Strange brew: The Coffee Party

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From the outset, the wildly popular Tea Party movement was ignored, marginalized, and ridiculed by the media and political elites that cheered President Obama into office. While today many in the media and political class tend to over-simplify the movement, most commentators—save for the propagandists on some outlets—have figured out that this is a very healthy, very mainstream civic reawakening.

In a tacit admission of the Tea Party’s success, backers of the wildly unpopular big-government, liberty-crushing policies of the Obama administration are brewing up their own movement—the Coffee Party. It all allegedly started with a random musing in a post by Annabel Park on Facebook in which she called for an alternative to the Tea Party movement.

When I was first asked about the emergence of this “movement,” my reaction was mixed. In full disclosure, I’m a coffee person. I prefer it iced—year-round. In fact, I wrote this piece from a coffee shop. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If someone wants to invoke a caffeinated drink to rally the troops, isn’t it really just vindication of the Tea Party movement’s success?

If people are getting involved in the political process at a grassroots level, that’s a net positive for our country, no matter where one falls on the political spectrum. This is hardly in contrast to the Tea Party, but quite in sync with a core principle of the movement. Where the “coffee party” starts to drastically part easy with the Tea Party movement is in its seriousness and its success.

The kick-off events were not well attended, and I’m having trouble discerning what the Coffee Party is trying to do. They claim not to be opposed to the Tea Party and potentially even want “some of the same things,” according to Ms. Park. Yet in the introductory video on CoffeePartyUSA.com, Ms. Park makes a point of saying that the genesis of this movement is a desire to counter the Tea Party movement. What’s more, in a call for “civilized discourse” and respect for the democratic process, Coffee Partiers are implicitly—and incorrectly—characterizing the Tea Party movement as standing for neither. The Facebook post that started it all hardly sets a civilized tone of cooperation. In fact, it is quite confrontational and explicitly mocks the Tea Party movement:

let’s start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss ‘em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let’s get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion

How about a Grammar & Syntax Party?

The Coffee Party claims to be non-ideological and non-partisan. A quick perusal of their extremely professional, high-touch Web site CoffeePartyUSA.com reveals a gratuitous use of the word “diversity,” a staple of the liberal lexicon. Hardly a smoking gun, but it raised my suspicions.

It turns out that Annabel Park is a former Obama volunteer and paid political strategist. You won’t find this in the “mainstream” media coverage of Annabel Park’s story, though. Said coverage in the Washington Post and New York Times portrays Ms. Park as an average citizen just getting involved in the political process. I’m sure the oversight of this little factoid has nothing to do with the fact that Ms. Park previously worked at the Times as a political strategist. That would be cynical of me in this post-partisan era.

In addition, according to their own Web site, CoffeePartyUSA.com apparently was being run off of a “Citizens for Webb” GoDaddy account and received support and services from liberal Astrotuf, Soros-funded Democracy in Action. That’s irrelevant, claims the site’s “Fact Check” section. This is totally nonpartisan grassroots.

Despite the Coffee Party’s call for civilized political discourse, Ms. Park just so happens to be part of the extremely immature and uncivilized crowd that has attempted to marginalize the Tea Party movement by invoking the homophobic “tea bagger” sexual slur in her Twitter posts.

It isn’t shocking that this movement is being run by partisan malcontents. What, though, do they seek to accomplish? Their tag line is to “wake up and stand up.” The problem is, people have already woken up and are standing up in droves against the political establishment. The Tea Party represents a counterrevolution to the very radical policies emanating from the Beltway as of late. If the Coffee Partiers don’t back the partisan “solutions” offered by the Obama administration, nor the pushback as exemplified in the grassroots Tea Party movement, what do they bring to the table? A counter-counter-revolution? Doesn’t that just cancel out as an endorsement of the radical status quo?

Cameron Moore, the spokesman for the group, recently told The Daily Caller that “it’s less about policy and more about fostering agreement.” Depending on where you get your fix, coffee isn’t cheap—but talk is. Agreement is great, but it is impotent without substantive policy change. Vague platitudes of “health care” and “jobs”—things Coffee Partiers are encouraged to agree upon and put on signs—aren’t useful. In fact, this is a big part of what the Tea Party movement rejects. If congressional and presidential job-approval polls are any indication, the majority of Americans are sick of this fickle political drivel. Americans thirst not for caffeinated rallying cries, but for principled leaders who will advance substantive public policy prescriptions.

Unfortunately, the current administration and Congress aren’t quenching this thirst. If their strongest backers have resigned to meeting at coffee shop in the half-of-dozens to make signs, that’s fine by me. That’s a few less disgruntled partisans and political operatives pushing harmful job-killing cap-and-trade, anti-democratic card-check legislation, and health care non-reform for entrenched special interests. While they’re busy sipping latte’s over arugula-infused crumpets, the rest of us can get down to the business of working within the democratic process to advance positive public policy solutions for all Americans.

John M. O’Hara is author of A New American Tea Party, a book chronicling the history and principles of the tea party movement. He is vice president of external relations at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization dedicated to supporting free market principles and liberty-based public policy initiatives for a better Illinois.