by Melinda Lejman | photo courtesy of Emily Fulmer
Indivisible Memphis is just one of more than a dozen Indivisible chapters across Tennessee that spent the months leading up to the August elections working on “Get out the Vote” initiatives and campaigns for democratic candidates. Countless individuals volunteered their time to manage campaigns, phone bank, knock on doors, and drive people to the polls.
Emily Fulmer, an Indivisible Memphis organizer, sees elections as an important mechanism for focusing on local issues, which can matter more to our daily lives. “In the city of Memphis, we have a lot of Democrats, and we feel like it’s an opportunityto challenge the comfortable Democrats to move in a more progressive direction,” says Fulmer.
The recent general and primary elections placed democrats in key positions, such as Lee Harris’s win as Shelby County Mayor, and Tami Sawyer’s election to the county commission. “In general, we are very pleased with the results,” says Mary Green, Fulmer’s counterpart in the Indivisible Memphis movement. “We have some excellent candidates who we hope go forward to win in November, but there is certainly more work to be done.”
Green is also pleased at the number of women who were elected or won in the primaries, such as London Lamar who is running for State Legislature in district 91, and Gabby Salinas who is running for a Senate seat in district 31.
The next election is November 6, where constituents will be voting on the State House, Senate, and U.S. Congress. “We could flip the Senate, and we’ll be electing a governor,” says Fulmer. “November is a big deal. And the National Indivisible organization feels like Tennessee is a really important state because Corker is retiring, so they’ve hired a statewide coordinator to help all of our separate groups work together,” she says. “You don’t often feel like Tennessee is important in those national progressive movements, but we are, we’re in play.”
While Indivisible originally formed to resist the Trump agenda, it has shifted energy to working on electing more progressive candidates. “In 2018, it was clear we were really going to have to work on getting good officials in office,” says Green. “That’s the long-term goal.” Now the group is more focused on getting people involved in campaigns, helping with voter IDs, and driving people to the polls.
According to Green, the national Indivisible group is moving in that direction as well and endorsed some congressional candidates early on, such as John Boatner, although he lost in the primaries. “I think they see this is where more energy has to be, on the elections,” says Green. “Resisting is good, but in the long run we have to build up a grassroots organization to get progressive candidates in office.”
The dynamics in Shelby County make voting even more important for progressive issues, where we have a very Democratic city and a more Republican suburban area surrounding it. “Those folks out in the county vote often and they vote all the way down the ballot,” says Fulmer. “So, if folks in Memphis are not voting all the way down the ballot, it’s the folks in the county who are deciding who our district attorney is going to be, or who our trustee is going to be, so you have the county electing Republicans to these positions that really matter more to Memphis.”
According to Fulmer, this is your opportunity to do your research and choose a candidate. Both Fulmer and Green advocate for finding your passion and using your skill set to resist the Trump agenda and help move the progressive needle forward by getting involved in campaigns in whatever way you can. You can find more information about how to get involved by joining the Indivisible Memphis Facebook group, or sending an email to indivisiblememphis@ gmail.com.