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The Coffee Party: 'Non-Partisan' or Non-Influential?

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Opinion Zone,Mitchell Blatt

"The Coffee Party"--that "non-partisan alternative to the Tea Party" that the media was promoting for one or two weeks last year--is back in the news again (per Politico) because of a revealing and humorous conflict it got into with another liberal group using its name. 

A Texas group called itself "Coffee Party Progressives" and founder Annabel Park didn't want her Coffee Party--being a non-ideological liberal group--to be associated with a liberal group.  Nothing has come of the dispute, but it does highlight the irrelevance of some liberal grassroots groups that hide behind "non-partisan" labels and end up being non-influential.

The liberals (progressives, I should say?) who start these organizations live in their own bubbles--Annabel Park working as a theater director, documentary film-maker (about an "'Arizona style' immigration crackdown") and volunteer for Democrats Jim Webb in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2008.  They think Republicans must all be gun-toting, paranoids - of the kind described at NPR fundraising dinners.

They feel their ideas are objectively better, and scientifically-so, and that there cannot even be any reasonable debate.  So all reasonable "non-partisan" people, of course, must support their ideas--nevermind what hundreds of polls about the healthcare bill say, or the results of the 2010 elections.

Case in point: the Coffee Party's response to the Politico post.  Written by Coffee Party leader Eric Byler - who also pitched in with Jim Webb and Barack Obama's campaigns - the Coffee Party's response says that it supports "fact-based" solutions and that:

To do this we need to look for answers, not in the "center" because this too cedes power to those who define the polar extremes, but by transcending partisanship and committing to being truth-seekers rather than scoring points in the falsely dualistic and divisive game we call partisan politics.

In other words, the center is too far to the center for the Coffee Party, and not far enough to the left. 

Using phrases like "falsely dualistic" and attacking the partisans who are only interested in scoring points, and such nonesense, will surely make this writer and director of an Independent Spirt Award-nominated film, Charlotte Sometimes, think he sounds like an intellectual who is too advanced for traditional labels of political identification, but it won't change the fact that he himself admitted he identifies as a "progressive," and that his group is currently running a Surviver Trickle Down economics campaign and a Tax Day Tea Party countermessage initiative.

More importantly, a non-partisan group opposed to "the falsely dualistic and divisive game we call partisan politics" won't motivate union members to leave their taxpayer-funded job and break into the state capitol and spray graffiti on the walls of banks.  It's a telling sign that on Byler's blog post listing 10 signs of February being "the tipping point in America's great uprising," number three is the Wisconsin protests.  Indeed, before the Wisconsin protests, the left had nothing to remotely rival the Tea Party movement, meaning that the Coffee Party completely and epically failed at their objectives.

The public employees didn't rally against Walker's budget proposal because they didn't like partisan politics; they rallied because they supported the liberal Democrat brand of partisan politics that would have given them fatter paychecks than the conservative Republican brand of partisan politics would have granted them. 

The Coffee Party now thinks that the recent uptick in union-backed political activism will extend to the week of the Tax Day protests and asks us to "imagine if the national narrative about Tax Day 2011 were based on accurate information, and a need for real change."  (Indeed, it is very likely that there will be a narrative about the fact that Obama and Pelosi created record budget deficits, and that there is a need for 'change' to get this problem under control.)

Nonetheless, if there is a liberal showing at Tax Day, it won't be because of the Coffee Party or the equally irrelevent "No Labels" movement, but because of the unions that were actually fighting with a clear message when they protested.  The Coffee Party's message is, "we are non-partisan," but, "Trickle-down economics (aka  supply-side economics) is a failure. ... a myth that has poisoned this country."

If the Coffee Party were frank with itself and us, it might put it's mission this way:

We are non-partisan but ideologically rigid, we support partisan solutions to every problem: raise taxes, give unionized public employees higher wages, restrict campaign contributions, don't touch welfare and entitlements or otherwise try to balance the budget... It's just a coincedence that all of these are liberal policies espoused by the Democratic Party.

Ironically, Byler was on to something when he noted in his response to Politico that the "right" policy decisions aren't necessarily "centrist." 

All of those policy decisions mentioned above that Byler and the Coffee Party support may very well be the "right" solutions for anyone of a liberal ideological persuastion, just as the exact opposite policies would be right for a conservative.  The relative merits of any policy, however, wouldn't be "fact-based," in that an objectively "true" or "false" label can only be attached to a factual claim, and not to an opinion.

The Coffee Party leaders are either too blind and out-of-touch to see that they support partisan liberal policies or foolishly think that they can build a broad-based movement without anyone seeing what kind of policies they support.  If the later is the case, they sure didn't pick a very subtle name, pitting themselves in direct opposition to the equally partisan conservative Tea Party.

If the Coffee Party's, Tax Day counter-message rallies fizzle out, it certainly won't be because the message is less persuasive. It will be because us average Americans just aren't smart enough to recognize reality and "Choose Reality over Ideology."

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