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The Coffee Party?

The New York Times reports today on the rise of a group formed in response to the Tea Party - the Coffee Party.

But for a group based on a more caffeinated drink, the Coffee Party seems far less agitated than their Tea counterparts. The party aims to "support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them". They are planning a convention in the Midwest with the slogan 'Meet Me in the Middle".

But a closer look reveals that the Times is engaging in some talking up of this "party". It has grown via a Facebook page, with 40,000 members. That puts it well behind "We will help save a puppy for every 1,000 members that join!!!" (over 400,000 members) and many other Facebook groups.

In a sense, this should not be surprising, since the media tends to exaggerate the strength of the Tea Party. Its recent convention managed only 600 attendees. In a New York Times/CBS News poll in mid-February, only 18 percent said they were supporters of the Tea Party movement. Given the amorphous nature of the group, with little consensus on its views, it is not straightforward how to interpret even this level of "support". It does not necessarily represent a third party. 

It is not as if the media is totally fabricating a story: there certainly is something happening on the ground. But the tea and coffee groups are not "parties" in a traditional sense; they in fact reflect an anti-politics, anti-party sentiment. Consequently, they are diverse and inchoate. It is interesting to see how the media is ready to big up even the most rag-tag of groups, and thus give them more coherence than they really have.

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