After getting lavish amounts of free promotional consideration from the leftist mainstream media which boosted their reported membership to the stratosphere, the Coffee Party USA is falling apart before they’ve even held their first national convention, according to their own members. Their failure speaks volumes to the vastly different principles and methods employed in the formation of the Coffee Party and the TEA Party movement, and unsurprisingly, the one where liberty reigns is robust and growing while the socialist methodology of top-down command and control activism is quickly fading. No simpler demonstration of the immense power various ideas hold, or fail to hold, is easier to come by these days.
The TEA Party movement was founded almost by accident to espouse the “first principles” of constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and personal liberty. No one individual started it, but one individual inspired it in a fit of frustration on a CNBC broadcast. From that day small, disjointed groups quickly became big uncoordinated and disjointed groups that started holding massive demonstrations and rallies, pushing around the Republican Party, and harassing socialist Democrats to their utter distraction. Attempts by some national organizations (such as Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks, for example) to gain some sort of control over this behemoth have not only utterly failed but been received with deep suspicion and occasional outbursts of anger. It is amorphous, uncontrollable, fiercely independent at the operational level, pragmatic, and united only by a general set of shared philosophies, among which include a deep distrust of centralization.
The Coffee Party was established by some well known socialist activists using social media as the foundation for their communications strategy. Centralized from the start, activists were encouraged to establish chapters, events were planned and promoted, and the mainstream media gave lavish, and positive coverage that the TEA Party movement pretty much never had. It was the same game plan from Organizing For America, and in many ways it might have simply been a project of OFA given the leadership’s close ties to the establishment of the Democratic Party. There really wasn’t much of unifying principle other than government is good, politics should be respectful, and that the tone of the political discourse should be improved.
What ended up happening, in true OFA style, was a rigid top-down control of finances and operations trying to push the “government is good” slogan down the throats of a populace that is increasingly enraged and distrustful of the behavior of the federal government, which under the Obama administration is similarly a top-down soft tyranny choking the American people. Recently, some of the membership has been railing about the decline of the Coffee Party and the failure of the organization to deliver:
1) We lack a consistent focus on one or two policy issues. We move from event to event without sticking with a certain cause and motivating our members persistently engaged. Events are fine if all we want to do is talk, but it’s clear that many of our members (myself included) see this movement as a vehicle for real policy change.
2) At the root of 1) is that the organization lacks democratic accontability. Event decisions are set at the top and conveyed downward. This is totally turning the idea of a grassroots movement on its head. All decisions should be made at the chapter (or Coffee shop) level, and conveyed upward. The job of those at the top is to make sure that the people at the bottom have made a decision, and to encourage the movement as a whole to move as one solid mass (at least on certain policies or initiatives). After all, politics is about strength in numbers.
3) Effective democracy requires transparency. The decision to have a convention was made at the top without any input from the grassroots, even though it used ordinary members’ donations. The organization’s financial records should be posted online and updated regularly (monthly or quarterly). All decisions about spending in excess of $10,000 (or, once we grow, over 10% of revenues) should be made by the grassroots.
This hardly comes as a surprise to grass-roots activists with experience at the local level, who have quickly learned that organizational success is an earned commodity rooted in principle and dedication. Innumerable small grass-roots organizations compete at the local level for membership and influence in a free market that rewards the best ideas, the most dedicated work, and often the right timing for an issue or idea to seize political mindshare. On the left, top-down control can only succeed with the dedicated funding stream of “progressive” financiers, as these organizations are rarely successful in generating their operational budgets internally. Absent the George Soros-type sugar daddies, after the initial media hype that is virtually guaranteed courtesy of the mainstream media, these organizations succumb to the destiny of their structural problems.
And the TEA Party movement? They’ve been influencing the outcome of Republican primaries and even some general elections across the country, become a distinct target of liberal Democrats and their allies, and growing in competence and effectiveness. At the Prince William County Fair this year you’ll find a booth for the Manassas Tea Party where they’re signing up volunteers and building their organization, while the Coffee Party not only hasn’t meaningfully transitioned from a virtual to a physical organization, but the virtual presence is rapidly fading and entirely irrelevant. More than any other reason, the structural differences between these organizations cause vastly different outcomes.
Without any real issues, without any decision making power at the local level, and in the unenviable position of trying to prop up an increasingly unpopular administration, the Coffee Party was destined to fail from the outset, as soon as whatever “coolness factor” existed there wore off. Pretty soon the videos of Annabel Park wringing her hands at how the boisterous sea of liberty our founders envisioned is depressing her will join the likes of eco-nuts crying about dead trees as high entertainment for conservatives. While there may be troubling times when socialism seems on the rise, it is ultimately unsustainable as a political philosophy in America and the collapse of such lame-brained ideas can provide a strong object lesson for future generations about the effectiveness of top-down control rather than personal liberty and the free market. It’s eventually a refreshing source of humor as well.
H/T: Legal Insurrection
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