By Nancy Latham
It’s a ways yet before the Democratic presidential primaries start, but the candidates — and possible candidates — are talking about serious ideas. Whatever you may think of the various individuals, it’s exciting to see their bold proposals, like Medicare for All (Bernie Sanders), a wealth tax and universal childcare (Elizabeth Warren), baby bonds to close the wealth gap (Cory Booker), and spending $315 billion over the next 10 years to dramatically increase teacher salaries (Kamala Harris).
The way we see it, candidates are responding to an activist base that’s pushing for policies that truly measure up to the nation’s challenges. And Indivisible East Bay and other Indivisible groups across the country are part of that activist base. For two years we’ve been building our people power; now, as the primaries get closer, we’re determined to use that power to influence the policy debate.
Indivisible National is developing its strategy for engaging in the primary, and as step one they sent a survey to Indivisible groups nationwide on a variety of topics concerning policy issues and campaigns. We want National to know what our members think, which means we want to hear from you!
To gather input from IEB members, we began by focusing on three key questions from the survey at our March All Members Meeting:
- What issues are most important to us as we consider whom to support in the primary?
- In what ways does our group want to engage campaigns during the primary?
- What are our initial thoughts about the possibility that Indivisible National might endorse a candidate?
To tackle these questions, Governance Committee members facilitated small group discussions of 5-6 people each. The questions sparked lively conversation that lasted over an hour (and involved the liberal use of sticky notes and dot-voting). Here are the results of the three discussions:
QUESTION 1: What issues are most important to us as we consider whom to support in the primary?
Issues on the Indivisible National List (ordered by how the groups prioritized them):
- Democracy (voting rights, election security, campaign finance reform, ethics in government)
- Judicial nominations
- Civil Rights (racial justice, LGBTQ rights, gender equity, criminal justice)
- Gun violence prevention
- Abortion Access
- Financial regulation
- Tax policy
- College affordability
- Foreign policy and national security
- Transportation and infrastructure
Additional Issues Suggested in Small Groups:
- Constitutional process and reform
- Green New Deal, including transportation, infrastructure, environmental issues
- Climate change
- More resources for people being detained at our borders: better beds, meals, shelter
- Post-secondary school and job opportunity support for all (not just four-year college)
- Wealth disparity
- Online/data privacy
QUESTION 2: In what ways does our group want to engage campaigns during the primary?
Engagement Options from Indivisible National (ordered by number of votes across the three small groups):
- Ensuring the grassroots are invited to debates (11)
- Issue forums and large grassroots mobilizations (9)
- Channels of communication from national and local Indivisibles to candidates (8)
- Organizing for key statewide Democratic conventions (5)
- Candidates joining indivisible national activist calls (4) (All three groups pointed out that this is a specific example of “channels of communication”)
- Training programs for the primary process (3)
- Organizing Indivisible planning spaces or events to power map our opportunities (2)
- Bird-dogging (2)
Additional Ideas for Engagement Suggested in Small Groups:
- Candidate questionnaires
- White papers developed by local groups
- IEB media contact
- IEB partners with campaigns
QUESTION 3: What are our initial thoughts about the possibility that Indivisible National might endorse a candidate?
To address this topic, we asked people to vote on two simple poll questions.
Poll Question 1: How should Indivisible National approach the question of endorsements in the presidential primary? (Ordered by number of votes)
- Wait a few months to collect more data and see how things unfold before making any plans (12)
- Take endorsements completely off the table (2)
- Start work now on a thoughtful and careful process intended to end in an endorsement, but only if sufficient unity is found (1)
Poll Question 2: It’s still early. But at this stage, what do you think is the best path forward for endorsement?
1 = I think Indivisible National should definitely NOT endorse (2)
2 = I’m leaning against endorsement (9)
3 = I can’t decide whether they should endorse or not (2)
4 = I’m leaning toward endorsement (1)
5 = I think Indivisible National should definitely endorse (1)
Average Rating = 2.3 (which roughly equates to “leaning against”)
We want to hear from you, too! If you couldn’t make it to the All Member Meeting, it’s not too late to share your input! Here’s a link to a survey with the questions that we addressed at the March meeting. All responses submitted by the deadline of April 10 will be aggregated (along with the results of the AMM discussions) and shared as part of IEB’s survey response to Indivisible National.
And this is not the last chance we’ll have to consider how we flex our activist muscle to push for progressive policy! It’s still 19 months until the election. Stay tuned for more lively debate, and even livelier action.
Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governance Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.