Coffee Conservatives

coffee-cupWhen I first read about the Coffee Party movement a few weeks back, it was a lark that started on Facebook to “promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse, engage the government not as an enemy but as the collective will of the people, push leaders to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008.”  Now, I see via Kevin Drum that the idea has spread to include conservatives who are fed up with the shouting and name calling of the Tea Party movement.   Coffee Party USA claims to have “nearly 200,000 supporters, sipping java and talking turkey in 47 states.”

Kevin defines a “coffee conservative” as one who “remains interested in actual policy and doesn’t feel the urge to rant tirelessly about decline of the west and the imminent tyranny that Barack Obama is bringing down on us.”   That’s me to a T! (Or is that a C?)   Whether it’s politics or beverages, I decidedly prefer coffee to tea.

To the extent that a civility wave will rein in the current anger in the Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, and all the rest, I’m for it.  But I remain skeptical of the idea of civility, per se, as an organizing principle for a political party.

It’s great that decent folk in Raleigh can get together and hash out their political differences over a cup of Joe.  But, ultimately, ideas have to be translated into policies and spending priorities.  And even people who are polite and respectful about it will have legitimate disagreements.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tim says:

    Mr. Joyner, your assessment of the Tea Parties must be driven by television. I have been to numerous events and I am not a sign carrying, blow horn embracing type of person. I go, as an individual to represent a number and to listen to the people speak. I clap when appropriate, I don’t whistle, I don’t shout (few do, btw) I listen and support, I buy things to support the efforts. NONE of this is ever ascribed by you as the actions of a Tea Partier, and people like me are probably about 50% of the crowd.
    CIVIL DISCOURSE is what we have been protesting FOR. It is the cold shoulder, the dismissive attitude from the people we expect answers from that drives the movement. If THEY would provide civil discourse, it wouldn’t have gone this far.

  2. Andy says:

    James,

    I’m an avid reader of your blog. I think you’ve developed one of the more identifiable writing voices out there; I’d love to know how often you use “decidedly” in casual conversation since it pops up a lot on OTB.

    “Honey, the pork chops are decidedly better with the new marinade…”

  3. Eric Florack says:

    One of the habits the left has been perfecting over the last couple of decades is making out that the Lynch mob that is chasing them, is actually a parade they’re leading. Witness, as an example, Bubba and welfare reform. They get out in front of the angry mob and make out like it was their idea in the first place.

    This is simply more of the same. It’s an attempt to muddy the water. An interesting simile given coffee or tea.

  4. rodney dill says:

    I’d love to know how often you use “decidedly” in casual conversation since it pops up a lot on OTB.

    Indeed

    😉

  5. Eric Florack says:

    On other point; that Drum is talking up the group is indication enough of their true leanings, but it gets better. Has anybody bothered investigating the fact that the leader of this organization, and its founder, is Anabele Park, a lifelong Democrat who worked for the Obama Campaign?

    Sorry, I know Astroturf when I see it.

  6. JKB says:

    Tim, you can’t fool us, I’ve seen the pictures. Their are a lot of 2-yr olds that attend the Tea Parties. Always jockeying for advantage by sitting on their dad’s shoulders. Everybody knows that 2-yr olds can be real terrors.

    And what is with the singing of unabashed American patriotic songs. Don’t the Tea Partiers know how hurtful that is to Democratspeople who hate America.
    …..

    Ah yes, civil discourse, quite right. All very polite and calm as opposing views are explored. Right up until someone says something the moderator dislikes. We had that last summer at the townhalls, oh that’s right, they only wanted people who would tell them how wonderful they were to speak.

  7. UlyssesUnbound says:

    leader of this organization, and its founder, is Anabele Park, a lifelong Democrat who worked for the Obama Campaign?

    Sorry, I know Astroturf when I see it.

    If your definition of Astroturf is “She worked for Obama so it must be fake” then no…I don’t think you do know the Astroturf when I see it.

    The Obama campaign spent a lot of time and money training people in organizing skills. Skills that any political campaign–republican or democratic, green peace or American Petroleum Institute–uses. Could it be she’s using those skills to form her organization from the ground up? IE through grassroots action?

    By your own logic, I see Sarah Palin attends some tea party events. She worked for McCain. Ergo, the tea party is astroturf.

    Well that was easy.

  8. anjin-san says:

    I see Sarah Palin attends some tea party events. She worked for McCain. Ergo, the tea party is astroturf.

    Yes, and considering what she charges for speaking engagements, it is some expensive astroturf at that.

  9. James Joyner says:

    I’d love to know how often you use “decidedly” in casual conversation since it pops up a lot on OTB.

    I dunno. My writing voice and my speaking voice are somewhat different.

    “Honey, the pork chops are decidedly better with the new marinade…”

    I do 99% of the cooking in the Joyner household, alas, and tend to make pork chops in German style (i.e., as breaded schnitzels).

  10. Steve Plunk says:

    I’ll take the Coffee Party people seriously when they actually show up in numbers like the Tea Party has. So far the turnouts have been few and the numbers anemic. It’s not a real movement but a reaction to the success of the Tea Party. They can’t get people excited about supporting the President and that’s really what they are all about.

    While I too prefer coffee over tea I decidedly prefer action over talk. The Coffee Party is all talk.

  11. Valerie says:

    Nice report. It’s about time the conservatives offered an option for the non-tea drinkers. Expressing the conservative movement’s ideas as being diverse is a teaching moment for the media and the American public. Painting with the broad brush unfairly puts everybody in the boat with the Palin supporters, the jerks screaming racial epithets at civil rights leaders, and the birthers.

    And I like the word “decidedly.” Thanks, James!

  12. Kevin defines a “coffee conservative” as one who “remains interested in actual policy and doesn’t feel the urge to rant tirelessly about decline of the west and the imminent tyranny that Barack Obama is bringing down on us.”

    Note how Drum, in one description, marginalizes not a group of people, but a body of ideas. Discussions of the decline of the West have been around long before I was born, and so have discussions of imminent tyrany under any President. Neither events have occured on a drastic and cataclysmic scale, but over time, these have happened.

    There’s a difference between discussing these in a level-headed manner and doing so while foaming at the mouth; Drum writes as if doing so immediately puts foam in one’s mouth. Wrong again.

    (On a humorous note, there are plenty of other activities that would make a mouth foamy, one of which is having coffee.)

  13. b-psycho says:

    Naive idealist “progressives” who accept that a chunk of their money is permanently dedicated to murder as if it’s merely The Price of Society & buy into all the “gubmint is US!” garbage covering the sham that is “representative government” despite constant reminders that political power inherently attracts self-serving scumbags, vs willfully ignorant right-wingers who scream about “collectivism” only to conveniently redefine it such that anything that personally benefits THEM is “not really big government…” while even so much as a penny that goes to something else is Total Commie Evil?

    Coffee? Tea? No, I’ll stick with beer…

  14. floyd says:

    Oh please, if it wouldn’t be too much of an imposition, could I please be allowed to control my own life. Would it it be too much to ask that you respect my right to spend the fruits of my labor without interference, to worship God as I choose and still have a voice in the public square,and to live in an atmosphere of limited government, free from the daily oppression of bureaucratic micromanagement…
    No? Well in the interest of civility, I guess I must concede all my rights and truly believe that 2+2 now equals 5. Thank you so much for listening respectfully, my enslavement should now be a pleasant experience, with such reasonable and caring masters in charge.
    See? We don’t all have to agree…we just all have to conform, politely of course, wouldn’t want to offend!

  15. An Interested Party says:

    Sorry, I know Astroturf when I see it.

    Do you really…

  16. Eric Florack says:

    If your definition of Astroturf is “She worked for Obama so it must be fake” then no…I don’t think you do know the Astroturf when I see it.

    It’s simply one marker of many… all of which lean in one direction…

    Note how Drum, in one description, marginalizes not a group of people, but a body of ideas.

    Exactly… and that the “Coffee Party” is an attempt by the left to discredit it’s most formidable enemy, and the biggest threat to the socialist left in years… A conservative electorate.

  17. sam says:

    the “Coffee Party” is an attempt by the left to discredit it’s most formidable enemy, and the biggest threat to the socialist left in years… A conservative electorate.

    Heh.

  18. … push leaders to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008 …

    I thought that a significant number of people were just tired of George Bush, especially considering how the President’s and Congress’ poll numbers keep falling as more and more people learn more and more about exactly what the progressive change entails.

  19. TMLutas says:

    The secret fantasy of the left is to have an opposition that is a garden party. The left gets to scream and yell (take a look at zombietime’s description of San Francisco protests), commit violence (ALF, ELF, black bloc), and the other side turns up their nose and just takes it as they, in genteel fashion, go down to defeat after defeat.

    The intellectual firepower behind small government advocacy can be found at CATO and among the Austrian School. What’s new is that there are now a large number of foot soldiers willing to get out and be heard in a mass popular movement to reverse the socialist government ratchet and they’re not interested in people who only give lip service to small government ideals.

    So they get called disgusting sexual names, tagged as racists, and as violent even though they are notably less violent than the left wing shock troops that have been out in the streets for decades.

    The coffee conservatives are an attempt to repopulate and repopularize the left’s fantasy garden party of loser conservatives who sometimes slow the tide but will never, ever win over the long haul. Who wants to join something like that?

  20. sam says:

    The intellectual firepower behind small government advocacy can be found at CATO and among the Austrian School.

    The Austrian School? That’s a joke, right?

  21. TMLutas says:

    Ah sam – there’s the civil intellectual engagement of the real coffee party types, dismissal and ridicule. It’s always nice to see how quickly the mask slips these days.

    I think that if there were polling done, you’d find a distinct lack of enthusiasm for keynesian tropes about how you have to spend yourself out of recessions. Creating real savings and rightsizing our government to what we can afford is much more consistent with Hayek and Co and the tea party movement.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    Creating real savings and rightsizing our government to what we can afford is much more consistent with…the tea party movement.

    Oh really? So where are the voices in this movement that are calling for the downsizing of the military and the dismantling of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid…I mean, if they supposedly want to “create real savings” and “rightsize” the government…

  23. sam says:

    Ah sam – there’s the civil intellectual engagement of the real coffee party types, dismissal and ridicule. It’s always nice to see how quickly the mask slips these days.

    What mask? I’ve never hidden my disdain for the Tea Partiers–I’ve said I think they’re nothing more than a bunch of populist rentseekers. And along those lines: The Tea Party movement is Hayekian…are you out your mind? Those folks are, mostly, Social Security and Medicare recipients. The very last thing they want to see, the very last thing, is any diminution of the welfare state as it affects them. Really, the capacity for you folks to con yourselves into thinking this “movement” will have any effect on social spending borders on the clinically significant. (By the way, you know it’s just a matter of time before the circular firing squads are set up and the purity purges begin. Do yourself a favor and invest in popcorn futures — you’ll make a killing.)

  24. TMLutas says:

    An Interested Party – I’ve talked with a number of tea party people and suggested the following:

    Imagine 20 buckets, line them up left to right and on the left is top 5% of government expenditures, on the right is bottom 5% of government expenditures. Now take every budget line item from the current year and put it in a bucket. If you’ve got an item that is bigger than 5% split it and put it in multiple buckets. Once you’ve got every Congressman and Senator to do that you’re going to see patterns emerging in what ends up in the bottom 4-6 buckets. Take those items and get a commission to identify the bottom 10%. Cut that on an up or down vote just like we did with the Base Realignment and Closure commission in the 90s when we had 4 rounds of successful major cuts in spending. You keep doing that every Congress until our spending is in line with our tax revenue.

    I’ve yet to see a tea party fan have an objection to that or try to carve out a “not my program” exception. I just haven’t seen it. All the objections to this proposal are coming from other political currents.

    Are Tea Party people masochists who want their favorite programs to go first on the chopping block? No, but nobody else is either which is why we so rarely get major budget cuts in real world legislation.

    sam – Thanks for being an open derider. It really shoots the idea that all the vitriol is coming from the tea party crowd down. And that was the idea of the original article, wasn’t it?

    And no, sam, I’m not out of my mind. I’m just patiently showing that you’re being nasty and substituting invective for reasoned argument. And your statistics are off.

  25. steve says:

    “I’ve yet to see a tea party fan have an objection to that or try to carve out a “not my program” exception. I just haven’t seen it. All the objections to this proposal are coming from other political currents.”

    Of course not. Try putting it in real terms, not imaginary buckets. Are they willing to cut Social Security? Medicare? Spending in their own district? You could have saved yourself a lot of time by looking at polls. They always show that people want to pay less taxes. When asked what they are willing to cut, you get NASA or NEA, nothing that saves much money. Link to summary here with link to full poll. Looks like almost every poll I see on the topic.

    Now, if the Tea PArty does mark a true departure from movement conservatism, ie lower taxes with continued spending, that would be great. Until we see people campaign on that and win and pass budgets reflecting that belief, I wont believe them.

    Steve

  26. TMLutas says:

    By analogy, BRAC was a figment of all our imaginations. The bucket approach followed by an up or down vote on a wide package of cuts was exactly what made BRAC successful. But you don’t like that approach. It’s only been proven to work in four rounds of difficult, real life political battles. You want “real” cuts that can be demagogued and that have been proven to be politically less viable than the BRAC style bucket and package approach.

    Now why is that? Nobody’s tried BRAC style cuts elsewhere but we sure have tried “real” named program cuts and small government advocates have lost seats because of it. BRAC is a political winner because it allows for the creation of cut packages that will win an up or down vote while providing real political cover that everybody’s ox took a risk of getting gored. Your approach has provided lots of great speech material but not such a good record of actual federal budget cuts.

    The tea parties are not going to be satisfied with lip service, talking a good game but not delivering on what is needed. We already have a model that has worked, multiple times. But you don’t like it so out it must go. And the tea partiers are supposed to be doing the circular firing squad routine?

  27. steve says:

    BRAC was a cut in a specific area, one where all agreed there needed to be cuts. They just needed a method to do it.

    “but we sure have tried “real” named program cuts and small government advocates have lost seats because of it.”

    Here is the crux of your problem, and that of Republicans in general. We need a party that advocates for more services with higher taxes. We also need a party that advocates for smaller government with lower taxes. Raising taxes AND cutting services are both unpopular. Dems have been willing to raise taxes to pay for the services they want. That means they get voted out when people are unhappy about the tax increases. Republicans (conservatives) have been willing to cut taxes, but not do the unpopular part of reducing the size of government, apparently because it will cost them votes as you note.

    So tell me why I should vote for a bunch of people whose only interest is staying in office? If they are not going to cut spending once in office, what use are they. They need to tell me what they want to cut. I think some things, like the agricultural subsidies, need cutting more than others. As a voter I want to hear something other than government is bloated. Tell me what is bloated and what you are going to cut. That also lets me know if they are serious and if they have a real plan.

    Steve