As the conservative grassroots Tea Party gains influence, a new movement called the Coffee Party is emerging as an alternative for frustrated left-leaning voters. Over the weekend, the group convened more than 350 local meet-ups across the country to sip joe and discuss the state of American politics. Here, an instant guide to the Coffee Party's origins, its message, and its potential impact:
How did the Coffee Party start?
The self-described "100-percent grassroots" organization was born of a Facebook status update. Washington, DC-area documentary filmmaker Annabel Park, 41, wrote on Jan. 26: "Let's start a coffee party...let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion." The impromptu notion quickly grew into a "Join the Coffee Party Movement" fan page and a website, Coffee Party USA.
Is it a direct reaction to the Tea Party movement?
Yes. Park has told CNN that her initiative is a "response to how [Tea party leaders] are trying to change our government" — an approach that she finds "blame oriented" and "alienating."
So the Coffee Party is only for liberals?
While most members lean left, the Coffee Party does have some common ground with the right-tilting Tea Party: "We want our government to cut wasteful spending and practice fiscal discipline," declares the Coffee Party's Facebook page. Other priorities include "jobs with decent pay for all Americans," universal health care, and better regulation of Wall Street.
Is it part of the Democratic Party?
Park has said that her movement is not "aligned" with any party. That said, she and other Coffee Party organizers volunteered with the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.
How big is the Coffee Party?
The Coffee Party's Facebook page has 160,000 fans and growing. Local chapters have popped up in 30 states.
What kind of people are joining?
Its Facebook page has drawn "fans" from nearly all demographics. But a recent survey of active members finds that Coffee Partiers are mostly white and roughly 60 percent male, with an average age of 48.
Have they held any events?
This Saturday's "Coffee Party National Kick Off" involved more than 350 gatherings in 44 states. Groups ranged in size from eight to 41 people and met mostly at coffee shops. A second official Coffee Day is scheduled for March 27, during which participants will be asked to take a 60-question survey designed to build an issues platform.
Is there any plan for a Coffee Party convention?
No plans for a convention have been announced.
Does Annabel Park really drink "cappuccino" instead of coffee?
Unclear, but she was initially flexible on the beverage front. Her original Facebook post read: [L]et's start a coffee party … smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea...ooh how about cappuccino party? That would really piss 'em off because it sounds elitist."