Organizing in the Digital Age: Lessons from the Indivisible Movement

Micah Sifry
35 min readFeb 2, 2021
In January 2017, in the middle of a blizzard, 50 people crammed into a Yonkers, NY living-room to launch NYCD16-Indivisible, one of thousands of similar groups born at the same moment across the US.

On Saturday, December 12th, as part of the annual RootsCamp conference, I had the pleasure of convening a conversation about movement organizing in the Trump years focused on the experience of Indivisible, one of the biggest examples of grassroots Democratic activism that arose after the 2016 election, and one where the potential and challenges of building a national, decentralized movement with vibrant chapters in blue, purple and red districts have played out in vivid and important ways. What follows is the edited transcript of our hour-long panel discussion — an abridged version is up on The Forge, an online journal focused on organizing strategy and practice. For more independent reporting and analysis covering Indivisible, see also Joan Walsh’s 2019 Nation story, “Indivisible is Working Hard to Live Up to Its Name”; Lara Putnam and Gabriel Perez-Putnam’s 2019 report Grassroots Blossom Across America, Reshaping Country’s Political Geography, and my 2020 New Republic story, “The Loneliness of the Resistance Protester.”

Micah Sifry: Today we are going to be talking about our movements, and in particular the lessons that can be learned from the Indivisible movement, a very important movement that started after 2016. We have a terrific panel, starting out with Aram Fischer, who is the co-founder and facilitator of the Indivisible Middle Tier, something that he’ll explain when he gets a chance to speak. Also, Aram is one of the early leaders of Indivisible San Francisco. In addition, we have Paula Martinos-Mantay, the co-founder of Statewide Indivisible Michigan (SWIM), which is a network of about 50 local groups across the state of Michigan. Then following her we have Lara Putnam, who is a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the best academic analysts and reporters on grassroots political organizing in the post 2016 period.

It’s unusual to have a session focusing or at least spring-boarding off of the experience of a particular movement organization. And so I just wanted to say something about our intentions. This is not about trying to tear anything down or blow anything up. This is about open inquiry. That’s something that RootsCamp has always been about, being a space for cross-movement organization-agnostic well-informed conversations among actually…