Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Adventures with The Coffee Party

This is a tale I meant to tell months back, but the best laid plans. . .

Last spring, I joined the Coffee Party after questioning the effectiveness of my spending all day calling my representatives, signing petitions, and sending prefab e-mails developed by various organizations and non-profits. (And believe me, a person could spend ALL day doing this. I know because it's one of my top writing procrastination tools: I'll finish my novel after I stop the feeding of chicken feces to cows, prevent babies from being born with hundreds of chemicals in their blood, and help the nine tortured elephants that urgently need me.)

I participated in tele-training, organized a meeting at Ashland Coffee & Tea, tried to recruit people, suffered through my husband's dubiousness about the whole thing, and worked in earnest on starting a local Coffee Party chapter. There were six of us at the first meeting and I had received e-mails expressing interest from many more. We came up with our key issues which were: civil rights, health care reform, education, and too much corporate influence in our government. It was very exciting. I was part of something HUGE!

But then, during a second meeting, I got into a debate with an off-duty member of the Ashland Police Department (I actually know him from around town--we've compared notes on running workouts) about the veracity of Glenn Beck's "journalism," particularly as they surrounded the912project and claims of Obama's socialism. The CP representative for the state of Virginia interjected to say that we were both "right." I didn't think too much of that.

Then, during a tele-debriefing of that meeting I got told that I was being "too confrontational" and not focusing enough on the central piece of the Coffee Party platform: civility. (The lady from LA with the New York accent, talking about taking down Henry Waxman, however, supported me.) And that the best thing I could do was to tell Eric Cantor that I was here and that I was ready to be civil (oh yeah, that will make him change his tune). When I explained to the next CP higher up for the state of Virginia, who was very empathetic, that I didn't think that a non-political political movement would be effective, she responded that many Coffee Party people felt otherwise. "Some people think we should be political, but some people don't." "But aren't you a political, albeit, supposedly non-partisan movement?!?!" I wanted to scream. I mean civility is a worthy type of comportment, but it's not a stance.

The last straw was the CP's use of the pseudo-scientific "Coffee Sphere," which I had drafted my quantitatively-gifted and -trained husband to explain to them was an inaccurate and faulty crap-o-meter. You can read that exchange here. The Coffee Sphere remains in use as tool by the Coffee Party and claims to be "Reflecting America's views: the 15-minute issues barometer to ignite dialog and educated actions."

I continue to be in touch with some of the fabulous people I met at the initial meetings, and I hope that the Coffee Party is successful. Besides their use of the Coffee Sphere, I think they're doing good work, and I appreciate the way that the Coffee Party has gotten so many people to be politically active in a way they hadn't previously been before. But being a part of that organization just wasn't for me.

Since then, I have returned to firing off the prefab e-mails and receiving a daily piece of mail from Eric Cantor saying that I may be rest assured that he will keep my views about health care reform and the saving of the sea turtles in mind. Some of the organizations I think are doing great work are: Media Matters, MoveOn, CREDO, Bold Progressives, ColorOfChange,, Fix Congress First, American Rights at Work, DC Vote, Rethinking Schools, TrueMajority, Repower America, and Green America. Check them out!

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