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It’s been over a month since I had to step down as organizer of the Albany Coffee Party.  But that hasn’t stopped other participants from becoming organizers themselves: there are now two Coffee Parties in Albany County meeting regularly, as well as groups meeting in surrounding counties.  Still privy to the Coffee Party’s message boards, I see that the same pattern holds true across New York State and the rest of the country.

In fact, the movement has gained such national traction it is the subject of a current feature article in Newsweek.

The Coffee Party Heats Up

Tired of all the Tea Party talk, Annabel Park decided to throw a Coffee Party—and 200,000 people showed up.

The rest of the article references some of the challenges facing the growing movement, but taken together paints an accurate and hopeful picture of what the Coffee Party USA has been up to in the past month.

Below the fold, a round-up of the Coffee Party’s most recent initiatives, an inside-look at their current letter-writing campaign, and how Senator Schumer’s office is taking action as well.

For those on the Democratic blogosphere concerned that a "new party" might be detrimental to the Donkey Party, Newsweek’s description of the Coffee Parties most enthusiastic participants might be reassuring:

When Annabel Park imagined what it would be like to head a new national political movement, here is what she had in mind: a coming together of engaged, intelligent citizens who had tired of the angry rhetoric and accusations of the Tea Partiers; Americans of all political persuasions joining in a spirit of equanimity to discuss the nation's problems, and maybe even share a laugh. It was this beautiful vision that danced in Park's head on a recent Saturday as she made her way to Busboys and Poets, a cafe in Washington, D.C., for one of nearly 500 Coffee Party meetings taking place nationwide that day. She knew the house would be full—word had spread quickly on the group's swelling Facebook page. Park, a documentary filmmaker, was especially pleased that C-Span had arranged to broadcast the meeting.

But from the moment folks in the crowd stood up to speak their minds, Park knew these people had not come to sip cappuccinos and set an example of civility for an overheated nation. They were angry. They hated the Tea Party, and the Republican Party. They wanted to get even. One audience member said America was under the thumb of oligarchs and denounced "moneyed interests." A few people hissed when Sarah Palin's name was mentioned. Also on hand were the usual suspects drawn to the C-Span bat signal. A man representing Code Pink, the left-wing protest group, said that "racism was the basis for everything that's going on right now." He also seemed to have a real problem with "fear-based rhetoric" and Northrop Grumman.
::
::
But then, Park didn't set out to create a political movement in the first place. She was just exhausted by all-Tea-Party-all-the-time on the news. One night in January, she signed on to her Facebook page and ranted about "the false narrative that the tea party is the real America." Her friends picked up on the post and it led to the creation of the Coffee Party. Within days, thousands of people signed up on Facebook.
All of a sudden Park was a political leader—of what, she didn't quite know—and the target of right-wing fury. Conservative bloggers unearthed—scandal!—that she had once briefly worked for The New York Times and supported Sen. Jim Webb, a moderate Democrat from Virginia. One online commenter accused her of being a "Chinese agent." The notoriety didn't really hurt: the group now has more than 200,000 members, and every status update Park posts gets about a million views.

Emphasis mine – SP

That ought to set your heart at ease.  So, too, should the recent poll results regarding the Citizens United case ruling specifically and corporate money’s influence of our elected officials specifically.  They show over 90% of Coffee Party participants and organizers feel that they should concentrate on the role of money in politics and "reforming Wall Street to make it more accountable to Main Street."

This has triggered the Coffee Party’s most recent initiative, Clean Up Wall Street & K Street.  Now would be a good time to do that, given Senator Schumer’s announcement today of legislation aimed at limiting the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decider-ing:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 29, 2010
SENATE DEMOCRATS UNVEIL LEGISLATION TO LIMIT FALLOUT FROM SUPREME COURT RULING THAT ALLOWS UNLIMITED SPECIAL-INTEREST SPENDING ON ELECTIONS—ANNOUNCE PLAN FOR SENATE PASSAGE BY JULY 4

DISCLOSE Act Will Require All Organizations Making Political Expenditures To Make Public Their Donors And Appear On Camera To Stand By Their Ads

Legislation Would Also Ban Foreign-Controlled Corporations, Government Contractors from Making Political Expenditures

Bill Was Developed Together With Obama Administration; Van Hollen, Castle To Introduce House Version Later Today

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Al Franken (D-MN) announced new legislation Thursday to blunt the harmful impacts from the Supreme Court’s decision allowing corporations and other special interests to spend unlimited sums to influence elections. The lawmakers said their goal is for the Senate to pass the new measure by July 4 so the law can take effect in time for the 2010 midterm elections.

The legislation is a response to the Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case last January. That decision overturned a decades-old law banning political expenditures by corporate interests. The new Senate legislation would partly restore those limits – by barring foreign-controlled corporations, government contractors and companies that have received government assistance from making political expenditures – and also require corporations, unions, and other organizations that make political expenditures to disclose their donors and stand by their ads.

The legislation is dubbed the "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections" Act, or The DISCLOSE Act.

Senator Schumer said: "At a time when the public's fears about the influence of special interests were already high, the Court’s decision stacks the deck against the average American even more. Our bill will follow the money. In cases where corporations try to mask their activities through shadow groups, we drill down so that ultimate funder of the expenditure is disclosed. If we don’t act quickly to confront this ruling, we will have let the Supreme Court predetermine the outcome of next November’s elections. It won’t be Republicans or Democrats; it will be Corporate America and other special interests."

The release is long and quotes Sens. Franken, Bayh, Feingold, and Wyden, as well as contains a summary of the bill to be introduced.

The Coffee Party video on cleaning up Wall Street and K-Street makes great points on the topic as well:

LET’S CLEAN UP WALL STREET AND K-STREET

One of the steps the Coffee Party is encourage folks to take is to send their Senators hand-written letters with regard to Sen. Dodd’s bill.  I have a feeling they may do the same with Sen. Schumer’s efforts.  Below is the form of the letter the Coffee Party is suggesting be fleshed and sent out:

The Honorable (full name)                                                                                      (date)
(Room#) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510
S. 3217 – Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010
Dear Senator (Elected Officials name):
We are members of the Coffee Party and we are committed to helping those employed on Wall Street act like responsible human beings and good citizens. We insist that legal constraints be enacted in order for this to happen.
We feel that Senator Dodd’s bill, S3217 the "Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010" should be enacted as long as it provides the following:

The Volker Rule and a return to the protections of the Glass- Steagall Act

An independent consumer financial protection agency chaired by a true consumer protection advocate.

The Kaufman-Brown amendment that would cap the size of individual banks and financial institutions.

We also support the recently introduced Lincoln legislation to curtail abusive derivative practices and urge its passage alongside the Dodd legislation.

This kind of reasonable regulation is essential in order to ensure that the financial services industry works in the best interest of the American people.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

(Your Name)

How many of you might put your name to that?  Now, how many of you answered "yes" to the first question, but wrote off the Coffee Party before doing so?  I don’t want to scold you, but some on the liberal blogosphere said this would go nowhere and would be counter-productive to progressive political action.  I simply disagree, and submit the above and the following actions the Coffee Party has taken as proof that this is a movement to be embraced by progressives of all partisan stripes as well as the Democratic Party itself.

From April 17 to 25, the Coffee Party engaged college and university students all over the nation.  The video below shows a progressive consensus among today’s millenials in what could only be a good development for the national progressive movement:

Much nicer than those out-of-control Tea Party protesters, wouldn’t you say?  And very much in line and helpful to the Democratic Party, I’d say.

Originally posted to Soundpolitic on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:23 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Looks good, but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sun dog

    the problem from what I've seen of the Coffee Party is that part of their mission is to avoid conflict.  Yet I really think that conflict of some sort is necessary in order to have any kind of meaningful change.  Unless I'm misunderstanding the Coffee Party, I think they're doomed to some kind of mediocrity.

    •  Anyone wanting to avoid conflict should (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Soundpolitic, greengemini, judyms9

      stay out of politics!  I went to a coffee party meeting in San Diego and I'd say it was mostly made up of democrats and independents.  If we can get independent-minded people to agree with us and vote democratic, we win.  And maybe the democratic party could take a few lessons from the Coffee Party in engaging people.  Whatever they're doing is working.

      •  Funny point :-) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fury

        As I say below, there's lots of conflict in politics.

        The Coffee Party recognizes this, but seeks to reduce or negate that "all politics is conflict" nature perpetrated by the Tea Party.

        Also, I hope it gets the message across that political conflict doesn't have to mean full throttle guns-a-blazing, voices screaming, signs-a-waving conflict.  The main theme is that we can work out our differences over a cup of coffee with a civil tone, even if we have conflicting opinions.

        Keep going to meetings if you can!

        Be of sound mind and politcs -SP

        by Soundpolitic on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 02:26:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I think you have a slight misunderstanding (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rossl

      Not a big one.  Yes, conflicting opinions are unavoidable in politics.  They arise out of any political dialogue.

      What the Coffee Party is about is finding ways to reduce the level of vitriol with which we often respond to conflict.  Finding where we all agree is one step forward in that respect.  And just toning down the conversation and getting more folks involved is another.  Lots of people stay out of politics because they see it as all conflict, all the time.  They see politicians perpetuating a response to conflict ideas that creates a dramatic war-zone style of conflict that turns people off; getting together over a cup of coffee may reveal conflicting opinions, but with the goal of keeping conflict civil at the heart of the movement, I doubt it's doomed for mediocrity.

      Rather, I hope it rises to prominence in both the progressive movement and the nonpartisan "silent majority" that has yet to become engaged.

      Thanks for reading!

      Be of sound mind and politcs -SP

      by Soundpolitic on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 02:23:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And I think you might be misunderstanding me (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Soundpolitic

        a bit.  Along with civility, the Coffee Party seems to be advocating taking the path of least resistance.  That is not the path that changes things.  To paraphrase a friend of mine, it's not a revolution if you don't step on someone's toes.

        •  It happens (0+ / 0-)

          So now we have a mutual misunderstanding.

          We now have conflict.

          So the difference between us (progressives) and them (the Tea Party) has to be how we deal with this.

          Let's see if we can show that we're better...

          So, I'll ask you what exactly your talking about when you say "conflict."  I'm assuming you just mean "heated political argument" and not "armed conflict."  That might be where I'm misunderstanding you...

          My disagreement with you is that I don't see the Coffee Party as taking the path of least resistance.  There's a huge resistance just to getting involved for a lot of people out there, namely non-voters and non-activists.  The Coffee Party is seeking to engage the political system by going to the people who really have the power in that system, the voters, and getting them to act like employers.  And it's no path of least resistance to get a bunch of people contacting their representatives.

          Also, I don't think it's a revolution we're asking for.  That's kind of Tea Party sounding to me.  They want another American Revolution and they allude to that real event constantly.

          The Coffee Party seems more akin to the Constitutional Convention.  There, people also had very different political opinions and there was conflict as to how to shape this nation's highest law.  But they made a pledge to be civil, and now the story of the Constitution being drafted and adopted is a story of compromise having arisen out of conflict.

          I hope that helps.  See what I mean?

          Be of sound mind and politcs -SP

          by Soundpolitic on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 02:47:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  See, I definitely agree with you about (0+ / 0-)

            political discussion.  There's no reason why people shouldn't stay calm and collected during it, although IMHO there's nothing wrong with getting a bit heated now and then.

            But I'm talking about political action.  I'm skeptical of the Coffee Party but not writing them off - if they can successfully get a lot of people engaged (maybe they can take the place of ACORN, although given their aversion to conflict I'm doubtful they would step up to that position visibly or engage in the blatantly class-oriented work ACORN did) who previously weren't, that would be incredible.

            However, I do think that sending letters to representatives is the path of least resistance, in a sense.  That's just the example you used, but what I mean is that if the main strategy of the CP is consensus building and finding common ground, they won't end up with any kind of significant change, but piecemeal reforms they can congratulate themselves on while what is fundamentally wrong stays in place.

            I'm having a bit of trouble trying to say what I mean.  Basically, if the CP isn't willing to go toe-to-toe with the people they're up against and instead decides to build consensus with them, although this is a bit of an oversimplification and not entirely clear, they will not accomplish what they intend to.  If they don't pose a threat (not physical, of course), if they're not willing to really stand up for themselves like the grassroots movements and people that HAVE changed history, then they will not be among those grassroots movements and people.

            As for revolution, that's just how my friend said it.

  •  Damn all you Latte Liberals..... (0+ / 0-)

    "Progress" is the core of progressive. Two steps forward. One step back.

    by captainlaser on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 02:43:17 PM PDT

  •  If the Coffee Party remains information-based (0+ / 0-)

    with rigorous analysis and discussion it will be in automatic conflict with the aimlessly milling and yelling teabaggers who are propelled by anger, frustration, and in many cases the strong need for some kind--any kind--of social life.  The more thoughtful among them, the ones not recruited and given box lunches and bus rides by Dick Armey, could gravitate to the CP.  This gives them cover when they don't want to be associated with either of the two major political parties.  Glad it's working.

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