Here’s a challenge: look at the list of speakers featured at this weekend’s Coffee Party’s convention (September 24-26 in Louisville) and figure out who any of them are. There’s not a single Glenn Beck-level celebrity there. Instead, we have people of substance that no one has ever heard of. That’s not the way to win hearts and minds in an age of 24/7 media.
The Coffee Party claims the Radical Center, where nobody in particular gets excited about anything. It is not opposed to government, nor is it in favor of excess governmental control. It’s right in the middle. And just to prove the point, the Coffee Party offers a compilation of soft-rock music you’ve never heard of for a $5 contribution.
Some of the big-name enticements to come to Louisville are Mike McKinnon and Larry Lessig. Those are the only two on the list that I even vaguely recognize. They are bit players on the media stage, although they were tangentially involved in one of the most important and disturbing cases in recent Supreme Court history: Citizens United. This was the case in which the court declared that corporations have the same right to spend on political candidates and issues as individual citizens.
Similar to its list of featured speakers, the Coffee Party pledge is also a work of uninteresting consequence:
As a member or supporter of the Coffee Party, I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.
It reminds me of the ideal slogan for a mediocre company: We’re no worse than anyone else.
Chances that the Coffee Party will raise its profile this weekend have been diminished by Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, who has essentially co-opted their strategy and turned it into a joke. Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, scheduled for October 30 on the Washington D.C. Mall takes positions best summarized by one of the placards he recommends to attendees: “I may disagree with you, but I don’t think you’re a Nazi.”
To counteract the treachly sweetness of Stewart’s “sanity” mantra, Comedy Central has organized a second event on the Mall – Stephen Colbert’s “March to Keep Fear Alive”. It’s unfortunate for the Coffee Party that it doesn’t have a foil like Colbert to put into sharp relief the humor that is inherent in the Tea Party’s overwrought rhetoric that features colorful historic figures such as Stalin, Hitler, and Karl Marx.
But, for those eager to beat Stewart at his own game, this weekend’s Coffee Party Convention is just the ticket. It is likely to be a stress-free event without the annoyance of heavy press coverage or long lines of autograph seekers. The music will be nice, the speeches will be gutless, and the world will pay no attention whatsoever.