Is there a progressive antidote to the Tea Party movement? As other Slog posters have noted the Coffee Party—“Wake Up and Stand Up”—emerged in recent weeks from the nether regions of the Internet (well, Facebook) as a counterforce to everyone’s favorite right-wing, neopopulist movement.
The movement was founded in late January, but to judge from its Facebook page it really took off in the last week, it’s numbers steadily growing from 40,000 Tuesday, 50,000 Wednesday, and well past 78,000 as of this writing. (For comparison, the Tea Party Patriots have a little over 100,000 fans on FB.) The Coffee Partiers have been covered by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a host of blogs. There are already dozens of chapters across the county, although they don’t appear to have a presence in Washington.
The group’s founder, Annabel Park, says the party was formed in reaction to the Tea Party, but that they share many of the same frustrations and goals. This is broadly true: participants in both beverage-themed coalitions think the federal government is stalled out, unrepresentative, and largely ineffectual, unless you happen to be a large bank or corporation. (It’s hard to argue with them there.) But once they get down to specifics, say, about the role of the federal government…I give it until the end of the week before they begin tearing into each other.
Will the Coffee Partiers ever become an effective counterbalance to the Tea Party phenomena? I’m inclined to doubt it, although that may just be my perennial leftist pessimism. Internet-based movements can look really good on the screen, but online fan groups, petitions, and websites will only get you so far. Last year, a group called A New Way Forward attempted to start a popular left-wing movement in favor of financial regulation and reform. They sported a spiffy website, concrete policy initiatives, and support from grassroots stalwarts like The Nation. They planned massive protests across the nation for April 11, 2009. But when I showed up in front of the White House to join the throngs on the day in question, I was sorely disappointed. Eleven people showed up, including me and two journalists from The Nation. Not a particularly commanding presence. (The well thought out policy proposals may have been their downfall—after all, what rhymes with bank nationalization?)Will the Coffee Party, with it’s vague goals and simplistic populist rhetoric, be able to do better?
We’ll soon find out. The Coffee Party is attempting to organize nationwide “coffee houses” on March 13, to discuss the movement’s goals and tactics. If that goes well, there are plans for a summer conference in the Midwest.
How do all you Slog readers think this will play out? Do we have a left-wing version of the Teabaggers or is this thing going to fizzle out?