The newly minted ‘Coffee Party USA’ seeks to organize and activate American citizens around the idea that if we push beyond labels we can find common political ground and can work together to achieve common goals. Or more cleverly, as The Coffee Party movement likes to put it, we can find “common grounds” and should participate in civil discussions to move an agenda forward. Here’s how Coffee Party USA got started:
Several weeks ago, documentary filmmaker Annabel Park was sitting in her apartment in Silver Spring, Md., when she updated her Facebook page with a good, old-fashioned rant. “Let’s start a coffee party — a Red Bull party — anything but tea,” she wrote. “Let’s get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion.”
In just a few weeks, fans of the Coffee Party on Facebook mushroomed from a few hundred to more than 100,000 — making Park the accidental leader of a political movement.
“I’ve kind of had to put a lot of things on hold to focus on this,” Park tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden. “It’s definitely been a surprise in my life.” Source: Coffee Party Founder Wants Common Grounds, NPR
It’s an intriguing idea, and far be it from me to damn any movement that motivates citizens to get more engaged with our democracy. But I will admit that I am watching Coffee Party USA developments through a skeptical lens. Because unlike the Tea Party, with it’s rages against the political machine and it’s professed “small government “ demands (the fact that many Tea Partiers are enrolled in Medicare notwithstanding), the Coffee Party USA has no expressed political ideology; in fact it’s leaders and most vocal representatives resist saying that the Coffee Party USA is “liberal” or “left leaning.” Even after listening to interviews with Coffee Party founder Annabel Park, I still mostly came away with ‘we play nice with each other’. I am hard pressed to believe that kind intent is enough to motivate or sustain an effective political force.
Despite the reactionist origins of her group, Park says the Coffee Party doesn’t want to be seen as the anti-Tea Party. Like the grass-roots conservative movement, Park says, people drawn to the Coffee Party feel the federal government doesn’t represent them, either. The two groups might even have a lot to talk about.
“I think it’s important for us to actually meet with people who identify themselves as Tea Party members and sit down and have coffee or tea with them,” she says.
“In fact, after they dumped tea into the harbor, the Continental Congress declared coffee the national drink,” Park adds. “That became the solution to the problem.” Source: NPR
And even though I voted for George Bush and Barack Obama, am a fiscal policy moderate and a raging social progressive, I’m not sure I want to spend a great deal of time organizing with a determined social conservative, for example, who just happens to share my opinion of how to tackle the deficit. But then again, maybe I am wrong. I’ll have to attend a Coffee Party USA gathering before I commit either way.