The Coffee Party began in the United States through the social media of Facebook. This accessibility foreshadowed the development of this movement, setting the stage for a trans-partisan, citizen-based, and participatory-focused mission. Attempting to attack the complexities of the country’s current political challenges, this movement embraces citizen participation at the local level, utilizing local knowledge and experience in addressing issues (Coffee). The focus is to ignite the citizenry to re-embrace politics, to take up their own agency with the knowledge, skill sets, and resources they have and apply them to issues within their communities.
The Coffee Party represents a perfect example of what Harry Boyte, in Everyday Politics, refers to as a mediating institution. This network of individuals with different knowledge sets is organized in such a way as to allow the sharing of experience and skills in order to create a more well-informed citizenry (Boyte). The Coffee Party celebrates differences, encouraging them in order to foster enriching interaction. In doing so, it acts as a connector of individuals, a unifier of different backgrounds that sustains fruitful learning. The resulting interactions between participants is the fuel that sustains the Coffee Party movement.
By focusing on the local knowledge of a community, the movement attempts to foster citizen-expert alliances. It encourages co-reliance on both citizens and politicians in problem solving and decision-making. As stated in the mission: “…we understand that the federal government is not our enemy, but the expression of our collective will” (Coffee). Holding true to the ideal that the government is for the people, the Coffee Party calls each citizen of the United States to alter his perspective. It challenges him to see the opportunities within the current government structure, including those regarding cooperation, not just solely locally-driven movements.
The previously mentioned challenges presented by the Coffee Party movement require citizens to assess their personal assets as well as their obligation to their surrounding community. As opposed to the ethical obligations of experts when interacting with citizens who may have less technical knowledge, this movement focuses on the ethical obligations of truly knowledgable citizens when living their daily lives. Citizens living in a civil society recognized as a democracy who are unhappy with their government, an “expression of [its] collective will,” have an obligation to themselves and their community to act. A theme expressed throughout Boyte’s book, the obligation of public politics applies to all citizens. Here, it applies within the constructs of the Coffee Party.
Upon inquiry into participation, the inquirer is asked to identify his areas of interest within today’s society. After this, he is asked to share his skill set, offering his knowledge to the public. This act is fundamental to citizen participation in politics. The recognition of the assets within a community’s citizenry is the catalyst to solution-planning. Once resources are outlined, everyday politics can commence, with each citizen utilizing their own skills in the problem-solving process.
As discussed within the Coffee Party’s mission, this previously discussed asset-based development on the part of the citizenry is under-utilized now within the United States political system. The result has been the disengaging of experts and citizens within politics, decreasing citizen participation and increasing the abdication of agency to arguably more knowledgable experts. Everyday politics, as reference in Boyte, and self-governance as discussed within the Coffee Party, is perceived to be the solution. Cooperation and co-creation of solutions within the political system engages both experts and citizens. The Coffee Party as a mediating institution offers opportunities for co-creation of knowledge and solutions not only between individual citizens as discussed previously, but also between experts and locals within a community.
To build on the obligation of citizens to engage in their community’s using their resources, is the obligation to embrace their freedom. Boyte discusses this theme in chapter ten of Everyday Politics (Everyday). Citizens, when displeased with the politics of their communities, have an obligation to utilize their resources to act, and as a result to expand their freedom. As Boyte discusses, freedom extends further than simply democracy. Freedom requires participation within the political system; it requires effort in today’s society to get one’s voice heard within the complexities of the democratic system.
Boyte traces the embracing of responsibility within a democracy back to the beginnings of our country and farther, emphasizing the effectiveness of agency within one’s community. This translates perfectly to today’s Coffee Party. The basis of the movement is organization. Each participant is required, if he wishes to become effective, to embrace responsibility and take action. This includes research, writing position papers, meeting with local experts and political leaders. He is then asked to share his findings with the general public. This is not simply the consumption of freedom within a democracy, but the engagement of it-the constant participation within the complex system to fully ensure one’s free status.
This is an interesting notion within today’s society. Boyte enlightens his reader, urging them to consider a different perspective than the norm: true freedom is no longer handed out upon citizenship, but is a benefit of democracy that must be worked for within today’s society. True freedom to express oneself, to learn, to voice an opinion is a right that requires constant participation. Today’s Coffee Party utilizes that notion. In ways discussed previously, it calls citizens to engage and to actively gain agency for their freedom.
The Coffee Party encompasses numerous aspects of everyday politics, civic engagement, and local, expert knowledge co-creation. Here, we see how each of these challenges the citizen to interact within the system, resisting the ease of apathy and engaging. This ensures a true sense of freedom, if not to simply get one’s voice heard, but to further engage others and embrace the locality of politics. This creates a decentralized, citizen-based system that requires effective participation to ensure freedom.
Boyte, Harry Chatten. Everyday Politics: Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2004. Print.
Coffee Party | Wake Up and Stand Up. Web. 01 Nov. 2011. <http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/>.