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Can Coffee Party restore American interest in democracy?

By Stephanie Dearing     Oct 20, 2010 in Politics
Coffee Party founders claim the break-away all-volunteer grassroots movement is attracting the interest of thousands of Americans.
The organization believes "powerful special interests" have usurped the American political process. "... The ugliness on television, on talk radio, and on blogs and conspiracy emails is alienating to the vast majority of Americans. Alienation breeds apathy. It shrinks participation, and leaves our democracy vulnerable to manipulation by the very special interests who fund and produce this alienation."
"... When a movement is truly of, for, and by the People, billionaire sponsorship is not required," states the grassroots Coffee Party on their website. Interested in "... creating models of participation based on responsible citizenship — a sense of civic duty, patriotism, and a respect for our democratic system of government," the organization is working towards "... an informed and involved electorate that takes seriously the responsibilities of citizenship, not only for the purpose of winning elections, but to effectively govern our nation on behalf of The People, and no other interest."
The term, "responsible citizenship" might sound as if it carries an ominous burden, but the Coffee Party said "... we have found that the practice of responsible citizenship in a creative, collaborative environment fosters a sense of community and civic pride that is its own reward. Love of country is not based on shared resentment, anger, or fear. Love of country is based on shared values and ideals that define us as a people. The accomplishments of our first 8 months, and our future endeavors and future accomplishments, are founded in these ideals. That is what makes our volunteerism worth while. That is what powers our movement."
Co-founder Annabel Park described the Coffee Party as "... a spontaneous and collective expression of our desire to forge a culture of civic engagement that is solution-oriented, not blame-oriented.
... We want a society in which democracy is treated as sacrosanct and ordinary citizens participate out of a sense of civic duty, civic pride, and a desire to contribute to society."
The organization was co-founded by Eric Byler. Both Byler and Park directed an award-wining film, 9500 Liberty. Both would like to see the American government of all political persuasions work together, something they say is needed to address the critical issues facing the United States.
The Coffee Party recently hosted its first national convention, which the Huffington Post called "the unconvention." Jeffrey Abelson described the movement's viral formation, which started with a Facebook post by Park in January, becoming a movement by March. The non-partisan, all-inclusive organization simply exists, said Abelson, for "... Small 'd' democracy. Not democracy as a team sport -- but as an ongoing experiment in governing ourselves. One in which free individuals recognize that their own self-interest is inextricably bound up with the common good -- a delicate balance that will only remain stable with the active participation of a supermajority of citizens getting in the game, getting informed, and making their reasoned voices heard -- and acted upon.
In other words, the tiny task of revitalizing democracy from the ground up. Armed only with the logic that unless Americans get off the couch, we will never be able to truly fix broken government."
The resounding message from the Coffee Party? Know what your candidates are all about, where they stand on issues. In other words, be an informed voter.
In spite of the simple intentions of the movement, some have declared the Coffee Party a dud. Writing for the San Fransisco Examiner, Mark Hemingway said the convention was a "total failure." Writing for Brietbart, Greg Opelka panned the organization concluding his piece by saying "The Coffee Party is a strange beverage indeed— less like coffee and more like prune juice trying to pass for a Red Bull. One can only hope that when the Coffee Party convenes this weekend in Louisville, it will wake up—and smell itself.
Right now it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans."
Newsbusters explained that the national convention attracted "almost no media coverage."
When the movement got started earlier this year, there was controversy and conflict aplenty. Earlier this year, William A. Jacobson, blogging at Legal In-sur-rection, characterized the Coffee Party as parasites who were deceiving people about the purpose of the organization.
Bob Parks, writing for the controversial Canada Free Press, said Park was an Obama operative after he learned she was actively involved in Obama's successful election campaign.
In spite of the bad press -- or perhaps because of it, The Coffee Party has over 300,000 followers on Facebook, which indicates there is an interest in reviving democracy in the USA.
The Coffee Party will be joining comedian Jon Stewart's Rally for Sanity on October 30. The rally will run from noon to 3 pm.
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