CBS News Gets Coffee Party Fever: It's a Lot Like TEA Parties

March 13th, 2010 9:33 AM
On Friday,'s blog Political Hotsheet ran a gushing article that amounted to free advertising for the left's new gimmick of coffee parties.

Aside from the friendly tone and complete lack of criticism, the most astounding part was when writer Stephanie Condon remarked that many issues discussed at a Coffee Party could just as well have come from a TEA party.

Condon's article began with the oh-so-innocent headline "Is The "Coffee Party" The Next Big Thing?" The opening paragraph ran like something right from a brochure:

Looking for change, but not quite ready for a revolution? Disappointed in President Obama and Congress, but not ready to turn your back on Washington? Prefer a double, non-foam latte over a cup of Earl Grey? The Coffee Party might be for you.

In contrast, this is how the Political Hotsheet covered last year's April 15 protest:

As you probably know by now, there are several "tea parties" going on today in cities coast-to-coast to protest taxes and government economic policy.

Here's a roundup of coverage of the demonstrations so far, which has appeared around the site and in our companion EconWatch blog.

It didn't occur to the blog that people might "probably know by now" about the Coffee Party movement, inasmuch as it has already been featured in the New York Times, CNN's Political Ticker, the Washington Post, and sundry local papers like the Seattle Times.

It's easy to be the next big thing when the media give you all the publicity you need.

Condon then explained that, unlike TEA parties, attendees of a Coffee Party are more concerned with having real dialogue:

Months after the Tea Party erupted onto the national scene at health care town halls, an alternative, more pro-government group of citizens is emerging to say they're angry, too -- they just want less yelling and more talking.

Who are these quietly angry pro-government people? Ordinary citizens, of course:

The Coffee Party is a loosely organized movement that has yet to adopt a platform -- but it has a message that its members feel is resonating across the country.

It started with a Facebook note from Annabel Park, a documentary filmmaker from the Washington area, who felt like venting about the Tea Party. She was inundated with feedback from people who agreed that the Tea Party did not represent the America they knew. The sentiment snowballed into a Web site that attracted 170,000 visitors in its first week and Facebook page that as of Friday morning, had more than 110,000 fans -- just beating out the number fans of the Tea Party Patriots page.

Isn't that cute - Annabel Park a documentary filmmaker who started the whole thing on Facebook. Except for all the political campaigning and strategy analysis she has done on behalf of Democrats for years, which NewsBusters exposed more than a week ago. How strange that a politically-charged Facebook note from a Democrat operative quaintly "snowballed" into a national movement.

Condon enthusiastically reported on a day of planned coffee events on Saturday, complete with a quote about McCain supporters being welcome:

"We just wanted to find a way to make it fun and bring back that feeling of civic pride that pretty much all Americans had in 2008," Eric Byler, one of the leaders of the national Coffee Party, told Hotsheet. "What I saw was people who were really, really proud to get a chance to vote for John McCain -- after eight years, to vote for a war hero -- and people proud to vote for the first 21st-century, multi-ethnic, citizen of the world candidate. I felt so good about our democracy in 2008... we're just trying to bring people back in."

Eric Byler is another one of those "loosely organized" people who kinda has a history of working on Democrat campaigns while building a resume of liberal activism. Oh, and he's also collaborated with Annabel Park to make political films in the past. But you're not supposed to know that - his involvement just snowballed after a Facebook post, okay?

Condon picked up on the theme of inviting Republicans by finding similarity between coffee and tea:

The issues likely to come up at Saturday's meetings could very well arise at a Tea Party meeting.

"We want jobs with decent pay for all Americans," the Coffee Party declares on its Facebook page. "We want affordable health care and education. We want our government to cut wasteful spending and practice fiscal discipline. We want regulation of Wall Street to protect consumers and promotion of financial literacy."

The coffee partiers share a lot of the same grievances as tea partiers -- even though they are much more likely to have voted for President Obama.

Those are the same grievances? TEA parties lobby for pay, affordable health care, and Wall Street regulation? TEA parties believe that a government involved in "protecting consumers" can be fiscally disciplined?

Condon brought in one more person to explain this phenomenon:

But the recession hit everyone, explains Frances Lappe, a best-selling author and follower of the Coffee Party movement. Liberals and conservatives alike are hurt by a government that caters more to special interests than its citizens, she said, especially in a time of economic hardship.

Lappe is releasing a second edition of her book "Getting a Grip," which explores the process of creating a "living democracy." The aftermath of the 2008 election compelled Lappe to update her book, which was written during the Bush era.

Frances Lappe is a famous liberal activist who runs an institute dedicated to "democratic social change," not to mention a regular blogger on Huffington Post. As such, she is so much more than just a best-selling author.

For a movement ostensibly designed to appeal to a broad range of people, the Coffee Party is starting to resemble a hang-out for far left political junkies bent on helping Democrats get elected.

Toward the end, Condon eventually stumbled upon the real goal:

Lappe contends that the Coffee Party may even be able to convince tea partiers that government can have a positive role in society. Government size shouldn't count for much, she says, but rather, people should worry about to whom the government is accountable and how it functions.

"Without an accountable government we end up with the big government clean-ups like the Superfund," Lappe said, referring to the federal law designed to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites. "A government that is accountable is a reasonable size... If you want [government] small, is that before or after we solve the Toyota recall? In a complex society we need a government that is looking out for our interests in a transparent way."

And there is the mission of the Coffee Party movement: sensing that Americans are becoming distrustful of government, these operatives seek to convince possible TEA party converts that big government can be a good thing as long as the right people control it.

Let's read that whopper from above, one more time:

The issues likely to come up at Saturday's meetings could very well arise at a Tea Party meeting.

Except  for the flaming liberal agendas, embracing of big government, Democrat campaign workers, Plouffe-style astroturfing, calls for regulation, and Facebook notes that "vent" about TEA parties... they're practically the same.

Thanks for the hard-hitting expose, CBS!