holding a placard. The woman had come from Cotuit, and it was the first protest in which she had ever participated.
Mike Schell, Chatham resident and co-leader of the issues team, gives an explanation for “progressive,” a word that is often used, along with “liberal,” to describe the Indivisible movement. He says, “It means we’re getting together and working on the problems of all the people. [We want to make] better lives for everybody, not just a select or special group.”
Mark Massoni, a resident of South Chatham and Schell’s partner in leading the steering team, sent this quotation from President Kennedy: “If by a ‘Liberal’ they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties – someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal,’ then I'm proud to say I'm a ‘Liberal.’”
LCI created a newsletter for the purpose of not only educating readers, but also activating them. One of LCI’s services is the practice of posting “Calls to Action” on their website. Among their first Calls to Action were efforts to oppose Betsy Devos’ appointment as secretary of education and to oppose Steve Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council. The first newsletter, issued in March 2017, described four bills that were headed to the House or Senate: HR370 (Repeal of the Affordable Care Act; HR38/S446 (Concealed Carry Reciprocity); HR861 (Termination of the Environmental Protection Agency); HR61 (Choices in Education). The newsletter also published contact information for members of Congress and chairs of relevant committees. For those new to lobbying members of Congress, LCI outlined talking points to help citizens communicate their views.
LCI, like the national Indivisible movement, has learned from the phenomenon of the Tea Party. In 2009, a group of fiscal conservatives organized a taxpayer march on Washington to protest bail-outs after the home mortgage crisis. The Tea Party grew out of concerns about big government and excessive taxing and spending.
One of the Tea Party’s distinguishing characteristics as a political movement was that it encouraged citizens to run for and vote for every office on the ballot— from school board officer to councilman to state assemblyman to governor. Schell explains that it is the town officers who make decisions about taxes, property, zoning, education, and other aspects that affect our lives. A priority for LCI is to get out the vote for every election and to encourage people to vote “up and down the ballot,” from school board to the White House. While continuing to educate and activate citizens on legislative matters, LCI is increasingly attending to the 2018 contests by encouraging provisions to make voting easier and by urging people to vote in all elections, even the small ones. Ensuring that all eligible people can vote is one of LCI’s goals. On Feb. 11, LCI sponsored an interactive forum on Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) at the Brewster Ladies Library. AVR, which has been approved by nine states and Washington, D.C., automatically registers a person to vote when a qualified citizen interacts in some way with the government. Getting a driver’s license, for example, would automatically put someone on the voter rolls, unless that person were to opt out.
LCI has sponsored a number of educational presentations, as well as rallies. The LCI’s Climate Change series consisted of six lectures offered at various locations in Brewster and Chatham over the course of six months. The first lecture, on Sept. 21, was titled “Climate Change Impacts on Cape Cod: What Can We Do?” The final lecture in the free series, “Climate Change Threats to Cape Cod: What Can We Do?” was held at the Chatham Community Center on Sunday, March 11.
There have also been a number of rallies under LCI’s auspices. In July, there were three, all in Chatham, to protest the repeal of Obamacare. After the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, many LCI members attended the“Stand With Charlottesville” rally in Provincetown sponsored by the Racial Justice Provincetown group. More recently, LCI has joined the nationwide movement to enact a “Rapid Response Plan” if Trump fires Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Protesters will gather at what some call “Nobody is Above the Law” rallies. If Mueller should be fired at 2 p.m. or before, protesters will gather three hours later. If he is fired after 2 p.m., protesters will gather at noon the following day. Technology, including the use of texting, Twitter, and Facebook, has made it possible for organizers to mobilize a group in a short amount of time.
Resistance is part of a long tradition on Cape Cod. In the 17th century, activists of a different kind — a dissenting branch of those who had taken their name “Protestant” from their protest of the Roman Catholic church — wanted to reform the Church of England and settled here. The peninsula has gone through transformations since that time, but its people still know how to protest for the values they hold dear.