Coffee Party rises for 2016

I made my first-ever “political” donation to the fledgling Coffee Party.

I admit it. I wanted the T-shirt. The Coffee Party offer of a T-shirt pushed me out of my longstanding position as a former journalist and political reporter against political donations. I don’t even vote.

I’m not unbiased. Not by a mile as my son, who is my favorite debate opponent, can attest. But I avoid any meaningful contribution to party politics out of a conviction and commitment to what I think is the most important role: to provide accurate information to voters everywhere.

Cynics say everyone has a price. Apparently mine is just a T-shirt. So much for conviction and commitment.

Well, to be fair, not just any T-shirt. It was what the shirt signified–a return to civility, respectfully democracy and leadership–that made me want it. Their slogan is clear and laudable: Incite civility and reason.

As a former political reporter, I can attest, both are woefully missing. I started interviewing congressional leaders in during the Clinton Administration. At the time, everyone spoke about the dramatic loss of civility between parties. Something about the brazenness and blatant immorality of President Bill Clinton infuriated the GOP. For the first time in anyone’s memory, the primary agenda of the minority party was to destroy the president. Little did they know what lay ahead. Democrats adopted similar tactics when George Bush was elected. To be fair, his campaign promise of compassionate conservatism proven anything but, with dramatic shifts away from compassion and toward aggression both globally and politically.

When the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, they failed to lead and set out to destroy the Republicans. The spin cycle of hate and division hit a high gear. Eight years of further polarization under President George Bush gave way to the Obama Administration where rancor and hostility have become the norm and legislation has become a distant memory. Consider that in just the other day… in the year 2016 … I read a story in the newspaper that the Republican primary agenda for the year ahead is to repeal Obamacare.

Really? That’s leadership? Still fighting a law that is several years old, has been passed by Congress, signed by the president, made the centerpiece of the 2012 campaign to defeat President Obama and failed AND was deemed legal by the Supreme Court. No law has likely ever been so validated and yet it remains the central position of the Republican agenda. When does a law become a law? Apparently never if either party doesn’t agree with it.

This lacks any semblance of civility OR reason. It’s hate politics and destructive and is ruining our government.

Civility is important, but reason is even more grossly lacking. When the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth made a decorated combat veteran a symbol of cowardice compared to a candidate who used his family connection to dodge service within the so-called “champagne” unit, I knew reason had taken a holiday. That was in 2004. I have seen very little reason since.

The Coffee Party started as an idea on Facebook. But it’s a good one and has gained momentum. It now has a clear agenda:

Our path to restoring America’s republic and representative democracy:

  • Identifying and advocating for legislative fixes to reform campaign finance laws, Wall Street regulations, and the tax code;
  • Promoting cultural changes to address political disengagement, polarization, and widespread misinformation.

Our activities often center around encouraging inclusive, civil, fact-based, solution-oriented dialogue — online and in public places such as coffee houses — in which we meet, talk, become informed and engaged as fellow Americans, rather than as members of political parties.

The Coffee Party began in 2010, captured in a video by its founder Annabel Park. Ironically, it began when she said, “she kinda lost it.” Not exactly civil, but the result works.

At a time when so little of politics is helpful, interesting or productive, the Coffee Party is a start. Because let’s face it, anything is better than the current status quo when the hateful speech and xenophobia of the party candidates threaten all that is best about the American ideal.

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