Coffee Party vs Tea Party
A joke on Facebook has burgeoned into a movement. Or, well, something.
Furious at the tempest over the Tea Party — the scattershot citizen uprising against big government and wild spending — Annabel Park did what any American does when she feels her voice has been drowned out: She squeezed her anger into a Facebook status update.
The snowballing response made her the de facto coordinator of Coffee Party USA, with goals far loftier than its oopsy-daisy origin: 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.
The ideas aren’t exactly fresh — Tea Party chapters view themselves as civil, inclusive and fueled by collective will — but the Coffee Party is percolating in at least 30 states. Small chapters are meeting up, venting frustrations, organizing themselves, hoping to transcend one-click activism. Kind of like the Tea Party did this last year, spawning 1,200 chapters, a national conference and a march on Washington.
The Tea Party movement is much likelier to sustain momentum for a while; anger is a more powerful motivator than a desire for civility. As for me, I prefer coffee to tea, both as a beverage and as a political posture. But, ultimately, neither are likely to accomplish much in the long term.
Deep down, underneath the Tea Party’s Revolutionary War garb and the Coffee Party’s faded HOPE stickers, they seem to want the same thing. To save America. Which raises the question: “From what?”
The easy answer is “each other,” when really their complaints are similar and eternal: The political system is broken, elected officials ignore the people, and the media warp truths and pit sides. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that two-thirds of Americans are “dissatisfied” or “angry” with the federal government,” the highest level in 14 years, and many have sought solace in social networking. The Coffee Party, whether it grows or fizzles, is the latest effort to turn virtual disenchantment into real-world results. Its members are incited by Tea Party tactics, which they believe obstruct reform and discourage thoughtful deliberation, and the Tea Party — well, the Tea Party has not heard of the Coffee Party.
Being dissatisfied with the status quo is a distinct majority position. But the coalition will naturally fracture when it gets down to policy. It’s much easier to be united against something than for it.
We see that, ironically enough, in the health care debate (which seems to be spawning both the Tea and Coffee Party responses). Americans left, right, and center agree that the status quo needs changing. But even within those sectors, there’s substantial divide over what needs changing, much less how to change it — or how to pay for it.