Indivisible Goes to Washington

Last week I had the opportunity to go to Washington with about 40 other Indivisible leaders from across the country. It was a wonderful chance to meet some of the folks I’ve gotten to know virtually over the last year-and-a-half, while also connecting with some of the Indivisible national staff.

Indivisible leaders from California to Maine and points in between gathered in D.C.
Indivisible leaders from California to Maine and points in between gathered in D.C. Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth/Indivisible Illinois

We had a nice meetup followed by dinner, as we prepared to attend the We the People Summit the next day along with about 1,000 people from the labor movement, as well as allies such as Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, United We Dream, and many more. We also ran into some of our Austin friends from Workers Defense Project!

Progressive activists joined Communications Workers of America at the We The People 2018 Summit.
Progressive activists joined Communications Workers of America at the We The People 2018 Summit. Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth/Indivisible Illinois

The summit was actually a forum with a number of Democratic members of Congress (some of whom are likely 2020 candidates). Here’s a video recap from MSN, along with other analysts discussing the 2020 field. We heard from:

Sen. Cory Booker
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Kamala Harris
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Rep. Pramila Jayapal
Rep. Luis Gutierrez

Each member gave a brief speech, and then took 2-4 questions, depending on available time. Vox has a pretty good recap of each speaker. The topics they covered were broad, but had common themes: an economy that isn’t working for many Americans, worsened by the massive tax scam; immigration policies and zero-tolerance crackdowns that are tearing families apart; racial bias in the criminal justice system and mass incarceration; uncontrolled drug prices; corruption as the basic mode of operation of the White House.

Senator Kamala Harris of California addresses the crowd at the We the People Summit.
Senator Kamala Harris of California addresses the crowd at the We the People Summit. Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth/Indivisible Illinois

Indivisible member Ricky Silver from New York asked Sen. Gillibrand whether she’d support a tax on every Wall Street transaction. The senator has been challenged on her cozy relationship with Wall Street, and apparently she was not expected to answer the question directly. To everyone’s happy surprise, she not only directly answered the question, but for the first time said on the record that she’d support the transactions tax as a means of reigning in income inequality.

After the forum concluded, we went a short distance to D.C.’s Freedom Plaza where Rep. Jayapal and Rep. John Lewis, among others, and about 200 activists gathered for a rally and march to the D.C. office of Customs and Border Protection. Several members of Congress as well as about a dozen activists then started a sit-on on the steps of the office and prepared to be arrested. Unfortunately I had to leave early, but reports from the field told me no one was arrested. (Facebook video from Workers Defense Project)

L: Members of Congress lead the Families Belong Together rally and march to Customs and Border Patrol; M: Marchers headed to Customs and Border Patrol office in D.C.; R: Families belong together rally outside Customs and Border Patrol office in D.C.
L: Members of Congress lead the Families Belong Together rally and march to Customs and Border Patrol; M: Marchers headed to Customs and Border Patrol office in D.C.; R: Families belong together rally outside Customs and Border Patrol office in D.C. Photo credit Lisa Goodgame/Indivisible Austin

I met up with a friend for dinner. We knew each other when I worked as a foreign service officer, and this person continues to work for the State Department. My friend flagged a story in Foreign Policy about the deconstruction of the administrative state happening within the State Department, illustrated by a newish appointee who has been compiling an “enemies list” and working to destroy the U.S. relationship with international organizations like the United Nations and WHO, among others. As bad as you think it might be, it’s worse. The brain drain and diplomatic talent leaving the State Department (voluntarily or being forced out) is something we won’t recover from for a long time.

The food was good, the company enjoyable, but I left with a troubled feeling of unease.

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