Speech and ideation control targeting young Americans
“Indivisible is an organization that seeks to persuade Americans – particularly young people – to believe that big, centralized government can benefit society in a multitude of ways that the private sector cannot. In short, Indivisible’s objective is to “energiz[e] and infor[m] Americans about government’s potential” to ensure “a safe, healthy, just and prosperous future” for all. Asserting that “too much time is taken up debating big government versus small government,” Indivisible contends that “what we need to be discussing is how our government works well,” and why it is indispensable for “accomplishing big things.”
In an effort to “inspire a cultural shift in how Americans think about the role of government in America,” Indivisible is committed to “disrupting and reframing negative media discourse about government,” “creating a network of champions to change the conversation about government in their communities,” and “training the next generation of civic-minded leaders.” Toward these ends, the organization has created an Indivisible Institute that administers a leadership-development program for young people “who share a passion for reclaiming government as our unique tool for addressing tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.” These “emerging leaders” are taught how “to help … build a new American culture” wherein “the potential and promise of government” is axiomatic.
One of Indivisible’s major projects is its “Pave the Way” video contest, whose name derives from the notion that government is “literally paving our way with road construction and interstates.” This contest offers cash prizes to young people who produce quality videos of interviews wherein small-business owners tell “how government paved the way for their business’ success” by means of things like the GI Bill, the Affordable Care Act, Small Business Administration loan programs, and infrastructure spending.
Another key initiative of Indivisible is its “I Love My” program, which offers information and talking points designed to highlight the many benefits of government. On the premise that “it’s amazing how much government is doing behind the scenes to make our lives better every day,” Indivisible argues that the media should make a special effort to “show [that] our public systems and structures [are] usually so well run that we don’t notice them at all.” One such structure, says Indivisible, is the U.S. Postal Service, which “makes our businesses better,” “helps our communities function,” “makes our democracy work,” and “is the reason our country works at all.”
Similarly, another section of the “I Love My” program teaches people to how to speak about taxes in a way that emphasizes their usefulness in helping government to serve “the common good,” rather than in a way that casts them in a negative light. “Don’t talk about taxes as a ‘burden‘ or something from which we need ‘relief,’” Indivisible advises. “These [terms] are inherently negative and they cue up the dominant thinking that taxes are bad. Instead, talk about taxes as ‘loads’ to be carried or shared.” Moreover, says Indivisible: “Don’t call people ‘taxpayers‘ – it limits the conversation to only one side of the ledger (costs, not benefits). Instead, talk about people as ‘residents’ or ‘citizens’ or ‘member[s] of our community’ – it highlights that we are all people who both contribute to and benefit from public systems and structures.”
Indivisible’s “My Take” program features interviews where “real people” are asked to articulate “their feelings [about] government” and their various interactions with it. For example, the interviewees are asked: (a) “What is your favorite thing that government does?” (b) “Who is your government hero who is not an elected official?” (c) “What thing that government does do you think would surprise most Americans?”
Indivisible’s “Reality Check” program seeks to “expos[e] the reality behind myths and misunderstandings about government,” which ultimately serves as “our tool to help us solve big problems together.”
Reclaiming Government for America’s Future is an Indivisible research project consisting of reports, videos, and webinars that aim to counter the popular notion that government “is too big, intrusive, untrustworthy, and controlled by powerful elites” who have little interest in using it as “a tool for the common good.” Topos Partnership conducted this research on behalf of Indivisible, Public Works, and a number of partner organizations in Oregon, North Carolina, Nebraska, Michigan, Arkansas, and Colorado. The overarching objective of the project is to spell out ways in which progressives can effectively “shift conversations and begin to change the cultural common sense about government.”