The Coffee Party, a viral political phenomenon that bills itself as an alternative to the conservative Tea Party movement, is gathering steam across the country, including a following in Jefferson County.
The group, a tongue-in-cheek parody of its tea counterpart, held a national Coffee Summit on March 27 and 28 that included a meeting in Belmar, one of more than 400 individual events in all but five states.
About 20 people gathered to gauge the local political climate with fellow residents, ultimately assembling a list of topics to be presented to elected officials during the upcoming congressional recess.
The Coffee Party is aimed less at political division and more toward identifying important issues facing small communities, organizers say. All are welcome at its meetings, but the politically devout should check any polarizing passions at the door and be prepared for civil discussion.
“The Coffee Party is really a frustration with what we see in government. And this week could be the best example we could ever get, as far as polarization,” Camron Moore, a Greenwood Village resident and national spokesman for the group, said of the one-sidedness and party-line bickering over health care reform. “(It’s) just the opportunity to get together regardless of political affiliation — nothing to do with your party, but everything to do with the issues that are facing America, which are vast.”
The Coffee Party phenomenon started in late January after documentary filmmaker Annabel Park planted the seed of her creation through a Facebook page. The page has since amassed more than 180,000 fans, and more than 100 local Coffee Party pages have been created, including those for Lakewood, Denver and Aurora.
The name of the movement is multifaceted, Park said.
“First of all, I love coffee,” she said during an interview on CNN. “Though there is actually a historical reference as well. During the American Revolution, after they dumped tea into the harbor, they actually declared coffee the national drink. … I associate coffee not only with solutions but also with people working. … Because we need to wake up and work hard to get our government to represent us.”
Discussion topics during Belmar’s March 27 meeting at The Press Coffee Company included health care, the economy, jobs and immigration.
And though the group seems to have attracted more liberals than conservatives, people from all political camps are invited, including Tea Party enthusiasts, Moore said.
“Individual Coffee Parties are reaching out,” he said. “We’re really encouraging that to happen on the local level.”
The ideal participants in the Coffee Party are those who haven’t found a means to become politically engaged, he said, as well as people tired of a divisive political climate.
“I know that sounds broad, but more than anything we want to see a dichotomy. We don’t want to see all Democrats or all Republicans,” Moore said. “That mixture is what makes that dialogue engaging.”
The group’s leaders encourage Coffee Party members to participate in the Coffee Sphere, an online political analysis tool that has aggregated polls from more than 6,000 respondents across the country. Results from the system so far show that Americans agree on a wide range of issues more often than not, the group contends, noting that a quick view of the Coffee Sphere graphs might give members a more conciliatory approach to political discussions with their neighbors.
Central to the Coffee Party’s ethos is a tenet that government is not the people’s enemy, but ideally a representation of collective will.
“Do you believe that the government can help us address these enormous problems that we’re facing? If you don’t believe that the government has any role, then yeah, you should join the Tea Party,” Park said in an online video. “People in Congress, they’re paid by us. We hire them. They work for us. They don’t work for corporations or a sliver of our demographic. They are supposed to represent us. That’s their job, and we need to start acting like bosses.”
Coffee Party members find promise in the viral nature of its expansion, Moore said. And with that infectious character, it’s only a matter of time before South Jeffco has its own established group, he added.
“The rapid growth has been amazing. It’s been a little unbelievable, and at times hard to manage and understand. But there’s obviously a nerve that’s been struck,” Moore said. “The people do want to get engaged and start that with a dialogue as opposed to an argument.”
Contact Emile Hallez Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.