Oh, Good Grief [updated 02/27]

Progressives can’t seem to figure out what to think about the so-called “Tea Party” activists. Long accustomed to maintaining a strangle-hold on “idiotic, self-righteous street activism,” the “Tea Partiers'” success in getting a Republican elected to “The Kennedy Seat” in Massachusetts has provoked a variety of reactions on the left. The Eugene Weekly described the “Tea Party” as

a bipartisan group with conservative and Libertarian ideals. They want to get back to basic values like God and the Constitution. They say they are Republicans and Democrats alike — though EW was not able to find any Democrats associated with the Tea Party for this story — and, in Lane County, they represent people who are unhappy with the direction this country is heading.

The article goes on to focus on some organization called itself the “9.12” project, which seems to espouse a lot of religious-fundamentalist doctrines and whose platform reads suspiciously like the platform of the Constitution Party, at least to me. There are a few other suspiciously convenient examples of things like “Tea Partiers” posting breathless YouTube videos calling Nancy Pelosi a “communist” and ranting about immigration.

Throw in some references to Glenn Beck, astro-turf, a few “coded” racial hints, and some scary-sounding Biblical stuff, all capped off by an archly written conclusion quoting someone encouraging people to be “informed” about politics, and you’ve got a pretty by-the-numbers Eugene Weekly article about anything to do with conservatives or conservative causes.*

Ah, but it should come as no surprise to find that the Weekly, as usual, is one step behind their fellow travelers. Their sneering “exposé” of the “Tea Party” movement is as past its shelf date as shopworn “teabagger” insults now that someone has come up with the idea of… you guessed it: the Coffee Party, which is kind of like a snobbier and more smug liberal version of the Tea Party:

Annabel Park did what any American does when she feels her voice has been drowned out: She squeezed her anger into a Facebook status update.

let’s start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss ’em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let’s get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion. [emphasis added]

What was that about “sounding elitist,” again?

But with a Democratic majority in Congress and the messiah of Hope ‘n Change(tm) solemnly revolutionizing the Way Things Are Done in Washington, what do disaffected liberals need for a “Coffee Party?” Hard to say, except that “[t]he Coffee Party is not so much a party or movement as a slow-drip ripple through online nano-politics.” Oh, and the Bush Administration was like being on meth:

You’re dealing with a nation that’s jaded, paranoid, distrustful, broke, angry — it’s like they just woke up from an eight-year meth bingeWe’ve become so polarized. [emphasis added]

Uh huh. Wait. What were you saying about being polarized?

Anyways, I’m sure you’re wondering what this “Coffee Party” stands for.

[The party has] goals far loftier than its oopsy-daisy origin: promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse, engage the government not as an enemy but as the collective will of the people, push leaders to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008…

Progress is patriotic, they tell the camera. Wake up. Espresso yourself. Something is brewing, America.

How cute! How fresh! How innovative! How… exactly like every other progressive grassroots organization ever. In short, if you throw in a few diatribes denouncing the  “Ask-a-Mexican” column and a bullet-point or two about the Pacifica Forum, the “Coffee Party” sounds like a political movement based on the Eugene Weekly’s letters-to-the-editor page.

Quoth the Washington Post: “The ideas aren’t exactly fresh…”


* Nothing in this post should be taken as anything even remotely approaching support for the “Tea Party” movement. In fact, I think they’re a bit silly.


Glenn Reynolds links to this, writing of the “Coffee Party: “This is actually the second imitation; the first was an epic fail. Maybe this one will do better, but so far they’ve got a message problem…”

I’m not sure I entirely agree with his characterization of the New Way Forward rally as being imitative of the “Tea Party” people. Glancing over their website, New Way Forward looks to be a pretty traditional progressive “grassroots” operation that happens to be advocating a restructuring of the economy “in the public’s interest“:

We need to talk about why after so many years of hearing there was no money for health care, schools, new transit, you name it, just like that, overnight trillions were found for the banks and Wall Street.

We need to talk about what the Federal Reserve is and how without approval from the Congress they can give the banks over 2 trillion dollars we don’t have.

We need to talk about the power of large corporations. Do we want entities in our society that are too big to fail, that assert so much power that laws are written every day for their benefit?

We must reform our politics so that one dollar – one vote is replaced by one person – one vote.

We the people must regain control of our economy, our politics, and our government.


Through their blind and unconditional faith in the financial markets, the banks and the government have made us all into victims of greed gone out of control.

Basically, it’s pretty boilerplate anti-capitalist/anti-corporation rhetoric that we’ve seen at WTO protests for decades, only dressed up for the recession.

The “Tea Partiers” seem to be a mostly motley assortment of disgruntled Republicans, libertarians of various stripes, Constitution Party types, and other fringe conservatives who’ve kind of coalesced, at least for the time being, to agitate for some vague common cause. That makes it a bit novel, at least in modern American conservative politics.

“A New Way Forward,” on the other hand, just looks like pretty traditional progressive advocacy.


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