Jeanene Louden, Vice President of the Board of Directors
I will be the first to admit that I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I said “yes” to the Coffee Party founder who invited me to run for a position on the first member elected Board of Directors.
I was in Washington, DC, attending the Coffee Party rally, “Enough is Enough: Citizens’ Intervention”. A terrible storm had frozen us all to the bone (notice the blue lips), so I cannot say I was in my right mind!
That was me October 2011. Today, I have five years of serving the board under my belt. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. And now I am inviting you to join me.
The grand experiment of an all volunteer organization with a member elected Board has evolved over time. Today’s directors are hands on as leaders, participants, and the wheels that turn behind the scenes that keep a private nonprofit organization legally compliant and corporately healthy. Our journey as an organization has been an exciting ride!
One lesson was that folks who have volunteered make the best Board members. When it comes to volunteering, there is room for every skill set. And, your skill set may matter less than what you are willing to learn to do. I had no idea I would be posting in Facebook and Twitter, hosting an internet radio show, or making digital art. Who knows what you might do?
If you find yourself a little more curious now than you were when you opened this email, links to all the details are below. But here is the key intel: if you are considering running for the Board you must be a member and signed up as a volunteer by Jan 1, 2017.
Thanks for all you do,
Jeanene Louden, Vice President of the Board of Directors
Austin Wykes is our Volunteer of the Month. Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, Austin now lives in Windham Connecticut.
Austin has been a volunteer with the Newsroom for around 18 months. He was attracted to the Coffee Party because of its broad inclusiveness and the goal of encouraging debate from a reasoned perspective. He wanted to volunteer because he wanted to help encourage calm, critical debate on a broader platform. As Austin says, “I’m a nerd, and with great nerd powers come great responsibility, I tend to research for fun, so why not do something with it?”
The Newsroom work group finds articles, or writes original articles, to post to the main Facebook page. Austin chooses articles that he thinks will encourage real participation amongst those who visit our page. The aim being to inspire critical thought, along with political passion. Austin feels that “there seems to be much of the latter these days, without the former. Hopefully, we can affect some positive change there whatever a person’s political viewpoint. Personally, I don’t mind if people hate what I post, as long as it encourages healthy debate and conversion I’m thrilled.”
One of the things Austin really enjoys about volunteering for the Coffee party is the camaraderie and working with people whether or not they disagree. He appreciates engaging in discussions about any topic. If he’s wrong, he wants to know.
When not volunteering for the Coffee Party, Austin is a gamer, movie watcher, and exerciser. He likes to read, and occasionally write poetry. He also likes to write sometimes but has yet to do it for the Coffee Party.
Thank you, Austin, for all you do!
To become a volunteer go to www.coffeepartyusa.com/volunteer
Tim Danahey, Coffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations
In the dead of night, during a holiday, and without prior discussion, the Republican Party in the U.S. House of Representatives voted 115 – 74 to dramatically weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (“OCE”). The vote was tallied but no record was kept of how individual Republican Representatives voted.
The vote was part of a package that would have defined Congressional rules for the next two years until a new Congress was elected. Ordinarily, the rules and procedures have been a fairly routine matter over the past 114 Congresses but this 115th Congress decided its first official act was to politicize and gain Republican control over who gets investigated for ethics violations.
It's not ironic that several members of the Republican-controlled Congress who are currently under investigation supported this measure. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy opposed the rules change. President-Elect Donald Trump supported the rule change but said it shouldn't be at the top of Congress' to-do list.
This is where we should be proud as Americans. This dead of night scheme was caught by a couple of citizen watchdog organizations and the media. The resulting spontaneous outcry among ordinary citizens was so swift and so loud that the Republicans immediately backed-off their attempt to politicize justice.
The outcry was shocking to Republicans and should be heartening for all Americans. Why? The outcry was too fast to have been organized or coordinated by organizations supporting citizens' rights and government transparency. The flood of calls into Congressional offices was too diverse to have been programmed by robo-calls from special interests. In other words, the free media revealed the plot and the citizens responded.
The 115th Congress will be forever defined as the Congress that made elimination of ethics oversight their number one priority.
As citizens, there are a number of lessons we must learn:
- The government will always try to do their worst work during holidays when media is relaxed. Procedural aspects of proposed trade policies were released the day after Christmas a few years ago. Allowing China to violate trade sanctions against Iran was revealed on a July 4th. Many unfavorable news stories are announced on Friday afternoons to allow the weekend to buffet the media storm.
- The Republicans in the House of Representatives were not so brazen as to eliminate the OCE. That would create too much outcry. Instead, the procedure is to keep the department but eliminate its authority. This happened with IRS investigations of high-income taxpayers. The government kept the department but slashed its funding. This makes less news. The same process will be attempted for all oversight groups such as the EPA, SEC, and the IRS. The departments will remain but their corporate oversight powers will be slashed.
- The importance of citizen watchdog groups cannot be overstated. Government is an over-sized and complex business. Individual citizens cannot be expected to monitor all of government's activities. Political checks and balances often work on partisan issues but some issues such as financial regulation, defense spending, and pharmaceutical protections result in abuses that transcend political parties. Citizen watchdogs such as Public Citizen, the Project on Government Oversight, Move to Amend, and Coffee Party USA need active members and financial support.
- When politicians blame the media and proclaim the media is biased, they are right. It's up to each citizen to gather their news from diverse sources. In 1800, when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were running for President in the nation's first brutally contested election, they used all the dirty tricks politicians use today. However, in 1800 the newspaper industry was vibrant and diverse. The city of Philadelphia alone had twenty-eight newspapers and the people knew fifteen of them were Federalist (today's Republican) and thirteen were Republican (today's Democratic). The people read both points of view and developed their own opinions. The lesson is that today's consolidated media is not free in the financial or political sense. Free needs your support even if it's on the internet. Fight donor fatigue and give a couple of dollars to each of the outlets you read and support investigative journalism.
The citizens won this round of Congressional shenanigans but, trust me, there will be many more fights ahead of us. Get involved, make the process joyful, listen, don't try to do everything, don't get overwhelmed, and make a small difference. That is all it takes to have a huge impact to keep our democracy.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”- Thomas Paine
Clinton and Trump Played Different Games
I like to describe our country as “the big, raucous American family.” And there is hardly a better opportunity to build family connections than with games. Or a more revealing way to understand each other and ourselves, than by the tactics we use within the game.
My dad used to slip Monopoly money to my sister, because he couldn’t stand to see anyone ‘lose’. Our neighbor was outraged that my dad wouldn’t follow the rules of the game. Another card game we played with friends, ‘Nertz’ has a shared playing field and a private one… I was outraged when one of our friends refused to play in the shared field because it would benefit our team. He was in it to win...no holds barred. As you may imagine, I am accustomed to more competition than winner-take-all. (Thanks, Dad!) I learned much about people from playing games with them...and also tapped into my own hyper-competitive side on occasion.
How do you play games? And is there a connection to how you treat others in day-to-day life? What are your internal markers (or conscience) that allow for some actions but not others? And are the rules you use the same as the person with whom you interact?
In our recently concluded election, the Clinton campaign played with the objective to “beat the other team”. Kind of like the rules for “Pictionary”. The Trump campaign played to “win it all”, similar to the rules for “Risk”. The resulting chaos of playing by two different sets of rules within a single election has left us feeling uncertain as to what the social fabric or the social contract, of America, is. What would have been different, if the campaigns had played by the rules of “Pandemic” where the goal was to save the country by working together? We last saw this type of cooperation after the U.S. entered World War II. Does it take a threat to end the world as we know it to change the rules of the game? Cooperation like that ended with the war.
The politics of fear are alive and well… engaging our reptilian and emotional brains, where decisions are actually made. If we demonize and name-call our fellow Americans, how can we see their value in our shared society?
What do we, as a nation, value in each other? And how often do we visit our neocortex to challenge what “we know to be true?” Less often than we think we do. In a country that values it’s “rational mind”, we often fail to examine the rules of the political games themselves and the impact on our day-to-day lives. Our willingness to use fear to “get out the base” has consequences.
Living in constant fear will keep the reptilian brain active. And not in a good way. Extended periods of anxiety and stress (fear by other names) result in a breakdown of mental health and on a larger scale, our social fabric. Trust in a shared reality is missing. There are techniques to counteract the fear...but we must choose to use them. We must choose to use our neocortex (rational) brain. Deprogramming from constant anxiety takes vigilance. It’s not automatic.
Similarly, choosing to identify the rules of the games we play, demonstrating our values when interacting with others is another conscious choice. So is our willingness to abide by our stated values. One of my rules is to treat everyone with dignity. Another is to honor the gift offered by each person.
What is your go-to game? And what rules or values do you play by?
Depending on what results you want, you can choose to play a different game. Our country is divided when we play “Risk” or “Pictionary” in real life. But what if divisiveness - that divide between us - is the actual “Pandemic?” Can we work together to save ourselves?
Debilyn Molineaux is a transformation partner. She works with visionaries and movements in support of a new national and global social contract focused on personal dignity and sovereignty. Her work highlights the relationships between individuals, institutions and governments for conscious transformation. She is the Managing Partner for Living Room Conversations, President of Coffee Party USA and Co-Director for Bridge Alliance, representing micro to macro system approaches. She’s an advisor to Ingenuity Innovation Center, Allsides.com and the Alinsky Center.
Families, friends and a clash of worldviews.
How was your Thanksgiving? I had a wonderful gathering with family and friends. At the end of the holiday week, I was exhausted. Not just by the extra effort of cooking, cleaning and entertaining. Also by the extra effort to not upset the worldview of my family members. They are very uncomfortable talking about politics or any national issues. And of course, that means that most of my life is “off-limits” for discussion. AARGH!!!
As I relayed my holiday story to my friends, I realized that what my family is protecting is their worldview -- because they live a “Mayberry” life where everything is nice, predictable and safe. Everyone knows their place and hard work has gotten them a comfortable life. They believe (or want to believe) the whole world is like Mayberry. Any intrusion of a different reality may cause them to re-evaluate their worldview -- and risks losing Mayberry for them.
And this leads me to a quandary. I want my family to be curious about the world and explore multiple world views with the same curiosity and wonder that I have. And I’m completely unable to change another person’s behavior. How can my family actually KNOW me without talking about this?
The truth is, they might never know me fully. I love them too much to insist...and I won’t risk our relationship. Remember that decisions are first made in our lizard brains...assuring survival of the species. And when our survival is assured, we add nuance and texture with our emotional brain, increasing the quality of our relationships. Only when we are physically and emotionally secure, can our rational brain engage in a meaningful way. The rational conversation is the one I want to have… but I know that unless they feel completely safe, my reality and accompanying facts are off limits.
What about you? Do you have folks who react to your “facts” with fight/flight or blame/shame stories? These are the responses from the lizard and emotional brains, respectively. Facts will never convince others when they feel their survival or relationships are at risk. So where do we start? I would go for empathy and compassion as the first step.
But I don’t really know what comes next. Or how long it might take. I do know that it is the only hope we have of healing our country and building a shared narrative to the future.
Originally from New York, Elisabeth Parker has spent time in Boston, San Diego and San Francisco and now resides in Tacoma, Washington with her husband and 14 year old daughter. Elisabeth met her husband in California, and last year, they moved to Tacoma. Elisabeth is an artist, a techie, a web designer and a blogger for several online liberal news sites.
Elisabeth joined the Coffee Party in 2014. She was attracted to our Join The Coffee Party Movement Facebook Page and was drawn to the idea of a safe place where people with different perspectives can meet and have real conversations about the issues. Elisabeth notes that most of the other pages on Facebook have a lot of trolling and tension and it’s hard to tell who just has a different point of view. The Coffee Party is a place for everyone to stay connected as long as they are civil, respectful and thoughtful. Elisabeth feels that is important during challenging times like these.
Elisabeth is part of our Newsroom work group and as a blogger, this was a great fit for her.
Elisabeth explains that, with the Coffee Party, she is able to share articles written by herself and others that shed light on complicated topics, issues, and challenges that we may face. Elisabeth loves having this platform and admits that the articles she is most proud of are the ones she shares on our page!
The Newsroom is responsible for providing the content for our Facebook page, both through original content from bloggers and through curating: researching, organizing and collecting articles from other sources. Elisabeth is impressed with the work of all the volunteers in the Newsroom. They are creative and passionate about what they do. The volunteers either write articles or look for and suggest articles on current events or issues of personal interest that also align with Coffee Party’s goals. They also try to find and post articles that are being overlooked by the main news sources.
Elisabeth really enjoys interacting and working with the volunteers in Newsroom and is also the Newsroom’s Volunteer Liaison and says it is one of her favorite things to do. Elisabeth helps welcome new volunteers to the Newsroom and helps them learn the ropes with writing ledes (introductions to the articles), understanding what Newsroom is looking for, providing feedback and making sure they are heard. Her favorite newsroom projects have been the Social Media events such as Twitter storms and live debate discussions and hopes we do more in the future.
When not volunteering for the Coffee Party, she likes to spend time with her family. Elisabeth and her daughter are also artists and her husband is a musician. Sometimes, Elisabeth will join her husband singing. Elisabeth also enjoys reading, going to the ocean or art and music events with the family and watching Supernatural and anime with her daughter. Her daughter is also learning how to be an activist.
Thank you Elisabeth for all you do for the Coffee Party.
To find out more about volunteering for any of our work groups, go to www.coffeepartyusa.com/volunteer
By Leah Spitzer, Coffee Party Volunteer Coordinator
As both the Work Group Chair for Board Development and the Volunteer Coordinator, I have the pleasure of meeting our volunteers as they join, and then watching them develop into strong volunteers and eventually, in some cases, leadership positions.
November brought us an inpouring of volunteer sign ups. People are ready to get engaged and involved. I scheduled more Orientation Calls, with bigger turnouts than ever before. I’ve been keeping busy and I love it. The enthusiasm and commitment is contagious. While much of it can be connected to the election, this is also due in part to the amazing new #StayInvolved campaign led by our Campaigns and Actions Work Group. Many of our supporters received an eblast announcing this campaign earlier this month. It was then that the volunteers started pouring in. We have many that are ready to lend a hand either at the national or local level. Our local communities are just getting started and now that we have a volunteer that has stepped up to support the local groups, we are only going to get stronger.
This is perfect timing in more ways than one. The deadline for eligibility to run for our Board of Directors in 2017 is fast approaching. In order to submit an application, you must be a dues paying member by January 1, 2017 and be actively participating in a work group as a volunteer.
In April of 2017, we will be accepting the applications for our Board of Directors. There are 4 positions up for election this year: President, Membership Development, Public and Supporter Relations, and Technology. Our Board of Directors is all volunteer. They commit to at least 5 hours a week and they actively participate in the work. Each board member is responsible for leading or supporting one of our many work groups.
To see what else is required to become a board member, click here.
If you do not want to be a board member, but would like to be eligible to vote in our Coffee Party elections, you must be a dues paying member by March 1, 2017. To become a member, click here.
If you just want to volunteer, there’s still room and there is still a need. Volunteers are vital to our organization. Volunteers produce our Facebook page, help with strategic planning, white papers, partnerships with other organizations, create and implement campaigns and events, and so much more. Bring your ideas - we want to hear them.
To volunteer on the national level, click here.
To volunteer to start your own local Coffee Party Community, click here.
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle, Coffee Party Board of Director & Secretary
Since the recent elections, Coffee Party USA has been flooded with requests from people who love our country and want to make a difference in our nation. We have welcomed new volunteers in almost every one of our active work groups. What energy we are feeling! If you too are feeling some renewed passion to get more involved, consider joining us in our grassroots movement to build, nurture and connect communities in order to reclaim our government for the people.
Besides our goal of activating more volunteers, Coffee Party USA is also looking for more Directors on our Board. If you are interested in working for a cause that matters, working together with an eclectic mix of invigorating, passionate people, I hope you will consider running for a position on the Board.
In order to even be considered, all applicants must be official members of Coffee Party USA by January 1, 2017. Then members must become involved as volunteers in one of many of our work groups. Getting started as a member and as a volunteer will introduce you more deeply to Coffee Party’s philosophy and practice. These stepping stones may well motivate you to take the next step in 2017 and put your hat in the ring for a place on the Board of Directors. It’s a win-win situation. Coffee Party benefits from your talents and experience and you benefit from being an active participant and partner in this impressive movement.
Follow these links to learn more about Coffee Party USA, our values, goals, and issues.
Follow this link to learn how to become a member.
Follow this link to learn more about how to volunteer.
Follow this link to learn more about the Coffee Party Board of Directors.
If you care about this nation as I do, then actively participating with Coffee Party USA may be an excellent, practical way for you to work together with us for the good of America.
Tim Danahey, Coffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations
Two weeks ago, my neighbor told me about a “Not My President” protest rally scheduled in my hometown. The theme of the protest is not one I wholeheartedly support but I understood the underlying concerns for civil liberties, racism, and opportunity for all. I decided to go.
This was my first protest except for a rally against Citizens United in Denver years ago. I didn't know what to expect. What I found was fascinating, frightening, and encouraging. Let me tell you what happened.
First of all, I discovered this protest was officially canceled because people called the police and threatened gun violence against the “Not My President” protesters. However, the protesters came anyway.
When I arrived, there were about a hundred “Not My President” protesters gathered on the corner of town square. They were cheering the car horns honking to support them, chanting various slogans, and remaining totally positive. Most of the protestors were just standing around chatting. A couple people were gathering email addresses for future activities. It was a nice crowd.
Across the street, there were about twenty-five pro-Trump supporters. They were waving American flags and shouting that I needed to get a job, get off welfare, and stop being a communist. For the record, I am a profitable entrepreneur, I have never received a dime from a government program even though I once qualified, and I know ideological extremes like communism are doomed to fail. Nonetheless, the pro-Trump supporters were angry and shouting. One guy wore a “Make America Great Again” cap, dark sunglasses, and a red bandana to cover his face like a wild west bank robber. He was the angriest.
One pro-Trump supporter carried a sign, “Trump Won. Get Over It. It's Called Democracy”. I wanted to cross the street, shake his hand, say I understand and let him know why I was on the opposite corner. However, a police presence on the periphery discouraged physical interaction. Several times a pro-Trump supporter would cross the street, approach us, and yell menacingly at our side. This is when it was cool. When the guy was furious and baiting us, our side spontaneously began to chant, “When they go low, we go high”. The pro-Trump street crossers were totally shut down by a lack of direct engagement and the inability to provoke a verbal or physical response. They would storm back to their corner.
Most of the protest was just a matter of showing up. We talked with some people, admired their passion for civic engagement, and eventually left to continue our day. The victory wasn't a matter of making a sign, shouting slogans, or standing in the front lines. I didn't do any of that. The victory was simply being part of the official count.
I learned to overcome the inertia of sitting at home and being supportive of others' efforts. I learned that most of the protesting is milling about the back lines. I learned that I must do this many more times.
While we are facing uncertain times ahead of us, it will be increasingly important that you and I overcome the inertia of comfort and become peacefully involved – no matter what the issue and our points of view. We do need to learn the realities of peaceful protesting and be ready for them.
First of all, no matter what, the protest must be one hundred percent peaceful and respectful. No anger, no disrespect, no bad language, and no blocking of public rights of way. If anyone violates those rules, stay away from them, isolate them, and treat them like a bad virus. Someone will take a picture of them, post it, and misrepresent the whole protest movement. Peaceful protests can grow organically if people are unafraid to join and support the causes. Violence will even turn away the supporters.
That being said, understand the forces opposing populist movements are sophisticated and will do anything to undermine sympathy for protesters and their causes. The most common tactic is to seed the protesters with hooligans to provoke police, create violent visuals to discourage participation and allow the media to portray the protesters as outliers. This is why any untoward behavior must be isolated.
Peacefully protesting is surprisingly easy and actually fun. I like people who are engaged with issues and government. They are a new community in which I feel very comfortable and want to develop more activities with them. I hope it leads to coffee shop conversations, finding people to run for local elections, and raising public awareness. Good stuff. I'll be back.
The Coffee Party recently kicked off two activities where you can easily get involved in bringing more civility and reason to our political dialogue -- "Coffee Party Talks" and our "Hashtag" campaign.
Coffee Party Talks
Coffee Party Talks offers you an opportunity to host one or more small group discussions on various political topics. You choose where and when to meet and who to invite. If you want to open it to the public (which is up to you!), you can list it on the Coffee Party's website.
We give you all the material to get you going! You can download guides on facilitating conversations and discussion topics on a number of timely political subjects. We have partnered with the folks at Living Room Conversations to offer questions designed to generate lively but respectful conversation on a number of topics --- from "Media and Polarization", "The American We Want to Be" and more.
For more information and a full list of the topics, go to this page:
Be sure to sign up on the page so we can keep you informed on new information and provide you instructions on how to participate in our free brief Coffee Party Talks training conference call on July 25.
We Appreciate Your Civility Hashtag Campaign
We all know that what we give attention to is what we grow in our lives. Our Hashtag Campaign offers you an easy process to expand our experience of civil dialogue online. The idea is simple!
All you need to do is to pay attention to when others online are being respectful in their political interactions ---- then comment on their sharing by thanking them and using our special hashtags of #incitecivility and #coffeepartyon. Be sure to provide a link, if possible, back to the Coffee Party USA website! If you need some ideas on some positive comments that you can use or more information about the campaign, go to this website:
Remember that higher levels of civility in the world starts within our own lives and our sphere of influence. Each of us can make a difference! Won't you join us in these campaigns! Thank you!
Coffee Party USA
Chair, Campaigns and Actions