Low-key java drinkers in Washington kick off Coffee Parties

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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If Tea Partiers are more comfortable waving signs at a health-care protest, these activists seem much more at ease with a cup of java inside the calm confines of a coffee shop.

This weekend marks the kick-off of the Coffee Parties across the country— which has been billed as the liberal response to the Tea Party movement — and I stopped by one of the Washington D.C. area gatherings Saturday morning at Peregrine Espresso in the Eastern Market area — only to find a small gathering of five activists huddled at a small table.

Kathleen Frydl, a professor on sabbatical from Berkeley, led the discussion on topics ranging from Tea Partiers to the media. Frydl said that even though she finds parts of the Tea Party movement to be “nuts,” there are a couple of things she agrees with the conservative activists on, like adopting a simpler tax code. She took issue with a recent Tea Party document of legislative demands called the “Contract from America” as an example of how Tea Partiers are trying to “speak for America.”

“There’s a certain amount of demagoguery in the Tea Party,” Frydl said.

One participant, a younger man who brought along a college buddy with him, said the biggest difference between the Coffee Party and the Tea Party is that they believe the federal government is not something that should necessarily be demonized.

They spoke mostly in generalities — not diving into the specifics of policy or really asserting positions on any topic — about health care, energy, poverty and climate change, though one participant said he feels strongly about immigration reform, explaining “everyone should live where they want to live.”

Frydl said she volunteered to lead the smaller, low-key Eastern Market coffee party after reading about the groups in the New York Times. The others said they learned about the gathering from Twitter and from word of mouth. Another area Coffee Party is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Potter’s Coffee House in Northwest DC.

Tea Party groups are trying to figure out how to transform the energy of the movement into results at the polls in November. That doesn’t seem to be the goal of these coffee drinkers who appear to rather just enjoy good conversation.