In December, out of anger and frustration and disgust with the outcome of the November election, I started ICTindivisible.
It took lots of talking, begging, pleading, persuading, planning… I’d met with people I thought might be interested, run plans by them, strategize with them, set up meetings no one attended and then start all over again.
It took me two attempts and lots and lots of work and still for the first weeks, the only people to show up at meetings were me and my dear friend, Andrew.
And, then it happened…
People started showing up. Jeremy, Monica, Courtney, Katherine, Jennifer and Jeff…
Our group grew. It was small and cozy, but growing. I was thrilled.
Soon after, I experienced my first taste of what dirty politics in Wichita, in Kansas really looked like. The surprising part was that it didn’t come from Conservatives, Republicans, Neo-nazis or the Alt-right. I had been prepared for pushback from pro-Trump folks.
Instead, the attacks, as subtle, yet undermining as they were, came from representatives from the Kansas Democratic Party.
When I started ICTindivisible, my head was in the clouds. I was full of optimism. I was sure that if someone just stepped forward to organize all of the people who were so angry about Trump, we would be able to move the mountains of bigotry, injustice and hate I knew lay ahead of us. I never recognized that the biggest obstacles would come from people on our side of the aisle.
One of the first obstacles we had to overcome was the undermining of our group by a member of the Kansas Democratic Party's Executive Committee.
The 4th District Committee Vice Chair for the Kansas Democratic Party, Carri New, had organized a competing Indivisible group, despite knowing of our existence. Or, more likely, because she knew of our existence.
I was contacted repeatedly by people asking if our group was the “real” Indivisible group. Apparently, Carri New had actively been discouraging participation in our group in favor of her group. Worse, Carri's group was being promoted on the Kansas Progressive Caucus group page as the "real" Indivisible organization of Wichita.
I realize Indivisible was not my idea. It is a National movement with thousands and thousands of groups throughout the country. I do not have the Indivisible market cornered and anyone is free to start their own groups. In fact, I welcome more and more groups. It means the resistance to the Trump and GOP agenda is growing and spreading. However, in this particular case, I failed to see why one group could be “real” and the other not. It hurt to know people would deliberately seek to undermine my little group full of passionate hearts and strong wills. In public, I laughed off the questions of whether or not we were real.
In private, every time someone asked, my heart broke a little bit.
Meanwhile, the two groups in Wichita came under intense pressure to merge. People questioned why there were two groups and often commented on how the progressive movement in Wichita would never be able to organize and be effective if the two Indivisible groups couldn’t even come together.
I approached my group repeatedly with the concerns raised. As we came to be more and more familiar with New, my group decided it did not want to merge with Carri’s group as her group was tackling resistance much differently than ours was. Her group was attending city council meetings while mine was focused on the upcoming special election and so on and so on. However, we did decide we should support her group and several of our members agreed to attend her meetings.
That only lasted a couple of weeks and what our members reported back was appalling. Carri’s meetings were half how much more “Bernie” she was than anyone else and half her actively campaigning against the Democratic nominee for the special election in KS-04, James Thompson.
Our members were shocked that the Vice-Chair of 4th District Committee would behave in such a manner. To privately not support someone as an elected official of the KDP was one thing, but to actively campaign against the Democratic nominee in the first Congressional election following the election of Trump seemed sacrilege.
Carri New’s group soon withered away without much fanfare. While it was fading from sight, we were picking up more and more members. We stopped actively recruiting. People found us. And my once modest goal of having 20 members was far surpassed.
Currently, we have nearly 1,300 members. A number that grows daily.
I know not a lot of people are aware of how ICTidivisible came to be. I know not a lot of people even know I am involved aside from just a peripheral role. I, for the most part, refrain from commenting on posts made on our page and in our groups. But that doesn’t mean I am not paying attention.
I see all of the posts with 400 comments. I see the vitriol. I see the discord being sown. I see the anger.
Maybe I should step in, put a stop to it or, at least, call for a timeout? After all, that’s what you do with petulant children, right? However, I don’t. I don’t for a reason - the way people react to posts, the way they comment, who comments on what and for whom, how often they comment, what they say and, as importantly, what they don’t say…
Well, all of that tells me so much more than I would learn if I engaged with many of the posters.
Unfortunately, what I am seeing is disheartening.
When we see comments from the likes of Carri New, Chris Reeves and Tom Witt - people who worked against James Thompson and the energy that developed ICTIndivisible - we decided we have to take a stand against the misinformation.
These party leaders pick fights with members of our board. They patronize and bully our friends and allies. They twist words. They bait and switch when the tide turns against them. And, when all else fails, they block yet continue to talk about those they’ve blocked without giving them the ability to defend themselves.
They do all of this as representatives of the Kansas Democratic Party. They do this to divide us. They try to turn us against each other. And when that fails, they try to make us apathetic. And they do this to retain their pretense of power.
The Kansas Democratic Party suffers from coordinated and systemic attempts to game democratic processes to the benefit of a select few - those few are people like the Chris Reeves and Tom Witts of the world.
Their efforts lead to the stifling of ideas, innovation and market competition with the Kansas Democratic Party.
For example, their attacks on my friend, Casey Yingling, are a desperate attempt to silence a minority voice within leadership to reform the way Kansas Democratic Party does business. Their attacks on us, on our Facebook page, are a desperate attempt to silence our voices, our voices calling for change and new leadership, our voices demanding we be heard and our progressive values be adopted by the KDP.
I feel it is important for the leadership of ICTIndivisible to create a platform to tell the other side of the story. The full story.
Our goal is to defeat the Trump agenda, but the first step must be to save the Kansas Democratic Party from its current path of self-destruction. A new brick on that path of self-destruction is laid with every nasty comment those in KDP leadership make on our page. A new brick on that path of self-destruction is laid everyday KDP leadership fails to be transparent. A new brick on that path of self-destruction is laid everyday the KDP operates more like a good ole boys social club than a political party.
So, welcome to our new website. It will be our platform to hold those in power accountable, whether they be in DC or those in Topeka. And especially those in our own backyard.
The Board of ICTindivisible
Jessica Nicolet, President - ICTindivisible
Jeremy Bennett, Vice President - ICTindivisible
Courtney Taylor, Treasurer - ICTindivisible
Monica Marks, Secretary - ICTindivisible
Stephanie Yeager, Director of Outreach & Engagement - ICTindivisible