If you are a sitting United States Senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and your name alliterates really well with Tuesday, then maybe you shouldn’t show up for your job on that day of the week. “Tuesdays with Toomey” started after the election with a small group of women meeting weekly with Senator Pat Toomey’s Philadelphia office staff. Their goal was to hold Senator Pat Toomey to his word that he would not become a “rubber stamp” for the Trump Organization. The small meetings have now morphed into a weekly protest that is turning out hundreds of people across the state.
Hundreds of activists from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown turned out in full force and smaller numbers turned out in Harrisburg and Altoona. Their target for this week’s Tuesday with Toomey was Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. In previous weeks, demonstrators protested the nominations of Scott Pruitt and Jeff Sessions or they have protested actions like repealing the Affordable Care Act. Betsy DeVos and her family are mega-donors for the Republican Party. Locally, Betsy DeVos has had a hand in meddling with state politics. One of the groups she funds, Students First, spent over a million dollars getting charter school advocates elected to the state legislature over the last three election cycles, and she has had lunch with anti-union gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner before he made his campaign official.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 15 members from Indivisible Berks and other mid-state Indivisible chapters showed up to Senator Toomey’s office, but the office was closed. The lone staffer in the office was conveniently at another meeting. Jane Palmer, coordinator of the quickly put together Harrisburg action, explained that the Indivisible movement started a few weeks ago when a group of former congressional staffers published a manifesto detailing the rise of the Tea Party. The “Indivisible Guide” acts as a “how to” on organize local community groups and apply targeted pressure on local members of congress at town halls or public settings. Locally, Palmer explained that Indivisible Berks was started a little over a week ago after she saw a report about the guide on The Rachel Maddow Show. Since starting a group on Facebook, Palmer has been able to reach hundreds of local activists from Pat Toomey’s home area, Berks County.
At the Harrisburg action, Indivisible Berks members recorded videos detailing personal stories in front of Toomey’s closed door. Outside as protesters were getting ready to leave, Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes stopped to speak to the protesters as he was walking by the federal office building. Senator Hughes took time to hold a sign and speak out against the Trump Organization cabinet picks. Senator Hughes mocked the fact that “Goldman Sacks is back in the house” with Steve Mnuchin tapped to lead the Treasury. Hughes went on to say that “these are the guys who destroyed the economy back in 2008. Thank you President Obama for restoring it. Okay, now we want to give them the keys to the kingdom again? Absolutely makes no sense.”
It will be interesting to see where these two movements go from here. The Tuesday with Toomey protests mirrors the rise of the Moral Monday movements in a sense that they broadened their coalitions by protesting a different issue each week, and the Indivisible movement offers a playbook on how to go after their legislators in a public setting.