Friday, March 5, 2010

Coffee Party: A Tea Party for liberals? - THE WEEK

As the conservative grassroots Tea Party gains influence, a new movement called the Coffee Party recently emerged as an alternative for frustrated left-leaning voters — with citizens across the country interested in starting or joining a local chapter. Here, an instant guide to the Coffee party's origins, its message, and its possible impact on the U.S. political scene:

How did the Coffee Party start?
The self-described "100-percent grassroots" organization was born of a single Facebook status update. Washington, DC-area documentary filmmaker Annabel Park, 41, wrote on Jan. 26: "Let's start a coffee party...let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion." The impromptu notion quickly grew into a "Join the Coffee Party Movement" fan page and a website, Coffee Party USA.

What is the movement's message?
The Coffee Party is committed to promoting civility and "solutions-oriented" discussion in our nation's political discourse — in contrast to the "blame oriented" politics the Tea Party practices. Movement leaders also hope to reduce the influence "corporate interests" have on our voting process, and to promote a progressive legislative agenda.

Is it part of the Democratic Party?
Park has said that her movement is not "aligned" with any party and has dismissed the two-party system as out of date. That said, the Coffee Party's message seems to be overtly pro-Democrat. and Annabel Park and other Coffee Party organizers volunteered with the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.

Is it a direct reaction to the Tea Party movement?
Park has told CNN that her initiative is a "response to how [Tea party leaders] are trying to change our government," adding that the two groups want some of the same things, but she finds the Tea Party's methodology "alienating."

How big is the Coffee Party?
The Coffee Party's Facebook fan page had 40,000 members on March 1. Three days later, the number was 70,000 and growing. Local chapters have popped up in 30 states. "I’m in shock, just the level of energy here," said Park in an interview with The New York Times. "We have 300 requests to start a chapter that I have not been able to respond to."

Is anyone taking it seriously?
Yes and no. Conservatives have dismissed the Coffee Party as "simply...part of the perpetual Obama campaign." Brendan Steinhauser of FreedomWorks, a non-profit with ties to the Tea Party, says, "This Coffee Party looks like a weak attempt at satire or a manufactured response to a legitimate widespread grassroots movement." Even some on the left are skeptical. "Coffee is America's wake-up drink," says Barb Shelly in the Kansas City Star. "Tea is thought of as the weak substitute. Sorry to say, though, I think the reverse will be true in politics."

Does Annabel Park really drink "cappuccino" instead of coffee?
Unclear, but she was initially flexible on the beverage front. Her original Facebook post read: [L]et's start a coffee party … smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea...ooh how about cappuccino party? That would really piss 'em off because it sounds elitist."


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