Coffee may be their poison of choice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get tea at their party too.
Organizers of the Coffee Party — which grew out of messages and videos on Facebook and has received a boost in recent days from media coverage — originally billed themselves as a response to the conservative, grassroots Tea Party movement. But Coffee Party spokesman Camron Moore said the movement is neither liberal nor conservative, and even Tea Partiers are welcomed to crash their party. The latter aren’t entirely sure they’re interested in the invitation.
“It’s less about policy and more about fostering agreement,” Moore, 29, and a consultant in Denver, Colo., said.
Then what, exactly, does the Coffee Party stand for?
Founder Annabel Park, in a video on the Coffee Party Web site, said “We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans.”
Not quite the words you’d hear at a Tea Party rally.
“Do you believe that the government can help us address these enormous problems that were facing? If you don’t believe the government has any role, then yeah you should join the Tea Party. But there are many of us who believe we must have the government addressing these things,” Park continued.
Moore acknowledged the ambiguity, but maintained that the movement is more about getting people engaged at the local level rather than promoting a platform. Asked if that means a Coffee Party group in Alabama could agree to be against President Obama’s health-care plan, while a group in New York could be for it, he said, “absolutely.”
“It’s really a response to a lack of dialogue in the state level and national level,” he said. “We can find common ground.”
Moore, a self-identified Republican, rejected the notion that it is the liberal version of the Tea Party movement. He refused to speak ill of the Tea Parties when provoked, saying, “absolutely not,” when asked if Coffee Partiers consider Tea Party activists crazy.
“They’re engaged. They saw things in government that they weren’t happy with,” he said.
On Saturday, the Coffee Parties will kick off across the country. The meetings will mark an introductory period, he said, where organizers will distribute guidelines to activists on how to “start building a dialogue.”
“I hope it gains momentum and this momentum never dies,” he said.
Moore said there are about five other national volunteer spokesmen. He said he hadn’t met Park when he got involved, but joined up because there’s “so much synergy there.” As for the future, he said organizers envision holding coffee meetings with members of Congress.
Mark Meckler, a national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, said he will “always applaud” a genuinely grassroots movement, if the Coffee Party really is that. He said he doesn’t think anyone in the Tea Party movement is threatened by it.
He said the “copycat” nature of the Coffee Party is a “great example of how successful the Tea Party movement is.”
“Anytime you having something that’s big and successful you’re always going to have a copycat,” Meckler said.
Not all Tea Party activists are enthused by the idea. Dana Loesch, a conservative radio talk show host who also is a founder of the St. Louis Tea Party, wrote on her blog: “It’s nothing more than an astroturfed ploy by the left to lure independent voters away from the Tea Party.”
“No one has any idea as to what the Coffee Party is actually for; they say they are the alternative to the Tea Party movement – which means that since the Tea Party stands for limited government, believes in upholding the Constitution and believes in individual liberty, the Coffee Party, by its own admission, stands for bigger government, bucking the Constitution and no individual liberty,” Loesch wrote.
Mark Skoda, who is chairman of the Memphis Tea Party and was an organizer of the National Tea Party Convention, brought up that Park, who “claims to be an organic grassroots activist,” is a former Obama campaign volunteer. He dismissed that it’s comparable to the Tea Party movement, calling it “amusing.”
“It was an operative who thought she could be clever,” Skoda said of Park. “They’re absolutely off the mark, and I don’t believe there’s any animation or activism there.”