Coffee Party Seeks to Outbrew Tea Party in US Politics
WOODBRIDGE, Virginia -- A progressive infusion in US politics, the Coffee Party is brewing a strong counter-movement to the ultra-conservative Tea Party, just a week ahead of the US legislative elections.
Born in January in reaction to the bashing President Barack Obama's proposed health care reform was getting in Congress and the media, the Coffee Party first took shape on Facebook.
"It started on my personal Facebook page," said party founder Annabel Park, a small, soft spoken woman with a strong character.
"I was so tired of the Tea Party and I wanted to say what I thought. A bunch of people responded, saying 'we should start our own party.'"
Park was reacting to the anti-government Tea Party that was launched after Obama's election in 2008 and took its name from Boston's 1773 revolt on a tea tax the British empire imposed on its US colony just before its war of independence.
"I've never created a fan page before and then within a couple of days all these people start to join it... It just kind of started to go viral," added Park, who says she is politically closer to the Democrats than to the Republicans.
An article in The Washington Post helped the Coffee Party take off, with thousands of new members signing on, some with their own local committees, she said.
With that, the Coffee Party went from a personal project to a non-partisan political movement that "gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government," as it says in its mission statement.
It stands in direct opposition to the Tea Party's professed goal of stopping "intrusive government" in favor of "common sense constitutional conservative self-governance."
Since its inception, the Coffee Party says it has attracted more than 300,000 active participants on Facebook and is now able to field its own candidate for November 2 in Missouri.
That's more than the Democratic National Committee's Facebook page, which has 150,000 followers, and the Republican National Committee's, with 186,000.
"It's definitely a reaction of ordinary people to the Tea Party, because in all the newspapers and the media you read that the Tea Party says they are the real America. But the way they're trying to make changes is dangerous," said Park.
Despite their heft, however, the Coffee Party is still far from wielding the clout of the Tea Party, which can summon tens of thousands of followers as they did last month for its Taxpayer March on Washington.
But the Coffee Party leadership insists it is still a young movement, on the verge of going from virtual to real power through a grassroots campaign that recently took Park to Woodbridge, Virginia, outside Washington.
She met there with party followers in a brightly lit cafeteria.
The Tea Party "is a rebirth of the extreme right-wing, social conservative movement... A majority of their group are white Christian activists. Basically, they support people that have the wealth and the power," said 65-year-old Gregg Reynolds.
The discussion quickly turned to how political parties are financed, the Coffee Party's main bone of contention.
"The way we finance elections makes politicians so vulnerable to basically being bribed because they need millions of dollars to run in campaigns," Park told the meeting.
"They become drug addicts and lobbyists become drug dealers and this is why lobbyists can write legislation. We have a corrupt system right now."
Gregg listens closely. He predicts the Coffee Party will one day become a political heavyweight.
However, he quickly adds with a tinge of bitterness, "I don't see that happening in my lifetime."