tv Washington Journal Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg Discuss Progressive... CSPAN April 19, 2017 12:11pm-12:43pm EDT
today. we will resume today for a discussion on the first hundred days. while we wait for that to start, to capitol hill staffers talk about grassroots activism and the trump administration. to get people up -- two peoplelly joining us, the founders. thanks for joining us. the group's goal? we put out in the goal of the toole dock was to get the
for people to make their voices heard. over 6000 groups across the in tennessee, alabama, minnesota. there are at least two in every congressional district. >> do this group exists before the election of donald trump? >> no. the document we put together are a primarily reaction to the election of donald trump. >> so you get a lot of interest. these are independent groups. they make their own decision and do their own event.
we just put out information and howat is happening to make their voices heard and what they should focus on. time -- at a >> congressional recess is a phrase in washington. -- reason it is a district they listen to their constituents. we do it as an enormously important time for people to make their voices heard. the as a whole bunch of folks throughout the country coming out and telling their senators not votesentatives, do for trumpcare. congress got the message. this works. we are in the middle of the
second congressional recess right now and we saw last .eekend on saturday they are not telling trump, they are telling congress to use the power that you have. you can tweet questions or .omments to our guests is your group affiliated with groups like organizing for america or other progressive groups? do they support you with money or infrastructure? guest: no. we are an independent grou we are completely independent as a party. guest: the vast majority of the
funding with gotten is through on ourate button website. that's where people have actually supported us. fromt a $15 check minnesota the other day. as long as we are providing useful information, -- host: how much staff to you have to help you? guest: we have about 18 folks on board right now. had about 150 volunteers working around the clock to support this effort, and over the last couple of months, we have been transitioning to a staff-based model, so we are actually able to answer you from 9:00 to 5:00 now. host: you mentioned town halls and we pulled video from the 10th district in texas, it was sort of an unofficial town hall. michael mccaul didn't show up, but he had a cut out of himself
and took questions. is that a model you guys advocate? guest: absolutely. one of the questions we got early on around the country is, "my member of congress is hiding from me, what do i do? they are refusing to be held accountable and listen." we are shocked by that. one of their jobs is to listen to constituents. we say go to a committee center, invite your members of congress, and if they show, great, and we've seen examples, but if they don't show, the ready, have a cardboard cutout, an empty seat ready, or in one, we saw a constituent-led tunnel, they had a live chicken on stage because the congressman was acting like a chicken. that is the consequence of not listening to your constituents. they are going to do it anyway. you cannot take the power away. host: you have your critics, including one of them, she wrote op-ed in the washington
journal in which she writes "due , to the recent uprising of the national protest group indivisible, the days of productive townhome meetings are obsolete. members who attend members are also the same people who follow a representative to multiple meetings. they provide prewritten questions, they rehearsed asking questions and follows prior to meetings, strategize how to best agitate with hopes they can catch something on film that can be misconstrued or taken out of context." is that a fair assessment? guest: what she is describing as local organizing. what she is describing is groups to makeituents who want their voices heard. i don't really understand what the objection is to members of constituents who go and want to listen. host: as far of the ideas of prewritten questions and coaching people, what do you say about that? guest: they are coaching themselves. they are coming up with stories themselves.
what we saw in places even like arkansas, people are going to -- do not take away my health insurance. i will be dead or bankrupt without the affordable care act. it is the stories of constituents that we think are the most helpful, and we strongly encourage them to tell their personal stories and how federal legislation or federal asked by congress will impact them. host: ezra levin and leah greenberg, the cofounders of indivisible, indivisibleguide.com come if you want to check out their organization. our first call for you comes from plano, texas, joel on the democrats line. you are on with our guests. go ahead. caller: thank you, good morning. the democratic party, the problem with the democrats is that every person we put in there, the republicans turn them into a cartoon character. we have people who don't even know how to dress, they go down to congress, cannot even speak. you have a gentleman running down there in georgia -- we
don't even put veterans, let veterans run for these seats. we put this guy, this guy is going to get his head handed to him down there in georgia, this democrat, because he is not even a veteran. have you go against donald trump and call him a chicken hawk when you're not even a veteran? you guys have got to start fighting like people. he what these jobs start calling , these guys out and tell them what he is, call him a chicken hawk, a coward. host: thanks. guest: what we saw around the tax marches in d.c. and elsewhere, giant inflatable chickens, calling donald trump a chicken for not releasing his tax returns. to the colors main we think it point, is incredibly important that progressives stand up for progressive values. either you are running for office or already in office if you're a member of congress, you need to not rubberstamp donald trump appointees. you need to not rubberstamp the
legislation that this administration is pushing forward, and you have to say look, this is not what makes america america. this is not something we will rubberstamp. that is a role so we are really clear about that, and we push democrats, when they voted for mike pompeo, a man who endorses torture, a man who slanders muslim americans, is open to widespread surveillance, democrats voted for him for cia 15 director. you saw individual groups in california, new york, minnesota, outside of democratic senator saying do not vote for this nominee. and we counted it as a victory that zero democrats voted for betsy devos two weeks later. it is not that she is so much worse as department of education secretary -- although she is pretty bad -- it is that their voices were heard. as long as you are out there and people in alabama, georgia, minnesota -- across the country, what you'll see is progressives stand up for progressive values and that is how we will win a legislation and elections.
host: our next call from jacksonville, florida, independent line. caller: good morning. i have a, and an idea and i hope you will comment on it and give me just a moment to explain it. i have been trying to organize a movement called take the pledge, which means you vote out every single incumbent. what this would do is it would eliminate all the money and the lobbyists because there would be no point in funding an incumbent for reelection if they knew that the people were going to vote out every incumbent on every level, democrat or republican. that is my comment, and i am wondering if you could comment on the effectiveness of a movement like this. guest: i think that is a really interesting idea. would i would say is we have the power to make our voices heard
without voting out every incumbent, regardless of where they stand on the issues, and it is people power. it is constituent advocacy, it is going to your local events, showing up, calling members of congress. what we saw with the health care bill is that will have a powerful effect, and when you stand up and make your voices heard, it really changes the way that congress perceives the world, it changes their own reelection chances, and they listen. host: from rob in del rio, tennessee, good morning to you. you are on with our guests. good morning. caller: good morning. thank you for taking my call, and i sure do appreciate c-span. i have been looking at all the violence in the streets at berkeley and other places, and people wearing flamboyant flags all of the country, and i was wondering, are you all behind that kind of activity?
guest: the answer is absolutely not, and in fact, if you go and register an indivisible group on her website, you have to agree to three websites -- the first, you think donald trump's agenda is to be resisted, the second is as part of that resistance, you will be implementing a local defense of congressional advocacy strategy, but the third, and this really gets to your point, is that you will model progressiveness, but you will be nonviolent, be polite to professional staffers -- congressional staffers, it is important not to spit on people. it is important that that kind of behavior absolutely undermines the work that everybody else is doing. so we strongly push against that. we think it is the wrong thing to do just because it is the wrong thing to do, but we also think it is not an effective thing to do and undermines what everyone else is trying to get done. host: as far as the playbook, it sounds parallel to tea party
ideas. is this something you picked up on in developing your ideas and strategies? guest: it was part of the inspiration. we all worked as staffers and saw the tea party up cse. we had very active tea party activists at all of our events. we were very much inspired by the tea party. we disagree with a lot of the ways they went about their agenda. we really disagree with her -- their politics and certainly, as ezra was saying, disagree with the violence and the racism that sometimes accompanied their action, but we did think they had some really powerful insights into local active congressional advocacy. host: and does that apply to the everyday working of the group you are behind now and what you advocate for your chapter, so to speak, to practice on the ground? guest: absolutely. two big insights we saw from the tea party was one, other strategies and tactics, and two,
their roots, their strategy was local, defensive congressional advocacy, and that means focusing on your representatives. you might not like what paul ryan is doing, but it does not matter. he does not represent you. the tea party got that, they focus on their own members, and they emanated that tragic -- implemented that strategy with civics 101 tactics. going to town halls, making calls -- that works. the second insight are groups. the unit of action for the tea party and the unit of action for an indivisible member is not the individual. it is the group. we see individual groups forming and creating local community through it. so a lot of these groups start with 20 people in a living room, a nurse or a schoolteacher brings them together, and it turns into 500 people in a community center. because there is so much energy out there. that kind of engagement at the community level is sustainable. they get new jobs, individuals, or life happens, they move, but groups can sustain. host: ms. greenberg, since you
are both staffers, they are always running for office. is that kind of strategy focusing on those things and reminding people they are always running for another term? guest: sure. local advocates, once they find their politician is not listening to them, they will find someone who will. we are seeing constituent groups who are not being heard starting to think about electoral politics and figuring out who are the candidates who will represent me. host: what is your take away from the georgia election and -- in the sixth district yesterday? guest: i think it sent shockwaves through the political district here. this is a district to have been republican since the 1970's and
democrats came within two points of taking it. a six-point swing across the rest of the country, you would look at districts 60 switching hands. this is a huge victory for folks who are opposing the trump administration's agenda. trump himself tweeted six times about the race, and they only barely eked it out. we see that as putting tons of -- a ton of districts up for play and it is a direct result, that you see members of commerce on the republican side starting to oppose the agenda calling for , donald trump's tax returns or pushing for his legislation. host: donald trump, the president, also tweeted about the result of the election. "the dems failed in congress and -- in kansas and are now failing in georgia. great job karen handel!" what do you think about that? it's failing is getting twice as many votes as the top republican candidate,
that is a interesting definition of failing. host: districts who barely voted for donald trump in the election, do you have to factor those in as far as claiming victory is concerned? guest: sure. but the overall point that ezra's making, if we see a six-point swing and that holds constant across the rest of the country for the 2018 election, a lot of congress members would be losing their seats. host: let's hear from tom, maryland, democrats line. you are on. go ahead. caller: i would like someone to explain to me what happened to the ships supposedly going over there to north korea. american troops worked dependent upon the ship if something had gone down and we needed to firepower -- host: tom, i think we are a little far upfield for the purposes of our conversation. let's go to jennifer in holland, michigan, independent line. caller: i have a couple questions for you. the lady had mentioned that
their organization is not supported by anyone else. did you not have any financial support from other groups? that is my question, number one. host: ms. greenberg or mr. levin? guest: the way we have received funding is largely through this donate button on our website. if you go to indivisibleguide.com, and that is the vast majority of what we have received so far. if you look at existing democratic establishment groups or progressive establishment groups, they are not funding us. we do partner with groups a lot . we've had great calls with members like moveon, osa, planned parenthood, we do that because they have a lot of technological expertise or have been on the ground a lot. we think it is important right now for us to band together. we have to treat an attack on
one like an attack on all and we want to come together and resist this administration's agenda effectively. when it comes to supporting ourselves we are trying to be as , independent as possible because fundamentally, the reason why this organization exists is to support the local leadership on the ground. if we can't be responsive to the local districts on the ground, we are not doing what we should re: -- do you have a follow-up? caller: are you independent for not independent? guest: we are independent. we are former democratic congressional staffers and we have a point of view, but we think it is important we remain independent and separate from any independent -- from any establishment. -- caller: i was wondering when these snowflakes are going to give it up.
hillary needs to stay in the woods and these two people need to go to the woods with her. trump is trying to do something and you expect it to happen overnight. donations.ing off of you pay your bills through donations? host: i think what you are seeing is that americans around the country are very, very concerned and distressed at the initial moves the trump administration has made. because not giving up they see they need to stand up and speak out. withwe are seeing, we saw the women's march, the airport protests and the town halls. we have seen the energy is sustainable and is going to keep trumpas long as the administration keeps threatening our neighbors and friends. so you so -- guest: think that can extend through the elections? thet: 120,000 people across
country turned up for taxes. this is not an exciting issue -- this is getting donald trump to show his taxes. you have huge turnouts in places like georgia six and kansas four, this energy will continue and especially continue as long allonald trump is waging an out assault on basic tenets like freedom of the press and an independence of the judiciary. if we are snowflakes, there are thousands of us out there and we are changing what is possible. host: let's take a look at some of the money being raised by the midterms. the states carried by president trump collectively raised $19 million. it lists some of the democrats and what they have raised. of view asoint former political staffers, is the senate or house vulnerable? there are different numbers but
what do you think realistically could happen? guest: -- everything is up for grabs. money doesn't vote, people vote. are they on the ground in making their voices heard? the legislative fight this year, that's a place for people to make their voices heard. it's important to fight not just trumpcare, it is important to fight it because 24 million americans would lose their health care if that is true. have to wait until next year to engage cynically. you can change what is quickly possible and folks have done that. what we are seeing is we will have the legislative fights that will define the scene for 2018 and that is important as well. from next up is tracy grand haven, michigan, independent line. caller: hello there and thanks
for taking my call. i appreciate it. host: you are on with our guests. you on i want to commend what you are doing because i think it is important for someone to speak out. so frustrating to me, on a really frustrating level, people don't get it. honestly, i'm kind of on the spot. we appreciate that, but what we are inspired by is this is not a ballot box. votes in congress. you are in michigan. you have representatives that can change the conversation at
the national level. the reason why we wrote the december was to clearly state here is what individuals can do. here is what constituent power looks like. if you are inspired by anything over the last two months, it should be seeing people assert that power and change what is possible. i understand if you are frustrated, but look what we have accomplished so far. we will win again if people come together. from canton, north carolina, the republican line, terry is next. caller: good morning. i want to give a little education to these uneducated snowflakes. they keep talking about donald trump's taxes. he was a private citizen. i wish they would be more concerned about how they have spent our tax money's. took $875barack obama
billion for the reinvestment act and used 1% for roads and bridges. $90 billion. that comes from my representative. but in the chair you are sitting in, the former transportation secretary ray lahood said he was only allocated $36 billion. leaves $44 billion that is in somebody's pocket. aside from the figures, what would you like to address? caller: i want some facts from them. destroy a trying to republican, why don't they tell the truth on how people have spent our money? legitimate is a issue as far as concerns about
spending. guest: i'm not sure what he is talking about, but every president in modern history has understood running for president means releasing your tax returns. we are months into the donald trump administration and he has been claiming his taxes have been under audit for two years now. it's a simple question what are you hiding and i think americans are entitled to have the answer. guest: i would share the concerns the caller has about what is going on. we need to know what is going on in the way we will know whether or not this administration is acting in the interest of the american people or whether donald trump is lining his pockets through his existing business interests or through russia or other dictators, the way we know that is to know what is in donald trump's taxes. that's why you see hundreds of thousands of people coming out to ask that. is edward, fletcher, north carolina, independent line. caller: thank you for taking my
call. i would like to address the young couple here. i'm nearly 70 years old and i can tell you when we were your level, we college were lied to about a million things. it has taken us decades to realize these things. that thissad generation of college students today are so sucked in by a cultural marxist ideology and have no idea what they are even talking about. and say and and lie tell the american public that through your network, you are not a george soros-funded group. there are websites and documentations and investigations. you people are basically treasonous folks. guest: i'm sorry you feel that way. that's a flat-out lie. from georgeno money
soros, but we think he has funded some great things throughout the world. majority of our money comes from individual donors like you. we hope that we win you over. feel free to send us your donation. that is how we stay independent. that is our goal. guest: and thank you for thinking we are college students. as far as the georgia group, is there a demographic who is -- is there a demographic? we know is who writes in to us and to tells us their stories. the most overwhelmingly common story we have heard is an older woman usually, middle-aged, who is a killer of her community and who has decided to become voted --, probably probably voted before but is now emerging as a leader in her community and organizing others.
host: from gainesville, georgia, the independent line, will, go ahead. first problem with listening to these folks is they say they are staffers. aree, that tells me they only interested in keeping the trough open that they are living off of. john osthoff, it was a great victory for him. but he had an $8 million war chest and 95% of that came from outside the state. she wants to cut back on the unconstitutional federal government and that's terrible for these people. is -- they ask what is president trump hiding? it's a great question, but too bad we didn't ask that of barack obama. if we asked the same questions
obama we are asking today, he would have never been elected. these people are just at the trough. asked the exact same questions of barack obama and he released his tax returns every single year he was president and in the years preceding his presidency. we did ask those questions and we got answers. donald trump has promised to released his tax returns and refused to. there's no double standard here. when it comes to betsy devos, she's a billionaire heiress who her fortune,rough got to become education secretary. if anyone is interested about the trough is open, i would look there. this as far as success, is winning midterms? how do you measure success? averting asss is
much of the trump policies as we can. stopping trumpcare, averting a massively regressive tax reform will that attempts to just give tax cuts to the rich, and success will ultimately translate into a congress who is willing to step up and stand up to donald trump and investigate the dangerous things he is into. absolutely. the bottom line is if we successfully avert a lot of the damage being done and prevent the most vulnerable members of society from being harmed by this and ministration, we will have succeeded. that doesn't depend on the. it depends on whether more people stand up to make their voices heard. if people are building these groups at the community level, if are having impact on federal legislation, that is good. host: the cofounders of the group indivisible. the website is indivisible guide.com.