Monday, June 14, 2010

Boise's Beverage-Themed Politics Alternative

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 12:16 PM

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Twenty or so people crowded into the upstairs room at the Fixx coffeeshop on June 9, for the fourth meeting of the Boise Coffee Party, a local chapter of the national group that arose as a grassroots response to the Tea Party. The Coffee Party's mission is to provide an outlet for citizens interested in crafting public policy through cooperation in government rather than a deepening of the culture war.

It's clear the group is in its infancy as a good portion of the discussion during the 90-minute meeting focused on large general issues like, what the goals of the group should be, if it should offer endorsements and how directly it should position itself as an alternative or an opposition to the Tea Party. One of the biggest questions was how closely to ally with the Democrats.

Still, the attendees seemed excited about the possibilities of the group, and a long list of ideas, many of them focused on political education, was proposed: a book club, a Capitol tour to learn more about the legislative process, a lecture series at Boise State on the definition of socialism and a summit on corporate personhood.

The group also wanted to form a smaller committee to develop a Tea Party response strategy that could involve anything from counter-demonstrations to attempts to correct misinformation.

"Perhaps we should focus on winning them over, rather than engaging in their arguments," one woman said of the Tea Party. The idea received some subdued but good-natured snickering.

However, when it came down to actually making any of things happen, interest in taking command was weaker. It was an issue Boise's Coffee Party organizer Duane Quintana credits to both busy schedules and the group's relative newness.

"We're trying to give people an outlet to be involved in politics who never have before," said Quintana, the 31-year-old founder of A.L.P.H.A, a local nonprofit. "People have been testing the waters, but now they're solidifying as a group."

Quintana says there are 108 people on BCP's e-mail list so far and that interest in their monthly meetings appears to be growing.

Boise State student Mark Gehrke tagged along with a friend to the meeting. As a political science student, he was curious, but didn't know what to expect.

"It's clear their identity and goals still need to be established," Gehrke says. But he added that his interest was piqued enough to come to another meeting, though not yet enough to volunteer.

Overall though, it was clear that those in attendance did not view the fledgling Coffee Party as just a politically unaffiliated counterpart to the Tea Party.

"The Coffee Party is different than a PAC or a party, because it's not offering a direct service," said Lyndsay Matson, a social work major at Boise State. Her view was the BCP is more like a potential conduit for people to find and get involved in actions.

Others seemed to agree, pimping volunteer for a variety of PACs and election campaigns.

Quintana thinks things are on track.

"Everyone got a chance to speak," he says. "We're working toward a government for all people, not just the loud ones."

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