The Coffee Party movement began in February with a “rant” on Facebook by its founder Annabel Park. Since then it has grown into a phenomenon with over 250,000 followers and it looks as if it is here to stay. It may have started as a reaction to the Tea Party, but it is turning into something more thoughtful and powerful – a movement for good government. It may be more academic and centrist than some of its members had hoped for but nevertheless, it is a timely and welcome development of a more intellectual form of political activism.
Like the League of Women Voters, The Coffee Party is intended to be non-partisan, with goals of reinvigorating the public sphere and reinstating commonly held democratic ideals such as civic duty, civic pride and expecting government to be accountable to the people. Like the League, members vote to achieve consensus on issues to study and support and like the League, members are mainly members of the Democratic Party with a deep concern for voting rights, election finance reform and the restoration of ethics in government.
It is interesting to see that now the shouting of the Tea party adherents has died down, or at least has turned into domestic squabbling, the voices of thoughtful conservatives are now being heard in the Coffee Party. One self-described representative of libertarian and conservative voices recently wrote on the Coffee Party website that he hopes the conversation will continue to include his viewpoint. “Why I think the Tea Party movement will ultimately be ineffective,” he writes, “is because probably all their positions are- to put it lightly-contrary to reality.” He goes on to say that the need is for solutions that work and that requires an understanding of the problems.
The Coffee Party expects its members to be informed and participatory. Groups all over the country are being encouraged to be autonomous and not look for leadership to tell them how to run their meetings and activities. That has not stopped some dissension, as disappointed progressives have left the movement for more activist organizations or issues, and some centrists or independents have left because the agenda may have seemed too partisan. Those who are staying are enjoying the civil conversations taking place over coffee and may not be completely aware that they are maintaining a long tradition of political discourse beginning in the coffee houses of Europe, leading to political change and even revolution.
The Coffee Party recently ran a National Coffee Summit, followed by a Café Call and a National Vote, using information and internet technology to reach across the country and determine members’ main concerns. Overwhelmingly, the core issue was determined to be Money in Politics with 95% of members voting for a specific course of action, based on support for the Fair Elections Now Act, the DISCLOSE Act, the Shareholder Protection Act and a constitutional amendment to reverse corporate personhood.
This does not mean however, that other issues are being overlooked. The Boulder Coffee Party group in Colorado for example has set up a special interest group to include the environment and clean energy. Other groups are addressing immigration reform which will be an ongoing issue till the election and beyond. Local groups are being encouraged to take an interest in state and city politics to complement the national campaign and many state groups are seeing the efficacy of scheduling meetings with their elected representatives and hosting public forums for civil discourse on matters of timely importance.
As people look to leadership for guidance or give their input for leadership to follow, it is becoming apparent that the first National Coffee Party Convention will be an interesting place to be. Scheduled for September 24-25 at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky, one has to wonder if the hotel was named after John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. No doubt that will be a conversation starter at social hour. Hopefully Ayn Rand’s influence will be balanced by quotations from Jefferson such as, “Difference in opinion leads to enquiry, end enquiry to truth; and I am sure….we both value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by our Constitution not to cherish its exercise even when in opposition to ourselves.” (written to P.H. Wendover, 1815)
Meetings of The Coffee Party in Colorado are held in Boulder, Longmont, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Arvada, Castle Rock, Craig, and Denver. Details of meetings can be found on their respective Facebook pages.
The Longmont Coffee Party also meets Saturday July 10th at 4pm at the Brewing Market And residents in Boulder County are urged to attend the next meeting on Saturday July 10th at 11am at The Boulder Library, Meadows Branch, located behind Safeway, 4800 Baseline Road, Boulder, CO 80303.