Indivisible South Shore flexes its political muscles

Women from the Five Towns and surrounding communities get active

Posted

First in a series of occasional articles on Indivisible South Shore.

A group of eight women from the Five Towns, Valley Stream and Massapequa Park fiercely believe that more honesty and principled thought need to be injected into the political process that produces government officials at every level.

Motivated by the 2016 election of President Trump, the women, supplemented at times by roughly 40 more, formed Indivisible South Shore in the winter of 2017. The group conducted voter registration drives, and supported and campaigned for several candidates who won election or re-election last year.

The group met on April 11 at Sip This, a coffee shop in Valley Stream. “This is the core group here,” said Julie Pareles of Hewlett, a founding member. “We have other people we call upon when we want to do canvassing, phone banking or register voters.”

The women cited the importance of the values that former FBI Director James Comey wrote about in “A Higher Loyalty.” “The president is unethical, and untethered to truth,” Comey wrote. The book was released on Tuesday.

“Truth and ethics in government,” said Woodmere resident Icela Fischtha, a founding member of Indivisible South Shore. “That’s what we need. It affects everybody.”

Since Trump’s election, many people in heavily Democratic areas of Long Island have become more involved in the political process. In addition to Indivisible, there is Raising Voices in Rockville Centre.

hese groups have begun to work with candidates and elected officials whom they believe best represent them and their issues they care about. “We just can’t be complacent anymore,” said Susan Rifkind, another Woodmere resident and Indivisible founding member.

The group began its efforts by publishing a guide on how to “resist the Trump agenda.” It was written collaboratively by several former staffers of Democratic members of Congress, and was modeled after the Tea Party movement, which focused on grass-roots involvement and led to victories for many far-right-leaning Republican candidates in 2010.

The South Shore Indivisible chapter sponsored a meet-the-candidates forum with the Manhasset and North Shore chapters and the Five Towns Democratic Club for Democrats Laura Curran and Jack Schnirman during last year’s county election campaign, but the group said it would not sign off on any candidate based solely on party affiliation.

More town hall meetings are planned as primaries and midterm elections approach. The South Shore group is now vetting candidates. Local and state primaries are Sept. 13, and the general election is Nov. 6.

“We’ve got some issues that we feel very strongly about,” Fischthal said. “It won’t be because you’re a woman, not because you’re a minority. We’re going to support you if your values align with ours . . . You can be a Republican or an independent — for us, it’s about your values and your ideas. What do you plan to do for us?”

Pareles stressed that issues matter more than party affiliation. “We come to this as mothers,” she said. “We care about the children, our school, keeping the children safe. We care about gun protection and the environment . . . To us, these things matter much more than whether there’s an R or a D next to your name. Democrats have taken money from the NRA, too.”

After the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the March for Our Lives events last month, in which support for stricter gun legislation coalesced, several of the group’s objectives have converged.

Indivisible has tried to take advantage of the uptick in political engagement among students, registering many to vote and encouraging them to get involved. There has also been a heightened focus on gun violence and lobbying, especially by the National Rifle Association. “We’ll be targeting every single representative in Nassau County that takes money from the NRA,” Fischthal said.

Indivisible doesn’t plan to relax once elections are over, either. Members met with Hempstead Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana last week, whom they campaigned for last year. While Fischthal said that they were happy with the job Cabana is doing, she stressed that they want to keep representatives accountable.

Raising Voices was also founded after the 2016 presidential election, and espouses a similar creed. “We look to engage, educate and empower voters,” said Emma Travers, a Rockville Centre resident and co-founder of the organization. “We want people to think about who they’re voting for and why. We all care about something. Get re-engaged. The level of apathy people have about government is disappointing.”

South Shore Indivisible members noted that the groups work in concert, and Travers underscored the connections. “Everything is about coalition building, in life and in politics,” she said.

By the end of April, Indivisible South Shore members said, its website — www.IndivisibleSouthShore.org — should be accessible. “Our plan for the immediate future is trying to get every young person, over 18, to vote this coming November and effect change,” said Valley Stream resident and member Linda Kampton. “Every last one of them.”

Have an opinion about political engagement? Send your letter to the editor to

jbessen@liherald.com.