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."

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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