Group gives Trump taste of Obama’s old medicine

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LISA JAMES/ Press Tuevo Orjala listens at Sen. James Risch’s Coeur d’Alene office on Jan. 31, as local residents voice their concerns about President Trump’s recent actions.

COEUR d'ALENE — A group of North Idaho residents is using a familiar political strategy against President Donald Trump.

It’s the Tea Party’s own playbook.

The group, "Indivisible North Idaho," is making its presence known by attending town hall meetings and gathering at local offices of congressional members. Tuevo Orjala, a Coeur d'Alene native who founded the group, told The Press he heard about a document called "Indivisible: A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda." After reading it, he decided to start a local movement.

"There's a habit amongst progressives of just signing a petition or something, but showing up is very important," Orjala said. "They (Congress) work for us and are in a system where they have to speak to us. Not enough people are doing that."

The guide suggests ways to effectively communicate with elected representatives, and was created by former congressional staffers who saw how the Tea Party was able to slow down the efforts of the Obama administration. Members of Congress, Orjala said, make the decisions that impact the lives of everyone in North Idaho.

He said Indivisible North Idaho members want the congressmen to understand that Trump’s agenda does not serve all of their constituents in North Idaho.

Orjala said he was surprised to see the group take off in North Idaho, a region dominated by the Republican Party. He thinks the result will be the beginning of a new Democratic Party in Idaho that builds from the momentum gained in the individual movements.

"We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness," the introduction to the guide states. "We believe that the next four years depend on Americans across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda."

Development of the guide was coordinated by former congressional staffer Leah Greenberg and her husband, Ezra Levin. Greenberg told The Press Friday that they worked with 24 people, mostly former congressional staff members, to write the guide after a friend in Texas approached them, asking exactly what can be done to resist the policies of the Trump administration.

"People felt like they were hitting a wall and yelling into the void. They didn't feel that they were being heard," Greenberg said. "But we know from our experiences that local action can be impactful. Representatives really do care what their constituents think, even when it’s something they’re opposed to, and want to hear from them. It’s a huge value to make your voice heard."

Contributors to the guide, Greenberg added, reverse-engineered the document based on the successes of the Tea Party during the administration of President Barack Obama. Local groups don’t have to fly the "Indivisible" banner, she said, and are encouraged to decide which approach fits best in their own communities.

But, according to Greenberg, two core principles unify all of the groups:

1.) President Trump has a dangerous agenda.

2.) The values they wish to see in the world must be modeled by their action.

"We really support efforts to not separate the values we have from the action we take," Greenberg said. "In terms of practicality, people are more likely to listen to you if you're polite to them."

That philosophy, Orjala said, was seen when more than 30 people gathered Tuesday at the Coeur d'Alene offices of U.S. Sen. James Risch. The group engaged in passionate, polite conversation with Risch's employees and explained their concerns with the policies of the Trump administration.

"A conscientious person understands these staffers are not making the laws — it doesn't do any good to put down the people who are just there doing their jobs," Orjala said. "We use our frustration with the Trump administration to keep engaged. We don't try to let that frustration out in negative ways."

Another common theme Greenberg has heard from local groups is that a lot of people joining do not view themselves as politically active. Orjala said that theme rings true in the makeup of the more than 250 members of the North Idaho group.

There are firefighters and teachers, Republicans and Democrats, he said, who all want to get involved in the political process.

"It gives me a lot of hope. We’re creating an environment of transformation," Orjala said. "The only way to change the community and our nation is to get involved. It’s not enough to just vote for president. We have to reinvent what it means to be a participant in democracy and what it means to be a patriot."

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