April 09, 2019 12:24 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of a prominent liberal group are urging Democratic presidential contenders who are pitching massive policy changes to also focus on more fundamental "structural reforms" to American democracy.
In a book set for publication this fall, Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg — who founded the activist group Indivisible in 2017 — plan to outline a vision for the future of liberal organizing that goes beyond simply fighting President Donald Trump. In their book "We Are Indivisible," they aim to zero in on issues such as the overhaul of Senate rules, which they see as necessary to achieve the sort of big policy shifts that Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning on.
Indivisible rocketed to prominence thanks to its creators' manual for grassroots anti-Trump activism, but Levin and Greenberg now hope to shape the next incarnation of the "Resistance." The subtitle of their book, slated for release in November by Simon & Schuster's Atria/Signal Press, sums up their goal: "A Blueprint for Democracy After Trump."
The Indivisible duo aims to speak to both the dozen-plus Democratic candidates vying to take on Trump next year and the tens of millions of voters who will choose the party's nominee. As Democratic White House hopefuls line up behind ambitious policy ideas, Levin and Greenberg want to prod the candidates to explain how they would steer their ideas through a Congress often crippled by partisan stalemates.
"I don't think we can hear from somebody about their plan for climate change or gun violence until we can hear about their plan for making that happen," Greenberg, 32, told The Associated Press in a joint interview with Levin, 33. "If you're refusing to take on things about our democracy that make that policy proposal impossible to pass in our system, then that's not a real proposal."
Levin and Greenberg share more than the executive director title at Indivisible — they're a married couple who have used their experience as Democratic congressional aides to borrow some tactics from the tea party conservatives who battled former President Barack Obama. The once-scrappy group they formed with a guide to pushing back against Trump has become a political powerhouse, with more than 5,000 local chapters nationwide. The group's leaders estimate it has more than 1 million members.
Indivisible's influence is already shaking up the Democratic primary. Several presidential candidates have opened the door to ending the 60-vote margin required to get many major bills through the Senate, a top priority for Levin and Greenberg as they encourage their grassroots members to ask how Democrats would accomplish the sweeping plans they're selling to voters on the campaign trail. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is the only candidate to openly call for an end to the filibuster, should Democrats take back the White House and the Senate in 2021, but Indivisible's co-founders hope more White House contenders will follow suit.
Other democracy reform ideas Levin and Greenberg plan to explore in the book, they said, include automatic voter registration, combating the gerrymandering of congressional districts and eliminating the electoral college.
Voters recognize the dysfunctionality in Washington, Levin said. But, he added, a "precise prescription for how to fix it isn't well-understood."
During Indivisible's early days, some Republicans sought to discount the group as a front for paid protesters, suggesting that liberal financier George Soros was bankrolling its efforts. Levin and Greenberg pushed back forcefully and later adopted a strategy of transparency in notifying its members about its first grant accepted from Soros' foundation, in the fall of 2017. They say their funding is now about evenly split among grassroots donations, larger contributions and foundation money, with no more than one-fifth of their total budget coming from a single source. Funding from Soros' foundation comprised less than 4% of their budget during the last fiscal year.
"It's important to us that our single largest source of funds be grassroots support," Levin said.
The pair haven't yet settled on a plan for how — or if — to back a specific Democratic candidate, beyond the certainty that their decision would come from their members first. The couple is certain, however, of where any profits from their book will go: back into their organizing work.
"We're not just interested in getting rid of Trump," Levin said. "We're interested in getting rid of Trumpism."
By ELANA SCHOR
Updated: April 09, 2019 12:24 AM
Created: April 09, 2019 12:18 AM
(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)