Coffee or tea, please
I'd like to draw your attention toward two remedial hot beverages in the United States: tea and coffee. When you are sick, perhaps with the common cold or a stomach bug, what could be better than a warm cup of tea to ease the pain and soothe the nerves? Add a little lemon or honey and you have a convincing remedy for your illness. Similarly, America's other favorite hot beverage, coffee, is an excellent solution for fatigue. The caffeine addicts' beloved coffee offers the perfect amount of stimulation to rouse the overworked or overpartied student, sleep-deprived parent, night-shift worker or insomniac for a day who would otherwise be doomed to sleepiness. When a consumer relies upon these two warm drinks for their relieving and enlivening effects, he or she is convinced that they miraculously compensate for illness and exhaustion, providing temporary relief and extra pep. But what do these drinks do in the long run? After all, tea is no cure and coffee no good night's sleep.
By now you may be thinking, okay, where is this going? To the Boston Tea Party, obviously. In 1773, a British tax on tea imports provoked officials in Boston to reject the high tax--and implicitly, colonial oppression--by dumping British tea into Boston Harbor. Yes, Americans loved their tea even in the 18th century. But it wasn't just a great American love for tea that drove this protest, but also, growing discontent with the government about taxation without representation.
Now I'll get to the point (or at least part of it): the Tea Party. A couple hundred years after the Boston Tea Party, the Tea Party movement is back in action, protesting taxes and this time national debt as well. What is most intriguing about this Tea Party movement is that it has developed and matured on a platform that is focused on curing the diseased government--just like a good mug of tea. The conservative movement reignited in early 2009 to protest the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act--the Obama Administration's federal government stimulus package. The grassroots organization has since gained momentum, promoting its goal of limited government and its opposition to high government spending through social networking outlets like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
The Tea Party claims that it does not wish to form a new political party, but rather, revitalize the existing Republican Party. Dr. Dan Eichenbaum, a member of the Tea Party from North Carolina, who is running for Congress on the Republican ticket, said, "The goal is to take over the carcass of the Republican Party and reform it according to its own principles." (Just like any good cup of tea would do.) With anti-Washington sentiment consuming the minds and souls of many Americans, the Tea Party has stepped up, seeking a cure for the sickness spreading through the American government. Indeed, so far they have met with success in terms of invoking change--the Republican victory in the January Massachusetts' Senate race is largely attributed to the Tea Party movement. But will this change really cure the problem? Will the Tea Party aid the federal government in the long run, or will it merely provide temporary relief as a mug of tea might?
In the midst of the Tea Party movement, a joke about coffee sprang up about a month ago in the form of a Facebook status. Annabel Park, now the de facto leader of the Coffee Party USA, Facebook statused: "let's start a coffee party...smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about a cappuccino party? that would really piss 'em off because it sounds elitist...let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion." This accidental movement has since assumed official goals: promoting civility and inclusiveness in political discourse, engaging the government as the collective will of the people--not the enemy--and pursuing the that change Obama promised in his 2008 campaign.
The Coffee Party offers a counter to the Tea Party. It is providing the extra pep that Americans need, particularly among liberals, and is reawakening enthusiasm for the Democratic government. (Get it? Like a cup of coffee?) In just seven days, the Coffee Party group on Facebook increased its fan membership from 9,000 to 83,203. Although it is too early to tell if this movement will become something truly substantial, there is no question that the Coffee Party is acting as the much-needed stimulant to get Democrats geared up to face the growing challenge to incumbency and to Washington.
Although coffee and tea do not promise long-term solutions to exhaustion and illness, they do sustain people until they can fully recuperate from their sickness and catch up on sleep. Maybe we will see something similar with the Tea and Coffee Party movements?