Maybe it’s because I prefer drinking tea to get my morning caffeine rush, but the first thing I thought of when I heard that progressives were going to create a “Coffee Party” as a response to the whole Tea Party movement was this awful old commercial:
A Coffee Party? Seriously?
Talk about unoriginal. Talk about knee-jerk. Talk about playing defense. And why? Because a bunch of folks on the right decided to use the term “Tea Party” to describe their efforts to label Obama as a socialist, communist, un-American, Hitler, and/or Kenyan-born.
I understand the sentiment that led to the many Coffee Party events over the weekend. We progressives should be doing a better job of organizing ourselves. (And despite assertions to the contrary, this is a progressive movement.) I’m all in favor of our doing everything we can to support President Obama’s agenda. But establishing yet another organization — especially one with a cutesy jokey name — is, at best, naive.
Progressives don’t need a Coffee Party. We just need more caffeine.
The challenge right now isn’t a lack of mobilization mechanisms — after all, other groups, including MoveOn, Organizing for America, and a little thing called the Democratic Party already exist. The real problem is that we progressives are apathetic, scared and demoralized. We look at the energy generated by the right and wonder what happened to our mojo. We see the Republican Party’s steadfast opposition to all Administration initiatives and moan about how dysfunctional our political system is.
Please. It’s time for progressives to get angry, not cute.
We need to get angry about how the right is claiming to represent “real Americans.”
We need to get angry about how the mainstream media is uncritically swallowing the Tea Party movement’s narrative.
We need to get angry about how Democrats in Congress are so afraid of their own shadows that they’re listening to their Republican opponents’ advice on how to get re-elected.
We need to get angry about the failure of the Obama Administration to communicate its significant successes to the American people.
And we need to get angry about the fact that minor side issues may end up killing the best chance this country has ever had to fix health care.
Creating a “Coffee Party” doesn’t do anything to address these challenges. Even worse, by picking that name, we are conceding control over how this debate is framed to the most extreme elements of the right wing. And how long do you think it will take for conservatives to mock us by calling it the “latte party” instead?
So stop being cute, fellow progressives. Try getting angry instead. Call your representatives and demand that they support not only health care but a real jobs bill that will help average Americans return to work. Call the White House and demand that the President do more than give a few speeches to get these bills passed. Call so-called progressives like Dennis Kucinich and tell them to stop letting the perfect get in the way of the good. And start uging your friends and neighbors to do the same.
And while you’re at it, maybe you could stop going to Starbucks for a week and send the savings to an existing progressive organization.
Now that would be a real coffee achievement.
Photo: Mortefot, via Flickr, using a CC attribution-share alike 2.0 generic license
Charles J. Brown is Senior Fellow and Washington Director at the Institute for International Law and Human Rights and the host of Undiplomatic, a blog on the intersection of foreign policy, politics, and pop culture. You also can follow him on Twitter.