Monday, April 12, 2010

Common Cause With the Coffee Party?

On Sunday I published another piece about the Coffee Party and their progressive roots and national organization. This prompted a comment from Mike James who met me at the first San Diego Coffee Party. I liberated part of his quote:

I don't want this to be "Us against them." Of course the media would love that.

The consensus at most of our meetings is to address the issue of Campaign Finance Reform . I believe that will be the first priority of the Coffee Party.

This issue should be non-partisan. Both Democratic and Republicans politicians are influenced by money from corporations, PAC's and Unions.

We all want to be heard, we want our politicians to be accountable.

Gerrymandering is another area to explore. The lines have drawn in California to where incumbents need not listen to all sides of an argument.

Think of the results, if citizens from differing sides of the political spectrum can come together on this issue.

O.K. maybe I'm a disillusional, but a guy can dream can't he,

I appreciate Mike James' comments and meeting him as well. I will admit that I saw no nastiness at the Coffee Party meeting I attended. I also think us vs. them does no one any good, but seems an inevitable media angle, given the name they have chosen for themselves. However, if the Coffee Party and Tea Party want to make common cause, then we must select causes we have in common. With respect to campaign finance reform, I submit that we won't agree. Yes, there is money in politics that distorts the process, but 40+ years of effort haven't removed the money. It is important to understand why this will never happen as long as the First Amendment is the law of the land. The federal government has become like Mom and Dad, with citizens and corporations as the kids. It is able to reward some groups and punish others. Currying favor becomes necessary to both thriving and mere survival. It is now a routine practice among many big corporations to seek help from the Justice Department in their competitive battles, for example. The tax code has grown to hundreds of thousands of pages, sprinkled with goodies for every interest group around. It is the very complexity of regulation and taxation that draws special interest money into politics, like flies to sugar.

Steve Forbes put it best in the mid-1990s. If you have a vermin problem in the kitchen, you can set traps, put out poison and board up the house all you want, but sooner or later, your going to have to stop leaving the cake under the kitchen sink. Unless we reduce the size and role of the government at all levels, and only vote for politicians who work to do so, the role of corporate money will only increase.

So here is my counter-proposal to the Coffee Party. If you want an anti-corporate agenda that the Tea Party can get behind, then let's end all corporate welfare, starting with ethanol subsidies, paying farmers to not farm, quotas on sugar imports, and most importantly, all the bailouts of big corporations and the "too big to fail" theory. Let some of these corporate fat cats go out of business when their excessive risk taking gets them into trouble, and don't spend my tax dollars on bailing them out. Now there's an anti-corporate agenda I can get behind.

Now I have to admit, I do like the gerrymandering issue, because right now, there are VERY safe Republican and Democrat seats. This has the effect of hardening positions and allowing the majority party to be led by the most extreme element within it. If Coffee partiers want to make this their cause, I would personally support it; I think most other Tea partiers would as well. I don't know that it would rise to the top of our list, but it still might be a worthy cause. The cynic in me says that this is not really going to be a Coffee Party top priority, because the current system gives "progressives" an outsize voice to their actual numbers, but, to coin a phrase, a guy can dream can't he?

I went over and looked at the San Diego News Network article suggested by Mutnodjmet. Overall the Coffee Party almost strains at sounding very reasonable. But reasonable or not, sometimes there is something called the hedgehog principle that applies. I first read of this in Jim Collins compelling management primer, Good to Great. Here is a quick explanation:

The Hedgehog concept compares two animals; a fox, which is very clever and knows many creative ways to get a meal, and the hedgehog, a somewhat dull animal that knows one, and only one, thing. To roll into a spiked ball for protection.

In this animal scenario the hedgehog always wins, because despite the fox's many clever tricks and high intelligence, there's no getting around a spiky ball.

I liken the Tea Party movement to the hedgehog. The coffee party may have deep discussions and understand the complexities of this or that government policy. They may see corporate practices they don't like. They will probably come up with a complex agenda to address all this, bringing the best progressive brain power the nation has to offer. They "will offer solutions on solving problems within the federal government, particularly when it comes to finances." And they will still fail, because they don't get the ONE BIG THING. The Tea Party knows one thing that has complex causes and effects, but it is still one thing:

Government has grown too big and become a threat to our liberty and well being.

That's it, that's all we really need to know. We can debate a thousand questions about flat tax or gerrymandering, and I will certainly join in; just don't forget the one thing, because now it's time to take action to make government smaller and more accountable. (As an aside, Ronald Reagan knew one thing, "Communism could and should be defeated." He too was derided as a simpleton.)


  1. If you are so inclined, I propose we meet not over Tea or Coffee, but the true drink that fueled the original American Patriots, Ale.



  2. Mike, now you're talking.

    Dean, as always, I appreciate the link love.

  3. Mike, seriously maybe K&B Wine Cellars in Del Cerro sometime. Click the email B-Daddy button.

  4. Need to get government's fingers out of business at the same time we get them out of the pocketbook-- I can really get behind gov't being involved to prevent life-threatening stuff but otherwise butt out.

    Hm, same reason I don't like gerrymandering, imagine that. ;^p

    And why I don't want the gov't saying how much water we can use to flush, or what light bulbs can be used, or.....