MADISON, Wis. – The nationally organized, local left-wing grassroots group known as Indivisible is getting pretty ticked off about being described as “scripted” — even though its members are raising their own concerns about Wisconsin Indivisible chapters working from scripts.
The outrage – at least the latest outrage – follows an op/ed last week in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by an Nicole Tieman, communications director for U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls. The piece, takes aim at the notion that the so-called Indivisible “uprisings” are part of an organic movement, instead of a scripted, well organized and, it appears, well financed national “resistance movement’ led by Democratic activists and seasoned liberal organizers.
“From where I’m sitting, ‘spontaneous grass-roots uprising’ is a gross mischaracterization of what actually is occurring on Capitol Hill and in district offices throughout the nation, and specifically here in Wisconsin,” Tieman wrote.
“Since the start of 2017, on average we have received 10 times more calls than in the previous year. The majority of calls are from individuals reading identical scripts, many of whom are not constituents of Sensenbrenner.”
And much like the scripted calls, Tieman wrote, the congressman’s town hall meetings “have been inundated with planned opposition — individuals who come to meetings with scripted questions and a predetermined plan to disrupt proceedings.”
Nicole Sweeney Etter took umbrage with Tieman’s characterization in a response published Monday in the Journal Sentinel. As “one of the founding members” of Indivisible’s Wauwatosa branch, Etter was disappointed that Tieman – and her boss – don’t see that the movement is all about civic engagement. She points to herself as a poster-child for pent-up political participation.
“While I’ve always been a regular voter and financially contributed to causes I believe in, I’m embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t confidently name all three of my members of Congress until just a few months ago,” Etter wrote. “All that changed after the Women’s March in Madison, the first political protest I ever joined. I started meeting with other elementary school moms to write postcards to our elected officials. Then we connected with neighborhood dads, and Indivisible Tosa was born.”
Etter counts 260 members in the Wauwatosa group, among “1,000-plus folks participating in Milwaukee-area chapters. Each was “drawn to the Indivisible Guide’s very practical advice.”
Indivisible was conjured up by former Democrat congressional staffers. In it, they “reveal best practices for making Congress listen.”
What the guide is really about is disruption, protest, #Resistance and, above all, making sure a friendly mainstream media covers every last second of the political show.
As for scripted, even Indivisible’s members are growing concerned about the centralized message.
On a recent Indivisible Facebook page, group member Angela Schneider got the sneaking suspicion that Tieman’s op/ed was not written in support of Indivisible’s cause.
“It seems to say we Indivisible groups are too scripted. And it seems to portray that we don’t listen,” Schneider wrote. “If this continues, people won’t see us as serious and only representing a few.”
Schneider advised her Indivisible friends to use Tieman’s piece to “do a little self-correction” on the script issue, mainly because the Journal Sentinel is “anti-“ Gov. Scott Walker and Trump, she wrote. In other words, know your allies.
Indivisible member Beth Grace agreed with Schneider. She disagreed with local Indivisible leader Mike Cummens that Sensenbrenner is afraid of the liberal movement.
“I take this piece as that they are thinking of us as mindless and ignoring us because basically we are acting like Robo-calls,” the member wrote. “Well I respect that using the script makes some people feel more comfortable placing a call to (Sensenbrenner’s) office or standing up to ask a question at a town hall. I think the criticism of using scripting is accurate and that we need to stop doing it as much as possible and speak from our hearts instead.”
On the Facebook site, member Mary L. Kling wrote, “It seemed that (Sensenbrenner) was downplaying the idea of the Indivisible people.”
“This bothers me really as we actually are not a group of ‘scripted, disruptive people,’ Kling wrote. “I think we are people who do not like the way our country is going and have found a kind of unified place where we can find ways of productively letting our voices be heard.”
As Wisconsin Watchdog reported last month, the “Stop Jim” Indivisible movement has been particularly aggressive, turning up in large numbers at Sensenbrenner’s town hall events. The long-serving Republican has led the nation in such constituent sessions, despite the constant disruptions and uncivil behavior by activists.
At a town hall meeting in West Allis, some Trump resisters were finally asked to leave the meeting after constantly interrupting conservative-leaning constituents who had the floor.
Joe Kraynick appears to be the leader of the Wauwatosa Indivisible group, among the more active and disruptive.
Kraynick did not respond to a request for comment, but he laid out his ideas for sticking it to Sensenbrenner in closed-group messages.
He offered some suggestions to activists on making things “rowdier.” Kraynick noted that the Indivisible activists haven’t “gone the full Chaffetz” with Sensenbrenner yet, referring to the raucous left-wing crowds U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, confronted last month.
“It might not be quite time for that yet, but (Sensenbrenner) keeps avoiding answering certain questions,” the activist writes. “Reactions rattle him, he doesn’t like them. He tried at one point to move from Trump’s conflicts of interest to the Clinton Foundation, which earned an instant negative reaction, and he quickly dropped it and never came back to it.”
A review of Sensenbrenner’s town hall records found 17 people who have come to four or more meetings since the beginning of February. Cummens, the leader of the group, has been to eight meetings. Kraynick, the leader of the Wauwatosa group, has been to six. Amy Nowak, the group’s video tracker, has been to five meetings and the rest have all attended four. Some of the events include protesting at Sensenbrenner’s district office in Brookfield.
Schneider, the Indivisible member who posted her concerns on Facebook, said the movement needs “good PR” to support it.
Etter might be the answer. She is a content marketing writer, editor and project manager, according to her LinkedIn page. Her clients include some of the great bastions of liberal thought in Wisconsin – Marquette University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
And the left-wing movement has received plenty of help from a mainstream media that is loath to report on Indivisible’s connections with some of the biggest and well-funded liberal activists and Democratic Party members in the country.
While some Indivisible members have expressed a sense of futility in their efforts to stifle the conservative agenda, Schneider sounds encouraged.
“Well, I have lots of HOPE. I believe in Obama and I believe in US. We just have to be logical and how we help Jim see our position,” the Indivisible member wrote.
M.D. Kittle is bureau chief for Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]