Not so well reported as the modern Tea Party movement, Coffee Party USA is growing steadily as principle-minded coalition political activists fight for financial disclosure in government and politics. Coffee Party members and supporters operate beneath the radar compared to their Tea Party peers and have drawn comparatively little attention since organized in January 2010. They’re not on TV, and so far have rarely been mentioned by political punditry. Social networking metrics indicate that they’re on-the-grow though and they’re not going away, shadowing the Tea Party movement.
Coffee Party USA seemed at first a fun way to take a stab at a Tea Party gone awry. Or was it stab at a job well done? Large numbers of fiscal moderates and conservatives were looking for a better channel to go after establishment politics. Coffee Party developed as a venue for political dialogue free of hate speech, and more welcoming than the astro-turf culture of the Tea Party movement. Coffee Party USA began absent of outside-directed policy goals and political mission statements.
Today their policy agenda is focused primarily on a single issue area – transparency. They concentrate on disclosure issues and legislation. Their political leanings seem mainstream or moderate, except perhaps their single-minded concentration on revealing, and presumably curtailing, big-money attempts to influence policy, dominate political agendas, and buy elections.
Is the Coffee Party significant? Their social network supporters number near half of what the better publicized Tea Party outlets muster. They seem assiduously to have sidestepped any intent of influencing electoral contests directly. Conservative blogs mainly ignore them, but have published more than a few articles to deride and dismiss them as a movement. Coffee Party seems to have a narrow focus, but that fact may prove more a strategic advantage than imagined if the point is political change, not party growth.
Coffee Party’s origins owe to film director Annabel Park, known for her work with Eric Byler in the direction of “9500 Liberty”, an interactive documentary at immigration. “9500 Liberty” looked at an eight week “Arizona style” immigration crackdown – how it was implemented, and why it was quickly repealed. Park had posted a rant about her dissatisfaction with the Tea Party’s methods, particularly her disgust with hatred that festered in many of those grass-roots groups. Word-of-mouth supporters spread around in publicizing her statement, and the slogan “Join the Coffee Party,” gained wide appeal as a pun directed against the Tea Party.
Once Coffee Party USA was established, however, it did not wait long for action. By March 2010, organizers had their pledge written up and were conducting events nationwide for open discussion on what members felt the country needs most.
That one thing the Coffee Party movement has had from the outset, and perhaps all they’ll need to get going, is the call to rise up against what appears to be senseless, fear-mongering on the part of local Tea Party groups. In coming to concentrate on public disclosure, the Coffee Party has demonstrated how they really aren’t about political party choice, origin, religion or any such identification. It has stayed visibly true to its originating principle – “rational, reasonable discussion of the issues at hand.”
Ending the “Cycle of Corruption” in U.S. government and politics is the one issue area where Coffee Party USA commits itself unambiguously. Its focus has narrowed in on government reform above all else, especially overlarge campaign spending, Wall Street corruption, and the tax code. They are working with supportive politicians who push for Constitutional amendments allowing for campaign reform and demonstrating in protest against the recent filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act.
Coffee Party USA considers itself centrist, focusing not on partisan politics but on reforms necessary for proper political discourse, going so far as to encourage Tea Party members to come and “crash the party.” Hostile pundits have described Coffee Party folk as a “latte-sipping” leftist answer to the hard-right Tea Party. Indeed, Coffee Party members on balance have been supportive of healthcare reform and have launched frequent criticism of right-wing pundits. But it remains on course unfettered by much if any political baggage to complicate its main focus.
Coffee Party USA is a 501 (c)(4) organization, As such it is not required itself by tax law to report its financial backers. However, it seems apparent that much of their funding comes from their grass-roots base. Average contributions are estimated at $28 according to Coffee Party’s own website.
Coffee Party USA has grown steadily since its inception, gathering over 155,000 members and supporters since its inception. They currently rank at nearly 420,000 members. This may seem small in comparison to longer-standing political networks, but it’s a respectable climb for a truly grassroots cause. The group’s modus operandi is social networking, and all of today’s indicators in the political arena demonstrate profit for socially savvy, political movements. Coffee Party is not going away. Its heart and soul echoes an American fatigue over placing the political system and legislative process in the hands of large political donors.