Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Coffee, tea ... Everclear?

So have you heard of the coffee party? It was formed just recently, I am not quite sure when. A woman, Anna Park (I think), had posted a comment or complaint on Facebook to the effect of why do you have join the tea party if you are unhappy with the government right now? Is there anything for the rest of us? She joked about calling this other thing the cappuccino party. Apparently she got a lot (relatively speaking) of response, and so the coffee party was born. It might be primarily a Facebook thing, although I don’t think it will stay there. Right now it is somewhere around 60,000 members (I think it might have been around for a month), not much in national terms but not bad for a month old internet flash mob.

Now when I say the rest of us, I think Ms Park had the Obama supporters of 2008 in mind in particular. You know, the Democrats and independents who watched Obama have early successes with the Lily Ledbetter Act and the stimulus package (mostly a successs) and other things, and then watched Congress get bogged down in the healthcare thing, with Republicans throwing everything in its path to slow it down; the Obama supporters who have become disaffected. Supposedly the coffee party supports particularly the idea that the government is not working right now but it is not the enemy. The coffee party does not want to return to the ideas of founding fathers per se, they want to help government function now. They want to promote civility and discourse, and find working solutions for our problems. So in theory the coffee and tea parties are working in parallel directions, but with different emphases.

Critics (and there are some already) around the web don’t believe it. One issue is that Ms Park’s resume includes a stint working at the New York Times, time working on the campaign of Jim Webb, and time working on Obama’s campaign. This is why I was saying I think she has Obama supporters in mind for the Coffee party, and this is what critics think too. Also, on the Coffee Party website, there is a menu choice labeled “inform”. When you click on it, you find Media Matters and FactCheck dot org posts on various topics, such as the economy, healthcare reform and climate change (also one lonely Salon post on “birthers”). This is like red meat to those on the right end of the spectrum. Of course, I don’t think there is one source the right and the left would agree on as unbiased and/or objective. Which leaves you with the question of how to promote civil discourse.

So is the coffee party really just a way to get a bunch of progressives in one coffee shop talking about the same thing at the same time? Maybe. And maybe that is not such a bad idea. I mean, it seems like Washington and the whole country might need that other idea, the group that acts like a ref between the right and left, encouraging civil conversation rather than polemics. But since there is no one (short of James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman or perhaps the Allstate guy Dennis Haysbert) that both sides trust enough to insult them when they are in the wrong, I think we have to settle for a progressive party. And hope they speak in wonky enough language to persuade some of those on the fence.

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