[Editor’s note: Wallingford Indivisible will be co-hosting a fund raiser to support Manka Dhingra (D), candidate for Washington State Senate, August 17 at Floating Bridge Brewing from 6pm to 9pm. $1 from each pour will go to support the candidate.]
Wallingford Indivisible – part of a national anti-Trump political platform – is a locally-based political organizing group. Started by some Wallingford residents after the inauguration early this year, Wallingford Indivisible – or “Wi” – is bringing together neighbors, both experienced and newly minted political activists, through an urgent mission of resisting President Trump’s agenda. I found out about Wi at a table set up at the Wallingford farmer’s market, and decided to attend the July all-member meeting to find out more.
All-member meetings are held at Mosaic Coffee House – there are too many attendees to fit into someone’s living room. I arrived a good twenty minutes early expecting to be the first one there, only to find dozens of Wallingford residents abuzz, chatting and setting up materials. Tables were stocked with kettle corn and chips. A station at the front was piled high with newly-printed tee-shirts to distribute, black with an electric blue “Wi” logo on the front. Energy was high. I grabbed a name tag and found a place to sit, observing that I was probably the youngest one there by about fifteen years. People at my table eagerly introduced themselves. Was it my first meeting? What got me involved? I asked about Wi and its goals. “We are the resistance” one table-mate responded defiantly.
About a week after my inaugural meeting I met up with Kerryn and Joe, two founding members of Wi, at the back patio of Murphy’s on 45th. Joe arrived sporting his new Wallingford Indivisible shirt (Kerryn had at the last minute decided not to wear hers). Despite busy jobs, kids, and other community involvement (Joe, for example, is highly dedicated to his child’s select soccer league) it was immediately clear that I was sitting with two dedicated, full-time community organizers.
They recounted the organization’s short yet accomplished history, reminiscing on the founding moments of this Wallingford political action group. For many, Joe and Kerryn included, the election of November 2016 was a cruel shock. But the election itself didn’t spur their political organizing – in fact, it was quite deflating. The Women’s March, however, countered their political disbelief. It created a sense of “agitation” as Kerryn described; it was an agitation that reaffirmed her belief in the possibility of collective change. In order to capitalize on the energy from the march, Kerryn organized a letter-writing party by soliciting friends on Facebook. The party took off in popularity. Joe was one of the people in attendance.
Kerryn and Joe found each other as co-organizers through a shared sense of responsibility to prevent the amazing energy surrounding them from dissipating. They both knew that the letter writing event could not be a one-time thing. Sensing their mutual desire for an action-based approach, they decided to work together, gravitating towards the Indivisible platform through recommendation from Joe’s friend in Leavenworth. “He’s really doing something” Joe recalled thinking; it fit well with his desire to not just talk, but act.
Wallingford Indivisible was at first created under the name Wallingford Area Resistance (WAR). WAR may be an intense acronym, but it is intensity that neither Kerryn nor Joe shy away from; to Kerryn, Joe, and many other Wi members they are engaged in full-fledged battle. Their resistance is a sacred call to counteract an undeniably evil agenda, and the lines are drawn in clear us vs. them form. This is central to the Indivisible strategy: it is anti-Trump in a binary, two-party, red vs. blue political world. For Wi, being part of The Resistance is just that: a defensive position. It’s not about putting out an agenda. Rather, as Joe says, “oppose, oppose, oppose.”
Because of its Trump-centered mission, Wi is (with a few exceptions) a nationally-oriented organization. When I asked how they engage with politics on the state or city level, the response was very clear: “Let’s keep in mind the mission is Trump,” Joe answered. “And that’s it. Nothing else matters.” Trump provides the common glue for members who would otherwise be divided over local political issues (HALA being an oft-repeated example). Kerryn, Joe, and other members of the Wi steering committee are very careful to maintain this unified focus, monitoring activity on the group’s Facebook page on the lookout for Fake News (“from the right and the left,” they insist).
Joe and Kerryn freely admit they are new to organizing, but they have learned a lot in a short amount of time. Taking inspiration from participants at the Women’s March who were agitating for civil rights in the 1960s, they acknowledged that there are many people to learn from. “Part of our approach is to be welcoming and humble, and acknowledge that we’re new to [organizing], but some people have been at this for a long time” as Kerryn put it. In part, Kerryn’s statement speaks to criticism that organizers have faced – including the original organizers of the D.C. Women’s March – that Trump foes were ignoring the work and knowledge of experienced community activists who had been fighting long before Trump even announced his presidential bid, particularly activists from marginalized communities. Joe insisted that Wi’s welcoming and grassroots approach addresses these concerns. Moreover, the political situation is so dire that taking immediate, urgent, and forceful action is of utmost importance. Wi is careful not to get caught up in internal stagnation; the organization is one with a decidedly future-oriented outlook. And with statements and orders from Trump emerging daily, they don’t have time to think about much else.
In the grassroots vein of the Tea Party, the Indivisible movement looks for success in a decentralized, community-oriented format. Wi maintains its independence as a neighborhood-based political action group, although both Kerryn and Joe expressed excitement about better communication and coordination with other Seattle-based Indivisible chapters. Even with Wi, the organization’s many sub-groups operate independently, holding their own events focused on the environment, health care, immigration, and democracy.
Organizing is exhausting, but Joe, Kerryn, and the rest of WI relish in their “wins.” The ability of people-powered political accountability is what continues to drive Wi, and now many members now find “value in [themselves] as civic activists.” And there are other aspects that keep them coming back. Many people are meeting their neighbors for the first time and now they see them at the grocery store or on the bus. Kerryn and Joe, acquaintances and Facebook friends before WI took off, now talk like old friends. Community-building is a central mission of Wi – organizing is supposed to be fun. So what does the future hold for WI? More phone calls, meetings, and lobbying for sure, and ultimately larger scale organizing. Even after the sixth-month mark of Trump’s time in office, Wallingford Indivisible shows no signs of slowing down slowing down. As Kerryn expressed, “not that I ‘Resist-bought,’ I don’t see myself stopping.”