Meet the badass citizens lobbying red-state Congress members to oppose Trump.

"Our first goal is to know what we’re talking about."

Scott Shaffer is determined to stop Donald Trump. He's already got some key allies, even in deep-red Texas, where he lives. But he's adamant about not putting the cart before the horse.

Downtown La Grange, Texas. Photo by Tap Houston/Flickr.


Right now, Shaffer's band of rebels includes just four people: himself, his wife, and two friends. Still, the La Grange, Texas, native has big plans to expand the group. He wants to appoint a sentry to spot congressional bills the second they're filed, analysts who will read them obsessively, and communications specialists who will craft messaging in support or opposition. To acquire the manpower, he's visiting local churches and meeting with political leaders to recruit more volunteers.

"I’m not incensed anymore. I’m focused like a frickin’ laser. It’s past time to be incensed," he says.

Since Nov. 8, more than 4,500 independent political action groups have established themselves across the United States under the banner of the "Indivisible" movement.

The groups' playbook is the Indivisible Guide, written by four former congressional staffers, which instructs aspiring local organizers on how to use tactics originally deployed by the Tea Party to oppose the Trump administration's agenda.

"We think it's critical to have these groups in red and blue districts alike," says Sarah Dohl, an Indivisible board member. "While it's critical to weaken Republicans' resolve on Trump's dangerous agenda, it's just as critical to stiffen Democrats' spines and encourage them to be bold in their opposition."

The guide's authors established a central organization to act as a resource clearinghouse for the individual groups that operate independently — many in cities, towns, and districts where Republicans have historically been dominant.

"I’m not very eager to see our young men and women sent off into another foreign war," explains Carl Genthner, who runs an Indivisible Group in Arizona.

Genthner, an Air Force veteran and retired defense contractor, runs an Indivisible group in Arizona's 2nd congressional district, currently represented by Republican Rep. Martha McSally. At present, his team boasts about 40 members, mostly residents of the over-55 community where Genthner lives.

"We’re trying to diversify geographically, demographically. And we are nonpartisan. I have a couple of Republicans in my group," he says.

Genthner's group has participated in several rallies in Tucson and has been making calls to legislators like McSally — who edged out a victory in 2014 — to make it difficult for her to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pressure her to distance herself from Trump.

Rep. Martha McSally and state Speaker of the House Andy Tobin. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

"She knows that this is not a solid Republican district. She has to be moderate. And she’s trying to avoid any confrontation. She’s trying to avoid holding any town halls. And we can’t let her get away with that," Genthner says.

Laura Rushton and Amy Burns, colleagues on the Richland County, Ohio, Democratic Women's Caucus, say they are encouraged by the new energy the Indivisible movement has injected into their meetings.

At first, using Tea Party tactics to pressure their legislators seemed like a radical idea to the pair, who have been active in local Democratic politics for years, but they hope to bring younger Bernie Sanders supporters into the party.

"I know there’s been some divisions over candidates, and who they thought the party should have endorsed ... but I think that basically we’re wanting health care for everyone, affordable health care, we’re wanting people to have basic rights to control their own reproductive health care, to have a safe environment," Rushton says.

MidOhio Indivisible meets. Photo by Amy Burns.

In the meantime, they're working on helping people deal with the social anxiety of cold-calling their elected officials and agitating for a town hall meeting with their congressman, Rep. Pat Tiberi.

More than anything, the leaders of these Indivisible groups say their highest priority is to keep up the momentum for the long haul.

For Schaffer, that means building a team that looks like America.

"Too many of these groups get to be one thing: white people with a little money and time," he says. In order to diversify his group, he plans to meet with local black and Latino political stakeholders to discuss strategy and recruitment — to make sure the entire community's concerns are represented.

Genthner, meanwhile, is working hard to make sure his group doesn't burn out. He knows that minds won't change overnight, and that the key is to keep the emails and phone calls rolling in at a "constant buzz."

"They have to know that we’ll be here all the time. Every day. For the next four years."

Controversy has been brewing for months at the University of Texas at Austin as student-athletes petitioned the school to stop playing the school's alma mater song, "The Eyes of Texas."

The issue is that the origins of the song are allegedly steeped in racism. It was written in 1903 by two students who were inspired by speeches given by then-UT President William Prather, in which he used the phrase "The eyes of Texas are upon you." Prather himself had been inspired by General Robert E. Lee—leader of the Confederate army that fought for the right to own slaves—who used to say "the eyes of the South are upon you."

That's not all. The song is set to the tune "I've Been Workin' On the Railroad," which has its own questionable origins, and according to the Austin American-Statesman, "The song debuted at a Varsity minstrel show, a fundraiser for UT athletics, and was at some points performed by white singers in blackface." (Minstrel shows were a long, disturbing part of America's history of racism, in which white performers made themselves into caricatures of Black people and Black performers acted out cartoonish stereotypes in order to entertain audiences.)

This summer, in the midst of nationwide protests against racial injustice, students at the university launched a petition asking the school to confront its historic ties with the Confederacy in the names of buildings on campus and to formally acknowledge the racial roots of the alma mater song. A second student petition asked the school to replace the song with one that didn't have "racist undertones" in an attempt "to make Texas more comfortable and inclusive for the black athletes and the black community that has so fervently supported this program."

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