Indivisible founders anticipate ‘a lot of good surprises’ in November’s midterms | US news

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If Democrats take back the House, Senate or both in the 2018 midterm elections, it will have been with the help of Indivisible, a leading resistance movement organization that was formed after the 2016 election by husband and wife Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg.

On the sidelines of the annual Progressive Caucus Center Strategy Summit in Baltimore, Levin sat down with the Guardian to talk about student activism, the midterms and why contentious primaries are not a bad thing.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.)

The Guardian: Progressives are pretty excited ahead of 2018, especially after the Democratic primaries in Texas. What was your takeaway?

Ezra Levin: What we saw in Texas is what we’re seeing across the country in all of the special elections that have occurred so far: folks are jazzed up.

When we started, we got a lot of questions like, “You’re advocating; you’re doing town halls; you’re calling members of Congress; you’re holding die-ins, but can you actually electoralize this? Can you actually win elections?” I think that question has been answered pretty definitively, again and again and again, in Alabama, in Virginia.

The story is that a lot of folks who were never really involved in politics before are suddenly getting involved, and that changes the game because politics is a participatory support so suddenly when you have more people participating you get different outcomes.

Guardian: Democratic primaries are crowded and, in some races, contentious. What is Indivisible’s strategy?

Levin: Indivisible national is a network of 6,000 groups. At the national level, we will try to coordinate and support that network. But we won’t, for example, go into Houston or Austin and say: “This is the Indivisible candidate and you’ve got to get behind them.” What we will do is say: “Tell us who you are behind and we’ll try to elevate them. We’ll try to help you push them forward.” Philosophically, we don’t want national [organizations] coming in and telling us what we should do with our vote. We want control over it.

That dynamic of local control is really important. That means trusting your local groups and organizations on the ground and allowing them to choose the direction of that primary. And can be challenging for existing power structures. I really do hope the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the rest of the infrastructure are learning that we should defer to the judgement of local groups. That’s where we’ll have the most success.

After the primary, we think that it is incredibly important that progressives get behind whoever wins. Virginia was a model of that. Not everyone was aligned over who should win the gubernatorial primary but once there was a winner, everybody got behind him. We think that should happen everywhere.

Guardian: How does student activism over gun control fit into the resistance movement and can activists channel that energy into the midterms?

Levin: What you’re seeing is high school students awakened to the power that they have. And seeing students stand up for their own values really engages our network. They are so jazzed about finding ways to support these students so that it’s not just one march, or one action, but something that can achieve the change that they want to see.

Guardian: Congress failed to enact protections for Dreamers by the 5 March deadline. What do you see as the next real opportunity to push for immigration reform?

Levin: There have been a series of opportunities to apply pressure, legislatively. Debt ceiling. Disaster relief. CR, the short-term budget. As we move forward into an election year, then there’s the opportunity to apply pressure through the electoral system and to ask candidates: Will you vote against a budget that fails to include a clean Dream Act? Will you vote if elected against funding a mass deportation force and continuing to carry out a fascist agenda?

Guardian: Which races are you watching as we head into the 2018 midterms?

Levin: The thing I’m most excited about is more unexpected victories like we experienced in 2017. More Alabamas. More rural Virginias. The reason why we think that’s possible is not just because there’s energy out there but because we’re actually contesting. We’re running candidates in these places and I think there are going to be a lot of surprises come November – a lot of good surprises.

What we’re reading

  • This year’s International Women’s Day came five months after the first revelations about Harvey Weinstein. The resultant #TimesUp/#MeToo movement has finally “brought recognition that each act of gender violence is part of an epidemic”, writes Rebecca Solnit in the Guardian. But this new movement did not just spring out of nowhere, Solnit says: “It is a revolt for which we have been preparing for decades”. The Guardian live-blogged International Women’s Day across three continents.

London rally for International Women's Day



Rallies took place around the world for International Women’s Day. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Images
  • “Senate Republicans spent the end of Barack Obama’s term running out the clock on his picks for federal judges,” writes Kate Harloe at Mother Jones. “So when Donald Trump took office, he faced a nearly unprecedented number of vacant judgeships.” Trump has used that opportunity to nominate 69 judges – “more than any president since Reagan”, Harloe writes – and 71% of those are white men.



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