"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Coffee Party Pt. 2: An Insight into the Hard Left's Vision for Society

While the Coffee Party is indeed an astroturf movement started by and Annabel Park, an Obama campaign worker (as I wrote about in Part 1), it is designed ground up to be as appealing to the Left as possible. While Park's rhetoric makes noises about centrist appeal, this rhetoric is blatantly hollow as any reading of her interviews easily shows. The Coffee Party is like the OFA, an appeal to the base of Left. As such, Park and the "Coffee Party" rhetoric illustrate some very disturbing aspects of the American Left.

Several things struck me while reading Park's interview, Q&A, and Tweets. First is her emphasis on the "community" and the idea of "collective."

Park's words from the NYT article and WaPo Q&A sources I mentioned (all emphasis mine): "The mission statement declares that the federal government is 'not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will.'" And "the Internet is a tool for organizing a grassroots movement focused on building communities where people feel safe to engage in civic discourse." And "...facilitate informative and civil dialogue about issues that affect all of us, collectively." And "We will figure out how to use technology to create collaborative environments for Americans to engage in..." And "We should not divide ourselves over differences of opinion. We need to be one community." And "That is our strength and we plan to use it to facilitate a collaborative process that would encourage people to come together as a community..." And "Many of the people who have found refuge in the Coffee Party community..." And "The Millennial Generation, frankly, has a lot to teach the rest of us when comes to appreciation of diversity and a sense of collective identity..." And "People should come together to go through a deliberation process to produce collective decisions that benefit the common good." And "As citizens, we need to find ways to, first, create a stronger sense of community and common good among Americans." And "...we are tapping into an existing desire for community and constructive civic participation...."

That is a lot of community, collectives and collaborations that Park believes need to be created-- all in a short Q&A and one excerpt from an NYT interview. How many times does Park mention liberty or the concept of freedom in her pontificating within these articles? Not one time. How many times does she mention individual responsibility? Once, when Park rallies people to vote against evil corporations and lobbyists-- "The only way to close the loophole is for voters rise to their civic duty. They have money, but we have the votes. No one gets elected without votes. [emphasis mine]" Responsibility seems reserved for when we all rally together against a common enemy.

Now, I'm not a fan of people counting up words out of context and then making some sweeping conspiracy-oriented statement. I want to to make it quite clear that I am not suggesting a Reds-under-the-bed conspiracy that Park is either planning nor part of-- nor am I suggesting that such a thing even exists. Likewise, every quote I have used is from my previous Coffee Party post which has the full text for context when possible, plus links to the original stories are here: Washington Post Q&A, "Coffee Party movement: Alternative to Tea," The New York Times article "Coffee Party, With a Taste for Civic Participation, Is Added to the Political Menu."

That said, I think it is perfectly reasonable to draw some inferences regarding what Ms. Park is emphasizing in her "Coffee Party" movement using her own words.

One of the first inferences is that Ms. Park de-emphasizes individual choice in favor of conformity and group identity. She writes "But here I am reminding them of something that they already know: that we are all Americans. We should not divide ourselves over differences of opinion. We need to be one community. Our democracy is what unites us as a people." Later she says "That is our strength and we plan to use it to facilitate a collaborative process that would encourage people to come together as a community, checking party affiliation at the door." And still later Ms. Park writes "The Millennial Generation, frankly, has a lot to teach the rest of us when comes to appreciation of diversity and a sense of collective identity that transcends the usual lines that divide us."

Such glowing words about the "collective good" and "collective identity" glosses over what must be sacrificed to obtain this "strength." To obtain the collective good, one must sacrifice individual opinion and one must give up personal belief if conflicted with what is defined as the greater good.

The Black American community can be a study for the eventual results of such values in America. Within the circles of Black politicians, Black intellectuals, African-American Studies Departments, Black community leaders, and Black artists one often hears similar words. "Community," and "collaborative process" are among the general go to words when discussing or writing anything political or socio-political within that sphere. The results of this repeated emphasis of community over individuality, collective good over personal development, have been a racial block that consistently votes 90% Democrat since the 1960s, despite the numerous problems (high crime rates, drug use, habitual unemployment, political corruption, single-welfare mothers, etc.) that have plagued the Black American community in these same years. It has also resulted in a community which teaches and demands conformity, in the form of "Black authenticity," to the power structures within the community.

The term "Oreo" and "sellout" and "Uncle Tom" (a term Obama describes himself using in Dreams from My Father when he refers to a Black college student, Tim, who listens to country music and has a white girlfriend as a "Tom") and others of this ilk, are common insults to describe Black Americans who stray, or simply vary, from the set norm of the Black community. People such as Shelby Steele (a former '60s Black radical), John McWorter, Ward Connerly, Condaleeza Rice, Thomas Sowell, and Richard Steele have been vilified for their purported betrayal of their people. I remember my father-in-law (a Democrat) recounting the time at his small-town's high school reunion where one of his classmates spent the entire time apologizing for being part of the Reagan administration. My mother-in-law often calls Larry Elder (not my favorite pundit or writer) crazy and claims that he "hates Black people." Likewise, she has claimed that Condaleeza Rice was having an affair with George W. Bush, that being the only reason why she became Secretary of State.

Yes, this disdain is shared by various non-Black, Leftist pundits and activists who have, with disturbing enthusiasm and glee, portrayed Steele, Rice, Connerly, et al, as Sambos, Step'n'Fetchits, and Aunt Jemimahs. Yet, the source of their displeasure, I believe, although somewhat ideologically related, is still quite different then the breaking of community and a failure to prove Black authenticity. My own theory regrading this is touched upon in this post: Jeneane Garofalo and the Left Reinvent 16th Century Tyranny.

The organizing of the Black community (post Civil Rights Amendment) is often looked upon as a model of success by the Left. After all, it succeeded in various demonstrable ways. African-American Studies Departments exist in most universities and colleges (teaching that Socrates, Cleopatra, the Egyptians, etc. were black and other blatantly inaccurate "facts") and opened the door to various other ethnic studies departments. Black Americans occupy a privileged position (if you want to put it that way) of being considered the first and foremost oppressed racial underclass of American society-- superseding Native Americans, Hispanics, various Asian-American ethnicities, et al. This has resulted in a reserved segment of popular media (from Spike Lee films to Soul Plane, various 90s to contemporary sit-coms, etc., the reserved place of the Black female author in the New York publishing houses' roll call-- Toni Morrison the replacement of the far more interesting Alice Walker), half-hearted, insultingly ignorant (John Mayer-style), and/or disingenuous white sympathy, and the use of the politically and socially powerful claim of "racist" (at the cost of the inordinate power given to "n" word). And, as previously mentioned, a very reliable and predictable voting block. The drawbacks, a culture of victimology, the conformity of the individual rational mind to community mores, the de-emphasis of self-reliance and self-pride (for group identity and identity pride), etc., are all too evident, but often portrayed, bewilderingly, as strengths.

Park's emphasis of collective good and strong community pushes various people to similar models of the Black Community and strives for similar results-- especially to the ends of creating predictable and reliable voting blocks. The fact that the Black American community has evolved/shaped into its current form by very specific and unique circumstances unshared by any other American racial, ethnic or social group seems utterly lost upon Park and much the Left. And, of course, the tragedy of a people's history being stripped away to conform to an idealized victim model (a la Mississippi Burning where all Black Americans [save one brief appearance of a federal agent] are presented as powerless victims without personality or functionality-- apart from the need for rescue by whites) is likewise unacknowledged.

Again, I do not present this as a great threat to American society. This vision of collective voting blocks by the Left cannot and will not work for various reasons. Yet, there is much damage that can be done by this vision, much alienation and misinformation that can drive people apart.

Socialism, as a governmental theory, demands a high degree of conformity. The grand social programs and entitlements doled out by government bureaucracies require massive amounts of money-- money that can be only be collected by heavily taxing the majority of the population. Social engineering, likewise, demands a conforming population willing to go along with the program and to follow the advice of their "betters." Compare this with the confrontational model of American democracy-- a system filled with built-in checks and balances to disseminate power, and a system designed to empower the individual with certain inalienable rights. Park's preaching that the individual should conform to the "greater good" stands in stark contrast to such ideas.


  1. Welcome back!

    There's a lot to digest here.

    Conformity is undoubtedly comfortable for those who conform, but pendulums do swing, and political majorities can turn into political minorities pretty fast. That's happening now, it seems. By next year, Obama may have pulled some rabbits out of his hat to regain some votes, but I think there's no chance he will regain people's trust or loyalty.

    Nevertheless, I was stopped in my tracks by Park's statement,"No one gets elected without votes."

    It looks to me like the Democrats have abandoned the idea that the will of the people matters. Everything the Dems come up with of late is being done by fiat, from regulations declaring that CO2 is a pollutant (thus, the gov't must invent a new carbon-credit fiat currency) to imposing health-insurance reform that almost nobody--not even Congress--wants, to a presidential declaration that the federal government owns almost every drop of water in the country, and therefor must exert control on everybody and everything that drinks, swims, floats, or fishes, and then some.

    Votes? What does Parks plan on using them for? Oh, right. Convenience. Regime by fiat is ever so much more comfortable when there are no complaints.

  2. There is a focus on the "community" and the "collective." Of course there is. What better way to ignore, overlook, and violate the person as individual than by making them a nameless, faceless "unknown citizen" (ala Auden)?