A new brew in U.S. politics: Coffee Party

Ever got sick of mainstream American politics and looked for alternatives? Yet frightened away by the right-wing fringe elements in the new Tea Party Movement? Well now you have yet another beverage-sipping group of moderates you can join: welcome to the Coffee Party.

Started by documentary filmmaker Annabel Park on her Facebook page just over six weeks ago, the Party has brimmed over with more than 126,000 fans on the social networking website and already a presence in over 30 states. And they profess that theirs is a unique blend of politics, “not in any way aligned with the Democrats or Republicans or any party,” according to Ms. Park. This coffee ain't black or white.

While there is much they have in common with the Tea Party movement that arose equally rapidly last year in opposition to big government spending and higher taxes, the focus of the Coffee Party is on dialogue and a greater willingness to “work with the government and restore the democratic process to the people”, according to one of its chapter leaders.

And that difference is real — the Tea Party movement rose as a protest against the federal stimulus bill, government bailouts and proposed health care legislation — all under the broad umbrella of fiscal conservatism and a conviction that both Republican and Democratic administrations were not adhering to the tenets of the Tenth Amendment, which restricts the role of the federal government.

Today the Tea Party boasts nationwide membership. Though it is considered a right-wing party, it differentiates itself from the Republican party as it adopts a stricter version of economic conservatism. For example, the Tea Party is opposed to the tax code and “would limit the growth of federal spending to inflation plus the percentage of population growth and require a two-thirds majority for any tax increase,” according to reports.

With its nationwide kickoff on March 13, designated National Coffee Party Day, nearly 400 coffee shop gatherings began stirring into action. And what would they do, besides sit around steaming mugs of Java?

Their website, says the Party's primary mission is to “give voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government”. In a marked divergence from the Tea Party it affirms that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of the collective will of Americans, and participation in the democratic process is essential to address the challenges that the nation faces.

So is there anyone at all that the caffeine enthusiasts disagree with? The site goes on to say, “We demand a government that responds to the needs of the majority of its citizens as expressed by our votes and by our voices; NOT corporate interests as expressed by misleading advertisements and campaign contributions.” Yet they do not require nor adhere to any pre-existing ideology, they hasten to add.

In a recent interview Ms. Park reiterated both her passion for coffee and determination to fix a “broken” political system through discourse. “First of all I love coffee,” she confessed.

“There is a historical reference as well. During the American revolution, after they dumped tea into the water, they declared coffee the national drink and that was the solution. So I associate coffee not only with the solution to problems but also with people working hard… to get our government to represent us.”

Ms. Park said their main preoccupation was to get meaningful representation in government for those disillusioned by the paralysing politics of today's America. “We don't feel represented by our government right now, and we don't really feel represented by the media either.”

All sound like a bland brew of generalised discontentment? Well hang on to your mug, there are still some good ideas in there. Ms. Parker went on to explain, “I think most of us feel that the two-party system is incredibly outdated. It encourages people to think of politics as a kind of game, like a football game, in which there are two sides and it is a zero-sum situation.”

Arguing that a system in which one person's win was another person's loss was not a healthy for conducting collective decision-making, she said, “That's not a democracy. Democracy should start with the sense that we're a community and we share common goals and values and that there's such a thing as a common good that we're all working towards”

Now there's an idea worth more than a few coffee beans. Watch this space.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 1:37:12 PM |

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