Grassroots Group Seeks to Swing Valley Voters Away From Trump

Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for MoveOn

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 22: Michelle Fowle speaks as rally goers gather at a post office in Hollywood to protest the Trump administration's attacks on the US Postal System on August 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. 

CORRECTION

In the Aug. 26 issue of the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, Northridge Indivisible founder Michelle Fowle was quoted as defining herself  “a Democratic loyalist.” The quote should have read, “I’m no Democratic loyalist.”

The Sun regrets the error.

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Until the night of Nov. 8, 2016, life was pretty simplified and rather idyllic for Michelle Manire Fowle. She worked for, as she put it, “a well-funded startup” in technology sales. She and her husband lived a comfortable life in Northridge. Although her family had voted Republican as she was growing up, she had changed to Democrat as an adult. But a party affiliation didn’t really matter because politics rarely, if ever, entered her thought process.

“I was just another white person born and raised in California. Not a lot really affected me,” said Fowle, who grew up in Van Nuys. “My husband is really knowledgeable about politics, so every time we had an election I’d ask him who we were voting for — ‘Dianne Feinstein, is she one of ours? What does she do?’ He’d say, ‘please don’t tell people you don’t know that.’ But I think there were a lot of people like me who are just…they don’t care.”

That all changed on Nov. 8, 2016 — the night Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. The election sent Fowle tumbling off a cliff she didn’t even know she was standing next to.

“I freaked out,” she said. “I didn’t really know what to do, and I couldn’t stop crying. Every time we went out somewhere I would just hug anyone who wasn’t white and apologize. I was really struggling. My husband said, ‘I’ve never seen you like this, but you can’t be doing that.’”

Fowle eventually decided to turn her angst into activism. Even though she still defines herself as “I’m no Democratic loyalist.” 

The volunteer grassroots organization she formed in 2017 called The Resistance, Northridge, Indivisible, considers itself to be a group of political progressives who, according to the mission statement, “are working together to drive political change starting at the local level.”

While claiming a mailing list with more than a thousand names, Fowle admits Northridge Indivisible is more “a core group of 10-15” she depends on to help with the fundraising, organizing, and phone banking the group does to prod the public into voting in elections. They will also take part in demonstrations; on Aug. 22, Fowle and other members participated in a rally in Hollywood aimed at saving the US Postal System from undergoing drastic funding and personnel cuts by the Trump administration.

“I hadn’t been in any ‘actions’ before because I hadn’t paid attention,” she said. “Human nature being what it is, I know the novelty can wear off. But I’m not surprised this [level of protesting] has sustained this long. The reason is because the trauma was so huge, and every day Trump just pours more gasoline on it with the BS he keeps trying to push through.” 

Still, more lasting change must come from voting, Fowle believes.

“I’ve become more of a realist, realizing that citizens have to push their [representatives] and hold them accountable,” Fowle said. “That has to happen. That’s one of the things we do.”

It’s not easy fronting a “progressive” political organization like Northridge Indivisible. While not Orange County, the San Fernando Valley has its own deep, historical strain of conservatism.

Yet Fowle, 53, continues forth with her passion and agenda. She paid some attention to the Democratic convention last week and is paying scant attention to the Republican convention this week. There’s work that must be done — reaching out by phone or email to every voter possible both locally and nationally, until Election Night on Nov. 3, urging them to support Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“I’m voting for Joe Biden because hey, I can’t vote for Donald Trump. But for Trump, there is no platform. [With him] it’s all about loyalty. This is what dictators do,” Fowle said.

“There’s nothing there (at the Republican convention). All they do is yell and scream that Democrats want to kill babies and how we want to take away their guns…this is not about opinions or politics as usual. This is a clear decision between right and wrong.”

She’s amused by critics who describe her group as “socialist.” And she dismisses those who are quick to apply such labels as being people happy to let others do their thinking for them.

“One of the things I tell people is one person isn’t going to fix everything. One march isn’t going to fix everything. That’s not how it works,” she said.

“But this is what you can do. You can be what I call a ‘raindrop.’ Figure out what you want to do — whether it’s five minutes a week or five hours, figure it out and do it. And that is your focus. Some days you’ll be a mist, and some days you’ll be a bigger, wetter raindrop. But if you keep doing it, there’s millions of other people doing the same thing across the country. And in a collective, that’s how the wave comes in.”

Even if Biden should win, Fowle said there would still be plenty left to advocate for. There will be other “calls to action.” And because of human nature, the public’s attention span cannot be allowed to wane.

“I know a lot of white people who will [stop participating in protests and rallies] and that’s disheartening. Black people are still getting killed at this ridiculous rate, and it’s wrong,” Fowle said. “We still have to hold our representatives accountable at every level of government. You have to pay attention. You have to crusade if, in general, we want to have the country we want.

“But overall, I still believe in the power of the people. I believe if you do the work, it will happen. The work is hard, it’s stressful, and it’s exhausting. But I think the human spirit and determination is far more powerful.”  

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