March 13th, 2010
11:02 AM ET
13 years ago

First big test for the Coffee Party

Washington (CNN) – Will the Coffee Party rise to the scale of the Tea Party movement? Saturday is the first big test in attempting to answer that question.

Leaders of the fledgling movement say they plan to hold some 350 to 400 events across the country. While the Coffee Party has become an instant hit online, gauging the success of Saturday's coast to coast coffee parties could be an indicator of the group's strength.

The founder of the new Coffee Party movement says "we need to wake up and work hard to get our government to represent us."

Angry at what she perceived as media overexposure of the conservative Tea Party movement, Annabel Park, a 41-year-old Washington-area documentary filmmaker, used her Facebook page to call for a Coffee Party.

Friends started replying, and replying and replying. Park then set up a fan page called "Join the Coffee Party Movement." A flood ensued and now Park has approximately 115,000 fans, most of them coming in the last 15 days, following articles about the Coffee Party in the Washington Post and New York Times, and coverage on the cable news networks.

So what's her goal?

"Just like in the American Revolution, we are looking for real representation right now. We don't feel represented by our government right now, and we don't really feel represented well by the media either," Park said last week on CNN's American Morning. "It's kind of a simple call to action for people to wake up and take control over their future and demand representation. And it requires people standing up and speaking up."

Sound familiar? Tea Party activists use much of the same language in describing their year-old anti-big government movement.

So is the Coffee Party a progressive response to the Tea Party?

"It's a response to how they are trying to change our government," Park tells CNN. "It's their methodology that we are against. We may want some of the same things, but their journey is so alienating to us."

Park, who worked as a volunteer for Barack Obama's presidential campaign and Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia's 2006 campaign, says the Coffee Party is not "aligned" with any party and calls the two-party system out of date.

"It encourages people to think of politics as a kind of game, like a football game, in which there are two sides, and it's a zero sum situation. If one person wins, the other person loses. That's really not a healthy way to conduct collective decision-making. That's not a democracy."

Park told American Morning that the bitter battle over health care is an example of how government is not working.

"We feel like the health care debate showed not only that we are a very divided country, but there's something really wrong with our political process. We kind of got to see the innards of the political process and realize there's something very broken. I think that's what we're responding to."

So what does the Tea Party movement think of this new sensation?

"This Coffee Party looks like a weak attempt at satire or a manufactured response to a legitimate widespread grassroots movement," says Brendan Steinhauser (no relation to this reporter), director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks, a nonprofit conservative organization that helps train volunteer activists and has provided much of the organizational heft behind the Tea Party movement.

"It's driven from the top down and it's not a grass roots movement driven from the bottom up," Jim Hoft of the St. Louis Tea Party tells CNN.

Coffee Party gatherings have taken place from coast to coast the past six weeks, and Park says they are growing in number and size. Saturday's events across the country are the next step for a movement barely two months old.So what’s next: Park says the Coffee Party’s first real national action will be on March 27, when members will get together to discuss ways to engage members of Congress during the Easter recess.

soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Donna from Colorado Springs

    I hope the Coffee Party succeeds. We need our own platform to be heard, but please don't turn into the insane, destructive group that the Tea Party people have become! Show the country what intelligent, responsible groups can accomplish without hystronics and degrading signs that insult the president.

    March 13, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Willy Brown

    It's progressive lite. No Thanks

    March 13, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. Denna

    Thank you Ms. Park. I will be visiting your website. The problem you and all of us who want things to be different is that we are not driven by bigotry and resentment that a black man is in the White House. The Tea Party movement's main goal is to "take back our country" from some imagined enemy. And it is the fault of the republicans in this country that politics has become a game of one-up-man-ship. Watching the last Republican National Convention proved that to me. I wish you all success. I will be following your progress.

    March 13, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  4. aware

    Progressives adopt the myth of a cosmos evolving into divine perfection, if only they get the "collective" – the ignorant masses under control with more government regulation. "Social Justice" is their misguided mantra. 🙁

    In this season of "resurrection" and re-creation – remember that the self-giving love of Christ provided Shalom. Give up your self-centered controlling ways and learn fom his Spirit!

    Or, continue the round and round downward spiral – lost in the cosmos. You do have a choice! 🙂

    March 13, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. karen

    Funny how CNN covers the first Coffee party and it took them over a year to do a story on the teaparties. I guess anything that they can do to divert attention away from the Teaparties is a story for them. You continue to disappoint.

    March 13, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  6. Dave, the Truthteller

    I wonder if the CNN talking heads will insult and deride this movement like they did the Teaparty?

    March 13, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  7. Gracie

    And their signs are all spelled right.

    March 13, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  8. Annie, Atlanta

    I will reserve my thoughts on the Coffee Party. I just don't know enough about them yet, and need more information.

    However, I have to say that with the total lack of civility (as we witness day in and day out right here in the Comments section of the Ticker), I like that one of their goals is to be able to sit down and have a civil discussion with those who have differing opinions.

    This lack of civility makes me afraid for all of us, especially during such rough economic times. If we can't even have a discussion (as we witnessed with the town hall criers this past summer), where do we go from here as a nation? If we're going to just hate each other because of differing political beliefs, can we hold it together?

    March 13, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  9. NC

    Tea, Coffee, Orange Juice, Fruit Punch, Hot Chocolate and any other beverage oh well why not.

    March 13, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. JWK

    Hmmmm... started by a former campaign worker for Obama. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but could this be astroturf like some on the left claim the Tea Party movement is? Elected officials should represent us but what does this group stand for and what do they want?

    March 13, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  11. CONNIE

    GOOD LUCK WITH THAT STATEMENT we need to wake up and work hard to get our government to represent us."

    March 13, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  12. Thank you Massachusetts

    The founder of the new Coffee Party movement says "we need to wake up and work hard to get our government to represent us."

    If this "coffee party" consists of the liberals I think, they sure do need to "wake up and get to work"; then way they are taxed as much as the rest of the real working class they'll understand what TEA is all about and hopefully join the TEA Party.

    March 13, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  13. TangledThorns

    Seriously, why don't these folk just join the Tea Party if they care that much about America?

    March 13, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. Dan

    GO COFFEE PARTY! Lets get some people who want to tax the rich and give to the poor and have them run against the center leaning democrats! I want representation! The Coffee party would work with Obama to get things done in the US. Free healthcare for all.

    March 13, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
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