Google+ Coffee Party = Freedom of Authenticity - Coffee Party USA

My response to policy disagreements within the Coffee Party


Post written in response to backlash against Michael Charney's blog
dissenting from a Coffee Party consensus supporting a
Constitutional Amendment to deal with "Citizens United."

The Coffee Party was born less than a week after the “Citizens United” decree. It has always been a quest to find the best ways for We the People to counter, not only big money, but also the things that big money buys: lobbying firms, access, political advertising, political advertising disguised as “news,” divide-and-conquer politics, and fear-based populist movements fueled by all of the above.

How do we oppose these things? I don’t think we can offer a single answer to that. But there is one thing that has remained constant through all the fits and starts, triumphs and failures, and trials and errors — through all the arguments about Constitutional Amendments, DISCLOSE Acts, publicly funded elections. In three years of experimentation, the most durable antidote to the corrupting influence of money in politics has been the influence of People in politics — the power of our voices.

So that’s been my focus. Protecting that voice and encouraging everyday Americans to add their voices to our conversation, and/or to others. How do we pursue the Coffee Party mandate to fight “Citizens United” with this in mind? One path I can see is to ensure that this miraculous people-powered microphone — the social media network that is the Coffee Party — is shared.

It can’t be dominated by a single voice. No one voice can be THE voice of the Coffee Party, otherwise we fail to encourage the phenomenon our country most needs to see, and the one I most enjoy seeing: the moment when a disengaged and silent citizen becomes an outspoken, self-motivated active citizen. 

In this sense, the strength of our ongoing national conversation is dependent on the diversity of those who contribute to it. If you are an American citizen and you’re talking about politics in a way that is civil, fact-based and solutions-oriented, your opinions are not going to disqualify you. This is how we ensure that the maximum number of people feel welcome enough to begin the process of transition from silent citizen to active citizen. The more diverse we are, the better the chances someone new might join us.

To those people who recently read something someone else wrote on our Facebook page and announced that you are leaving us to seek a forum where opinions adhere more precisely to your own, I say, “I understand why you need to leave, but wherever you go, please continue to exercise your voice.”

Join me and Michael Charney (the guy taking heat for not supporting a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United) tonight for our "State-of-the-Union" pre-game show on Coffee Party radio at 8 pm ET. 

If you are interested in how I developed my approach, below is an essay I wrote for Coffee Party leaders in 2011 as we were divising our current system of governance with a Board of Directors elected by our members:

Freedom of Authenticity
by Eric Byler, updated from an original draft 6/29/11

The Tea Party is organized by powerful players inside Washington, with the backing of oil barons and other tycoons with nearly unlimited resources.  Although their agenda, on its merits alone, would appeal only those who fund it (the wealthiest one percent of America), its presentation, with the help of the most powerful media holdings ever known to human kind, and decades of groundwork laid by the same powerful interests under different names, has built a fervent "populist" constituency that organizes itself without needing much direction.

Coffee Party USA is the anomaly, or, rather, a harbinger of an emerging era.  Our leaders have never included Washington insiders and oil barons.  All of our funding has come in the form of small donations.  The most recognizable faces in Coffee Party are habitual volunteers who have never been paid for any political work or activity. Two assets made Coffee Party possible:  (a) social media tools, and (b) authenticity.

Social media tools are the delivery system, but it was the authenticity of Annabel Park's voice, her story, her poise, and her vision that appeals to people — it is the authentic interactions that ordinary Americans have had with Annabel, and with one another, that have fueled the Coffee Party.

We need to figure out how to replicate this phenomenon — the viral growth of authentic connections between people, geared toward impact and action — so that there are hundreds of sources, thousands of initiatives, and millions of participants.

In the 21st century, Americans will be spurred to action — not ONLY when a TV personality is provided a voice by a campaign commercial, a bus tour, or a "news" channel — but ALSO when they read a blog, or see a YouTube video, or join an action campaign designed by a fellow American who is no more "connected" and no more "chosen" by the establishment than you or me.  Americans will be free to choose their own heroes — not choose among the pre-packaged TV personalities pretending to be authentic.  Americans will judge authenticity for ourselves.  We'll be able to organize with people with whom we connect and identify.  Our job is to give them some enticing and effective options — as many as possible.

With that said, is our diversity a strength on which to build, or a weakness to suppress and hide?  To what degree should we demand that others in the Coffee Party adhere to a set slate of ideas and approaches?  And, perhaps most importantly: if we are going to enforce a slate of ideas and approaches, who will do the enforcing?

My notion of “The Freedom of Authenticity” is simple: if you are fact-based, civil, and solutions-oriented, you are welcome to add your voice to the Coffee Party’s ongoing national conversation.  My personal preference is to welcome and even seek out diverse opinion, diverse cultures, and diverse experiences. Others may not agree. But no individual should see it as their job to tell others in our community how to feel, think, or organize. 

While it is true that a million people who all adhere to the same dogmatic ideology can sometimes affect change, it's difficult to hold that many people to a narrow ideology without using tactics the Coffee Party decries.  And, history has shown that in the face of extremist ideologies, a broad-based coalition is required to diffuse the polarization, shift the narrative, and restore equilibrium to a community, a county, or a country.  A million people who have put aside their differences and come together to stand up to the most serious threat our democracy has ever faced — the corrupting influence of money in politics — will have more impact on our democracy and get more attention from the Powers that Be than twice as many people who have been manipulated by the Politics of Division.  Why?  Because the Powers that Be are the financiers, the delivery system, and the content producers for the Politics of Division.  They already know how to play that game, and they play it better than we ever will.

I propose that we expand our minds and our model, and view the diversity of opinion and background within our movement as... not just a strength, but an organizing principle.

If there are a variety of voices and a variety of methods under the Coffee Party umbrella fighting the Cycle of Corruption, we'll find it easier to attract a large and growing audience, because the makeup of the Coffee Party will mirror the makeup of America.

Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction

commented 2013-02-13 11:12:21 -0500 · Flag
Jerry posted this comment at as well and then came back to explain he meant to say the “Tea Party,” not “Coffee Partym” is a top-down representative of big business.

Coffee Party USA
Connecting communities to reclaim our Government for the people.

Listen to internet radio with Coffee Party USA on Blog Talk Radio