Marci Bandelli and Lillian Duggan waited just five days after Hillary Clinton's shocking 2016 loss to start marshaling against Donald Trump's agenda. Bandelli and Duggan live in New Jersey's quiet suburbs — their kids attended the same elementary school, and before the election the two women weren't particularly close. But when Duggan shared with her grief-stricken neighbors a secret Facebook page dedicated to fighting the new administration's draconian policies, Bandelli became an immediate partner. Fast forward to today (nearly a year since that world-altering night), and their grassroots organization, Westfield 20/20, already has notched several significant victories in the battle against the GOP's punitive legislative initiatives.
Dedicated to empowering constituents to defeat Trump allies across the GOP, Westfield 20/20 has become a unflagging force at street-side protests and rallies. The scrappy organization identified an obvious early opponent — Representative Leonard Lance of New Jersey's 7th district, a tenacious supporter of the new President. But like many GOP lawmakers, Lance faced enormous pushback at town halls from voters outraged by the unpopular American Health Care Act — the first of Paul Ryan's failed attempts to wrench coverage away from an estimated 23 million Americans. Buckling under the pressure from groups like Westfield 20/20, Lance ultimately voted against the bill, helping to stall Republican efforts to rewrite healthcare policy, at least for now.
If Westfield 20/20's coordinated network of protests looks familiar, it's no surprise. Organizations agitating against the Trump agenda have pulled their battle plans from an unlikely source, modeling resistance strategies on the Tea Party's fiercely effective playbook. "The Tea Party had a few core insights," says Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of Indivisible, another group dedicated to fighting conservative legislation wherever possible. "They organized locally in order to put pressure on their own elected representatives — they knew how to focus on very specific issues moving through Congress. It's not just that they understood that they had leverage as voters. The Tea Party also knew it had leverage as a constituency."
Indivisible is committed to providing Trump dissidents with tools that make forming an activist movement like Westfield 20/20 even easier. To that end, they've created a grassroots guide, which breaks down all the ways the Tea Party built a broad-reaching community devoted to opposing President Obama's policies — one with the power to make their opposition a clear electoral threat to members of Congress (you can check the guide out here).
Famously, the Tea Party didn't bother advocating for an alternative agenda — they simply (and very loudly) said "no" to every initiative proposed by the Obama administration. It's a brutally practical tactic that emphasizes, above all, a politician's ultimate accountability to the people who put them in office. "By scrutinizing everything your representative does," Greenberg explains, "you can change what they think is politically possible."
And if the implosion of the healthcare repeal looks small in the shadow of the many costly fights still to come under the Trump administration, Greenberg is quick to point to the wider implications a win like that can have on the GOP's fledging legislative calendar. "We measure our impact in terms of the legislation that isn't passed. Activists stressed the unpopularity of the bill, highlighting all the damage it would do to ordinary Americans. And because we delayed the GOP in passing healthcare, they're also delayed in tax reform."
Even as Republicans unveil their proposals for sweeping tax reform, to date they can't count a single legislative accomplishment to tout heading into 2018's critical midterms — an unprecedented failure for a party controlling both the White House and the Congress. And as Americans head to the polls for 2017's off-year election, Indivisible is working to turn critical gubernatorial races, including the race inVirginia.
Press play above to see America Uprising's feature on the brave women of Westfield 20/20 and to learn more about how Indivisible is continuing to create progressive momentum for tomorrow's special elections and next year's midterms.
There is a unprecedented wave of social protest across the United States. DIVIDED FILMS is partnering with Refinery 29 on AMERICA UPRISING, a journalistic documentary project tells stories of protest organization through first-person perspectives. It examines the tactics they are using, the policies they are protesting, and the policymakers they are resisting.