Duane Quintana 

Boise Coffee Party eschews Tea Party philosophy

Duane Quintana has long been a driving force in Boise. In 2006, Boise Weekly interviewed Quintana about his work with ALPHA, an organization he founded after being diagnosed with HIV. Four years later, BW chatted with Quintana once again, this time about organizing the Boise arm of the national Coffee Party, alongside co-founder Cindy Gross.

The national Coffee Party movement sprang up not long after the Tea Party patriots took the national stage after President Barack Obama's inauguration. While the Tea Party is a proponent of smaller government, fewer taxes and fewer regulations from a conservative angle, the Coffee Party addresses those issues from what they see as a more civil stance.

How did you get involved in politics?

I received a Facebook invitation to the first Coffee Party meeting. When I was a teen I worked in the House of Representatives in Boise. I'm from Wendell. Rep. [Wendy] Jaquet sponsored me when I was a page ... I went to D.C., where I represented the state of Idaho. I was a poor kid--she helped me get suits and stuff. Then I got away from politics as I got into school.

What is the Coffee Party concerned with?

It was all about trying to encourage having frank and honest conversations about the issues. "Playing nice in politics," I really liked that idea. I've done work in the community for a while. Politics seemed kinda to be the next level to positively impact the work that I do and the life that I try to have.

What's the relationship to the Tea Party?

It's been kind of a natural Tea Party response. It wasn't necessarily our initial intention, but it's kind of a way to get out there. We do a response to a Tea Party rally, practice civility while we're there.

I think the big thing with the Tea Party is that it seems ... they're working on trying not to be so out there, so extreme in their views. [Depicting] Obama into Hitler, different things like that are taking things a little further. They come off a little more angry or wild at first. I think they're doing a good job of getting people involved, people that normally haven't been. That's what the Coffee Party is trying to do. Helping the average person understand their place in politics.

Is the Tea Party seen as anti-civil rights?

There's definitely that perception of them. That they're anti-social programs, anti-a lot of things. I don't think that we're necessarily saying we're for or against these things. We, as a group, are trying to encourage the conversation. Some people believe in screaming that voice, and some people want to have a discussion and get heard.

We're trying to understand where everyone's coming from, trying to find a compromise or a middle ground, a government that functions better for all people--not the majority, not the loud, not the ones willing enough to go to a rally--but for all people, especially for those that don't have a voice.

Is Idaho more of a tea partier state?

I think the Tea Party has a pretty strong following here, and you here a lot about it. And they get a lot of people out to things. I think it's been a tough ball to get rolling here [with the Coffee Party]. I'm not sure we've all been on the same page with the national movement ... we're doing a survey right now of our group ... we'll have something like a Tea Party response committee, politicians or events with the Coffee Party promotion, "this was done with civility," that sort of thing. Kind of push the socializing civil engagement. A poetry slam type thing, it'd be called Soap Box. They could have a few minutes to get up on the soap box. Make it fun. Make it something people would want to go to.

Why have these groups--Tea and Coffee alike--sprung up?

I think there's just a number of different problems that people are feeling more. People who aren't normally involved in politics are getting hurt by politicians. There's a lot of emotions, and a lot of anger, and a lot of fear in the economy, in health care and in education.

Especially in our state. The education budget cuts and what that means. I think a lot of it is the economy, the jobs, the lack thereof. Many people are over-qualified so they're not able to get the work. They're sick and they don't have health care. They're able to work, but they don't have jobs. They want their kids to have a good education. People cannot help but notice, and stand up and do something about it. I think that's what Coffee Party and Tea Party do well. It's not Democratic, and it's not Republican. Most people aren't even that any more. Everybody is so in between. It's all about normal people getting involved and getting heard.

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