Saturday, March 13, 2010

San Diego Coffee Party - UPDATE Video; UPDATE clarification

I attended a Coffee Party meeting at noon today at Lestat’s West on Adams Ave. The location was the first clue as to the orientation of the majority of the group and it didn’t disappoint. To be fair, there were some outliers. After some preliminary remarks the facilitator had everyone in the room, eventually 78 people, say why they had come. This round of introductions was interrupted when the KFMB camera and reporter showed up and the facilitator repeated some ground, including this telling welcome: “Welcome to the first meeting of the San Diego Tea Party.” By his own admission, the Tea Party was clearly on his and everyone else’s minds.

The attendees were mostly of the left of center, progressive type. I took notes as each attendee introduced themselves, but rather than put you in a stupor with all 70+, here are some common themes that emerged. Most people had some anti-corporation animus, often fueled by the recent Supreme Court decision. In my own remarks, I played off that by pointing out how the government subsidizes corporations and used ethanol helping ADM and health care bill forcing Americans to buy from health insurers as examples. There were at least six references to “government is not the enemy” which was seen as a counter-theme to the Tea Party movement. A number alluded to air time given the movement by CNN, MSNBC and Rachel Maddow in particular. A number of people had worked on other campaigns in the past 3 for Ross Perot, 1 for John Anderson and 1 for Donna Frye. There were a couple of outliers, one self identified libertarian and a Navy guy who said national security was his main concern (don’t think he’ll be back).

Enough about the folks. The leadership of the meeting had a very tight focus and stuck to the agenda see documents below. The leader, er facilitator, wore a black T shirt that said (a self styled Ocean Beach “progressive” group) in green letters and a little peace sign for the O. I was struck by how often he kept saying how “national” wants us to do this or that. He started sounding like Michael Scott on The Office, talking about how “corporate” says this or that. Because they never really got around to articulating any positions, nor could they get any agreement about a common position, it had the feel of a front organization from the 30’s or 50’s.

The final outcome? They all agreed on making a sign. It said “San Diego Civility.” I agree, I’m for civility, having seen nothing but that at the Tea Party rallies; the mighty Waynok, my independent observer, agrees. They also agreed to separate into three subgroups: "Mid-City", "West of I-5", and "East County" and meet again in two weeks. South Bay didn’t quite get enough attendees for its own group.

Honestly, I can’t see where this is going, but it has clear national direction. But it has this whole hierarchical feel to it, unlike the Tea Party which is very decentralized. No one seemed to mind either. Having been to a number of libertarian confabs, this was quite the shock to me. Libertarians can't even agree on a dinner menu. Also, there seemed to be only one ironclad rule that the facilitator enforced, the next meeting of the sub-group had to be in a coffee shop. No kidding. I think this might be a long term weakness.

There were also some good things about the whole event. If people really start getting involved and holding politicians accountable to the people, even if different segments don’t agree, that will still be good for this country. The public at large does agree on a few things, that deficits are hurting the economy and that giveaways to special interests and pork barreling are harming the average citizen.

I was also struck by how many people were upset by the polarization of the country, where they felt that friendships were damaged by political differences. I agree. Objective polling shows the country is getting more polarized. Finding some ground that is truly common will help the nation. Stopping special interest pork might be one place to start.

Handouts for the Day (We Are Very ORGANIZED): (Click to enlarge)


Da Rules:


UPDATE: One of the attendees posted video on YouTube. Yours truly is featured at about the 45 second mark; I will make no editorial comment about my own demeanor.

UPDATE: Clarification

In the comments, OB Rag takes my comment about a "top down" approach as criticism that the movement was somehow not authentic, and indeed some readers appear to have taken it that way. I meant to merely contrast the difference between the Tea Party and the Coffee Party. Those in the Coffee Party approach their movement with a hierarchical view of organization. Even if the the national headquarters is someone's garage, it doesn't change the fact that the outlook is hierarchical. Many of us in the Tea Party are deliberately viewing our movement through the lens provided by The Starfish and the Spider, and using the techniques and mental models provided by that book to build a networked, leaderless organization. Hierarchical and networked organizations are neither good nor evil per se, examples of networked organizations included the American revolutionaries, al-Qaeda and the current Tea Party movement. Hierarchies surround us daily and include our own federal government, most corporations, and the Communist Party cells of the last century.


  1. Thanks for taking the time and preparing this report. What I find the most interesting is the "top-down" feel that you mentioned.

  2. Hey B-Daddy, Thanks for coming out and for your report! We remember you (and saw you on the Channel 8 news report) and hope you'll come to the next meeting.

  3. AWESOME coverage! Thank you covering this for all of us who could not make it (I honestly planned on showing up to introduce myself...figure it will cut down on the name calling in the long run). Sharing with everyone!

  4. Wow- amazing to hear "progressives" give homage to the Constitution. I presume they haven't read it.

  5. Reading The Preamble is probably as far as they could make it without puking

  6. Fantastic job. A link is on the way in a scheduled post.

  7. I'm sorry, what is their point exactly?
    "Change the narrative."
    Sorry, lefties you cannot do that now. Cat's out of the bag. Power grab time is over. The American people shut you down... They may pass that garbage deathcare bill this week but the battle has just begun. There will be nothing left of it when we are done. I guarantee it!

    These people are lame.

  8. Another grand example of the manipulation of the mindless masses: "Why can't we all just get along?" For progressives the answer to that question is, of course, due to the evil, selfish, conservative capitalist dog-pigs who just don't seem to be able to 'get with the program'.

  9. Where were these champions of civility when Bush was president? I may bring my Obama/Hitler sign to their next meeting to find out just how committed to civility they really are.

    In times of deception the truth is subversive. Sometimes the truth is not pleasant and will upset many people. Civility is nice, but when the country is in the trouble that it is now, it should not be the highest priority. Their advocation of civility just seems to be an attempt to avoid justified harsh criticism of the people that are in power now.

  10. Hey, enjoyed your "report." It's pretty crazy to accuse us of a "top-down" approach where our movement is less than 2 months old. Any "national office" is in someone's kitchen or garage. We have no big-time lobbyist or corporations funding us, unlike sectors of the Tea Party. Yeah, top-down all right, that's how we could instantly form four different chapters. Where's the top-down in that? I do remember you and I thought you said a few things others could agree with. But you obviously were not involved in the smaller group discussions, as you were outside checking your blackberry or whatever. Community was developed and we'll be back.

  11. Mr. OB Rag,

    Thanks for commenting. Please read my additional thoughts on the next post. You did a great job facilitating this event, however, you were the one who kept using the word "national" when trying to keep things moving along. Despite my differing political views I tried to report with the same civility that you used to run the meeting.

    If your movement truly succeeds, so much the better. Politicians shouldn't be able to manipulate the public and be left to their own devices without accountability, so the more citizen movements the better.

    My question to you, would I be welcome at another meeting?

  12. B-Daddy, thanks for doing this.

    I was confident there would be common ground with respect to the variously named "corporatism"/"economic fascism"/"crony capitalism" and that appears to be borne out.

    Again, great work.

  13. 78 people divided into separate groups is failure waiting to happen.

    I actually would not mind a "grassroots" movement on the left that was open to actual discussion on issues and possibly dare I say, DEBATE.

    It would be good for most people in this part of the country to learn to have political discussion without resorting to hate filled venom.

  14. Doo-doo, could you be a little more specific with respect to "hate filled venom"?

    What I heard from our elected leaders over the summer with respect to people exercising their 1st amendment rights by calling those actions "un-American" and "fascist" might qualify.

  15. Any criticism of the Obama administration, or their utopian anti-American schemes, equates to "hate-filled venom".

  16. Liberator: While a "top-down" approach is not inherently "evil", it is my opinion that presenting the Coffee Party group as a "grassroots" effort rings false if it has a hierarchy. Furthermore, it seems the initial 'Grassroots' Coffee Party Organizer was an Obama Political Operative:

    One of the charges the Coffee Party has made is that we Tea Party members are "racist" -- as evidenced by signs and membership. However, the gender/race breakdown of the Coffee Party were predominately white and roughly 60 percent male.

    And here is an example of the topic-specific signs at our most recent event:

    To give you background, the OB-Rag -- which promoted the Coffee Party and whose key members hosted the event -- recently targeted our SoCal-TRC Tea Party for a counter protest late last month. It is the height of hypocrisy, in my opinion, to stage a counter-protest (thereby creating a hostile and tense atmosphere needlessly), presumptively treat us all as racists, shout "tea-bagger" at us, and then accuse us of being "uncivil" when some of our members get upset.

    I appreciate that the Coffee Party, like the Tea Party, has a diverse membership. Many, I am sure, are good-hearted people who want what is best for this country. I hope they weigh the information I have cited above with an open mind and heart.

    Thanks for all you do, Liberator.

  17. Mut,
    You make excellent points and thanks for pointing out some unpleasant truths about the Coffee Party. I like to take people at their word, at least initially. I note that OB Rag has not answered my question, despite what I considered a respectful tone in my reporting.

  18. BigDaddy - hey, you're welcome - if you are civil - and you seem to be. Patty, back on March 13th, did invite you to our meetings in your own comment section. Our event with Filner had several Tea partiers who promised to be civil. About a half dozen, including ol' RogerO - couldn't agree to be civil, so they stayed outside.

    This campaign finance reform issue and mainstreet vs Wall Street are definitely areas that the two sides could work on together - or separately.