WASHINGTON — The week before the presidential election, Shally Venugopal, 33, and Indivar Dutta-Gupta, 34, were like many other young professional couples in the Democratic stronghold of Washington, D.C., looking forward to a smooth transition from President Obama to President Hillary Clinton. With a 4-year-old and a 7-month-old, their family conversation turned to how they would balance the 80-hour workweeks if Dutta-Gupta, an economic policy specialist, joined the new president’s transition effort or administration.
In the end, the question was moot. Clinton was not going to be president. And Donald Trump was. “That evening and that night I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a deep pit in my stomach,” Venugopal recalled her election night reaction at a conference in early April.
What happened next was a story that played out across the country, with one critical difference. “We decided that the best way to process was just to do it over dinner,” she said. “And so we invited a small group of our friends. And it turned out that, actually, more people wanted to come. And more people wanted to come. And I think we ended up having 70, 80 people over to our house for dinner suddenly.”
Her friends were mainly people in their early to mid-30s, people whose years of experience in politics, government and nongovernmental organizations in Washington and around the world had made them by any measure a force to be reckoned with, but whose age by and large made them people you’ve never heard of. In the great pyramid of the D.C. workforce, they were from the thick layer of capable people who drive campaigns and organizations and keep government going, but who are not yet candidates for office or the breakout stars you see on TV. And they weren’t at dinner just to complain and drink away their sorrows.
A Wharton graduate and CEO of a young tech company, Venugopal brought her management background to dinner and divided her guests into groups, 11 in all, by issue areas “to sort of predict what could come of the Trump administration in its worst form” and to plan. Going forward, they would be action-oriented, and the first step would be to “prepare” and “to think ahead” so they could fight back against what was about to happen.
Two of the attendees at the dinner, Ezra Levin, 31, and Leah Greenberg, 30, would go on to found Indivisible, a political-action group that began as a downloadable guide on to how to influence Congress, written by former congressional staffers. That guide has become the lodestar of the new resistance movement and inspired the creation of more than 5,800 registered Indivisible chapters around the country, including at least two in every congressional district.
Another attendee, Andy Kim, would found Rise Stronger, which collaborated with the Townhall Project — a crowd-sourced clearinghouse for information on which members of Congress are holding town halls, run by a couple of former Clinton staffers —…