The Coffee Party

Still suffering from acute thoughtlessness, aggravated by meatspace drama, but didn’t want the blog to atrophy entirely, so here’s a light post on the Coffee Party Movement.

I heard of them for the first time quite a while back, but didn’t look deeper into it, since it seemed like an act of inconsequential counter-stupidity to the Tea Party, but apparently it has recently grown into a full-fledged movement (they even have a convention in Louisville, KY coming up; if it doesn’t get canceled, it will already be more successful than the teabagger convention in Las Vegas, which was “postponed” from July to October just a few weeks prior to the scheduled date “because of the heat”; yeah, right), so it’s worth looking into at least. I still think that, being a counter-movement, it will dissolve almost immediately the moment the teabaggers disappear, but as far as I’m concerned that could be a win-win situation: either the teabaggers will disappear; or there will be a pretty liberal/independent counter-movement to balance out their utter stupidity with some actual democratic activism.
The most interesting article about the Coffee Party that I found while trawling the internet for information about is was this blogpost by a centrist and former participant in it. It was interesting for the inside view of the Coffee Party (for a localized, supposedly decentralized grassroots movement, there’s decidedly too much talk about the leaders and leadership of “Coffee Party USA”) on the one hand, and for the odd perspective on non-partisanship/independence of the writer on the other, which I think reflects the perspective of a lot of self-declared centrists and moderates: that “independent” and “non-partisan” always has to mean standing exactly between the Republicans and the Democrats; being even slightly (or extremely, for that matter) to the right or left of that dividing line automatically aligns one with one of the two parties. This of course would be news to Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent Senator and a socialist, but seems to be how America views its politics; I blame it on the two party system. The blogpost complains about a perceived non-centrism of the Coffee Party, but quite frankly, I don’t think the U.S. needs more “bipartisanship” and centrism; what it does need is a real counterweight to the teabaggers, who are yanking the Overton Window sharply to the right. whether the Coffee Party can be such a things is, of course, a separate issue. Anyway, centrist dude also notes the lack of astroturfing and Big Donors, which is good; and the lack of transparency and “leaders” not listening, which is bad. The “unorganized” thing I’m ambiguous about, since I can’t tell whether he really means it’s a mess, or whether (considering his obsession with leadership), he’s just having issues with the sort of “netroots” anarchic, pseudo-organized movement that something that started on fucking Facebook has got to be by default, at least at first.

That aspect of both being a netroots spontaneous organization on the one hand, and being so focused on the founders and the leadership (though, admittedly, that might have just been centrist-dude’s bias, combined with the standard media focus on spokes-people and founders) makes me wonder whether sooner or later, this whole thing will morph into a standard-issue liberal “special interest” organization, or whether it can actually be an independent, glocal cooperative-like movement of people actually organizing around their own interests and needs that would lack the useless top-down management of issues and priorities. Most likely the former, because that’s how things generally develop, which would be too bad. Also, reading over some of the stuff on the Coffee Party USA website, at least some of the members take a similar stance on “independent” as the centrist I quoted earlier, i.e. they have shallow, middle-of-the-road opinions and commit the fallacy of the golden middle a lot. I mean, really, WTF does “I am not for a smaller government or for a large government. I am for right sized government. I am not for no regulations for businesses nor am I for a lot of regulations to manage the businesses. I am for enough, but not too much. I am not for government to cut all spending nor am I for spending wildly, but to spend where it is necessary.” even mean? it’s completely pointless rhetoric that tries to score points on the “I’m not an extremist like those people” talking-point. meh.

Also, I’m now getting their updates on facebook, and they’re strangely naive. Complaining about Murdoch Media offering infotainment? That’s… weaksauce. Real information sources exist, but expecting the mainstream media to be any good at it, especially in the face of shrinking profit margins and the downsizing on correspondents, investigative reporters, etc. is “political outrage 101”, so to speak. At the same time though, there’s some encouragingly effective activism going on, and at least, it provides a convenient set of activism tools for beginners, which is something I always thought was sorely missing. How to be an activist seemed to be one of those arcane skill sets one acquired by latching on to other, experienced activists (where one would find these experienced activists has of course also been unclear; not like they advertise in the Classifieds section of the paper). Now everybody can figure this stuff out, at least at the basic level.

So, as a whole, the Coffee Party is pretty weak brew (sorry, bad pun), but probably an excellent starting point for newly engaged/enraged people who want to become more active in their own democracy. If this becomes a mainstream-ish movement, and if even a small fraction of Coffee Partiers continues their journey into Advanced Activism, that will be a pretty good result, I think.