As inauguration approaches, Essex County organizer joins movement to systematically resist Trump’s agenda
by Andaiye Taylor/January 17, 2017 Featured image by flickr user Chris Wieland
After Donald Trump won the presidential election, East Orange resident Chijike Ndukwu found himself feeling a little down. He had advised his children to watch cartoons instead of the news, and despite the fact that he’s typically politically engaged, had fallen into a bit of a post-election stupor.
Then one day while his children were off playing, Ndukwu decided to flip the television channel to MSNBC. It was there that he watched a segment on The Rachel Maddow Show about the Indivisible Guide, self-described as “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.” He had stumbled across the guide online previously, when it was still a simple Google Doc, but hadn’t given it much consideration afterwards in spite of thinking the advice offered in the guide made sense.
“I was in a slumber [after the election]. That show woke me up. I jumped on my computer and registered Indivisible Essex County that night,” he told me.
The Indivisible Guide is a document that instructs people who are against Trump’s policies on how to tactically resist them using the tools of organizing and influence to “[make] Congress listen.” Authored by a group of progressive Congressional staffers, it was inspired, in part, by the success of the Tea Party in not only resisting President Barack Obama’s agenda, but in getting candidates who they thought addressed their interests elected to municipalities, statehouses, and even to the U.S. Congress.
“[The Tea Party’s] ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism—and they won,” writes the guide’s authors, describing the Tea Party’s bid to slow down Obama’s agenda. Those who wish to thwart Trump’s agenda are more numerous and have the benefit of fighting against ignominious intentions, say the authors, and they’re vying to resist a president who lacks a popular mandate, given the fact that he suffered the largest popular vote loss in the country’s history.
This week, for example, Indivisible is encouraging its local groups to put pressure on their Representatives and Senators to boycott Friday’s presidential inauguration in response to Trump’s disparaging remarks about Georgia congressman, and civil rights icon, John Lewis. [Update: Congressman Donald Payne, Jr., who as 10th District Congressman represents Newark, announced on Tuesday, February 17th that he would boycott Trump’s swearing in.]
They’re also encouraging Indivisible supporters to ask their Senators to oppose the nominations of Trump cabinet picks Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, Tom Price for Health and Human Services, and Scott Pruitt for Environmental Protection Agency administrator. All three nominees begin their confirmation hearings this week.
“After the election, everybody has been nervous and felt that Trump was not the right kind of person for the American presidency. I realized that we can’t afford to [simply] continue to ask questions. We needed to pick up ourselves up and organize to resist Trump,” Ndukwu said.
Ndukwu wants Indivisible Essex County to be part of the solution in that regard, in large part by following the actions recommended in the guide. Their short-term goal, he said, is to mobilize as many ordinary constituents as possible to begin to form a stronger structure at the county level. The group, which he says currently has a core leadership group of five people and a membership of 20, is beginning to make contacts with the 10th district Congressional delegation, and has already been in contact with both the South Orange and state-level Indivisible organizations. (As of this writing, there isn’t currently an Indivisible organization from Newark in the group’s official registry.)
In addition to using the guide as the basis to resist Trump’s policies by exerting pressure on Congressional leaders, Ndukwu has a second goal: to use heightened political and social angst in order to raise local people’s overall political consciousness, and then leverage it to have them demand more of their local leaders, as well.
“We need to hold our Congressional delegation and our local leaders more accountable. As citizens, we have expectations for our government, but we are not getting the dividends of democracy,” he said.
“We need to not only resist Trump, but also demand good governance at the local level, and talk about our own household problems. How can we also make sure that our mayors, our councilmen—everyone that leads us—lives up to expectations?”
While the Indivisible guide doesn’t speak specifically to that second goal, he said, he thinks the current moment is an opportunity to maximize political outcomes while people are galvanized and paying attention.
Ndukwu said the need for this type of action came to light for him when he was working telephone banks on behalf of Hillary Clinton during the democratic primaries. “Most of the people [I called] were very old people. And they count, but every generation must count if we’re going to have progress. If the young people are not politically conscious, where is our society going?”
He thinks one of the keys to getting younger people on board is to show them how to take practical political action that can actually effect change, which is the precise objective of the Indivisible movement.
Ndukwu is calling on local people who want to take action to follow Indivisible Essex County on Facebook and Twitter, and also to attend political action events when the group begins to announce them. He wants to organize as many ordinary constituents as possible to begin to form a strong structure at the county level, and to connect with neighborhood, ward and city-level Indivisible organizations in the county.
“The strongest position in the democracy is the position of citizen,” he said, paraphrasing Barack Obama. “If we don’t go out to make the decisions, then [only] a few people will always win.”
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Andaiye is a Newark native, Newark resident, and the show runner at BrickCityLive.com. Andaiye holds a master's degree from Columbia Journalism School and was a fellow in the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY. She was the 2012 recipient of the Erik Lars-Nelson prize for excellence in reporting and writing. In addition to running Brick City, Andaiye is also head of content for Clover. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter @andaiye.
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